The Austin Chronicle

Lege Lines

With only transportation left on the special session agenda, the 2014 race begins

By Richard Whittaker and Jordan Smith, July 19, 2013, News

Road Money Off The Rails

With two of the three measures on the special session call – abortions and juvenile sentencing – passed, lawmakers are headed to a showdown over the third: road funds. The Republican leadership's original plan was to pass Senate Joint Resolution 1, diverting some cash that normally goes into the Rainy Day Fund into the State Highway Fund. However, the House is keener on House Joint Resolution 2 by Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, with two stages: First, it would end the current practice of putting a quarter of the gas tax into public-school financing, and sends all that money to road construction and maintenance. Second, it would fill that (permanent) new hole in the education budget with some of the (onetime) Rainy Day Fund money from SJR 1. This leaves two big questions: 1) Can Pickett get the 100 House votes required for a potential constitutional amendment? 2) Can the two chambers agree on a measure before the special session ends on July 30? If not, lawmakers could well be back for a third special session. – Richard Whittaker

Road Delays Lead To College?

As lawmakers hit gridlock on road funding, there's extra pressure on Gov. Rick Perry to add tuition reve­nue bonds to the session call. On July 12, the House Appropriations Com­mit­tee voted out the bond package in House Bill 5, but it cannot be considered on the floor unless Perry approves. So far, Perry has said he won't consider any further legislative business until transportation funding is resolved, but a growing wave of legislators is calling for its inclusion. That includes Rep. John Raney, R-Bryan, who represents Perry's beloved Texas A&M campus at College Station. – R.W.

Tampongate and the Missing Excrement

As folks filed into the Capitol Friday in anticipation of the Senate debate of the anti-abortion HB 2, security was tight, with extra Dept. of Public Safety troopers on hand. But when word came that troopers were hand-searching bags and confiscating tampons, feminine pads, and – apparently in the interest of fairness – condoms, it hit the Twitterverse like a shot. Shortly after the online explosion, the confiscations were called off – thanks to the intervention of Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who called them "boneheaded" and "crazy." DPS later issued a statement, claiming it had "received information that individuals planned to use a variety of items or props to disrupt legislative proceedings at the Texas Capitol." Performing inspections of bags, the statement continued, "DPS officers ... discovered one jar suspected to contain urine, 18 jars suspected to contain feces, and three bottles suspected to contain paint ... [plus] significant quantities of feminine hygiene products, glitter, and confetti." Yet reporters attempting to confirm the DPS statement could find no officer who had found any such contraband; moreover, how the alleged items would have initially gotten through the metal detectors inside each entrance to the Capitol remains a mystery. On Monday, the Houston Chronicle reported that Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler and Senate administration chair, said no one was arrested for carrying feces or anything else. "We didn't confiscate and keep the damn things. They either threw it away or they left." – Jordan Smith

Mark Strama Resignation Update

With the special election to replace former Rep. Mark Strama in House District 50 scheduled for Nov. 5, the first campaign finance reports* are in for the four competing Democrats: Municipal Judge Ramey Ko leads the field in contributions, having pulled in $119,100 with $110,320 cash on hand. Contractor Jade Chang Sheppard placed second with $81,290, but with the boost of a $100,000 loan to her own campaign she has $163,340 in her war chest. Former Travis County Assistant District Attorney Rico Reyes overcame low name recognition to pull in $68,165, and he has $50,923.36 left to spend. Bringing up the rear is longtime Austin political organizer Celia Israel, who raised $50,576 and has $45,194 left to spend.– R.W.

*The print edition and an earlier online version of the HD 50 race inadvertently omitted details on campaign finance reports.

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