More on the special session and a preview of the 2014 election
HOME BY THE WEEKEND? When the second special session began July 1, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he expected business to be completed within two weeks. With the rubber stamping of controversial abortion bills almost complete (see above), and the remaining measures on transportation and criminal justice set to move with less contention, the session now seems likely to wrap up within the next seven days. At this point, few expect Gov. Rick Perry to add any more business to the call.
ROADBLOCK ON ROAD FUNDING? Lawmakers are still struggling to fund the $4 billion a year that the Texas Department of Transportation estimates the state needs to prop up its ailing road system. The House Appropriations Committee met July 9 but failed to come to a consensus on any one legislative solution. At this stage, it seems most likely that the Senate plan to divert some cash from oil and gas severance taxes that currently goes to the Rainy Day Fund will see passage and head to voters in November. It also seems inevitable that lawmakers will return to this issue in 2015.
TIME TO DETHRONE THE REGENTS? The House Transparency in State Agency Operations Select Committee had an organizational meeting on July 10. Normally such an occasion would be filed under "So what?" However, Speaker Joe Straus has charged this low-profile committee with investigating and potentially impeaching UT Regent Wallace Hall, who has been accused of leading a witch hunt against UT President Bill Powers (see "Lege Lines," June 28.)
Is It 2014 Already? The special session may not be over, but it seems campaign season has already begun. With Perry's announcement that he won't run for re-election next year (see p.13), longtime state-rep-turned-freshman-Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, teased that he may run to replace Attorney General Greg Abbott when Abbott makes his inevitable stab at the governor's office. Meanwhile, Rep. Stefani Carter, R-Dallas, will quit the House to run for the Railroad Commission.
Is it November Already? Ex-Democratic state Rep. Mark Strama's early departure from his Northern Travis County seat will require a special election be held, most likely this November. All four declared Democratic candidates to replace him – Municipal Judge Ramey Ko, contractor Jade Chang Sheppard, Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce secretary Celia Israel, and former Travis County Assistant District Attorney Rico Reyes – have come out against the abortion restrictions currently being debated at the Lege.