The Austin Chronicle

Lege Lines: Elsewhere Under the Dome

What happened during the wild week before sine die?

By the News Staff, June 2, 2017, News

We're not done yet: Aside from the threat of a special session, Gov. Greg Abbott still has until June 18 to veto bills and strike budget spending... Speaking of budgets, on May 27, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1, the budget for the 2018-19 biennium, with $107 billion in general revenue spending, and $1 billion from the rainy day fund. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, was one of 15 reps to vote against what he called an austerity budget, slamming it for acts such as allocating "over 20 million dollars to decrease gun license registration fees, while slashing the funding we restored for disabled children's acute therapy services."... The Texas Moving Image Incentive Program, aka film, game, and TV production rebates, secured $22 million in the budget, with the possibility of $10 million more from hotel taxes. That's more than advocates feared, but still probably too little to stop production spending leaving the state... There was one absentee during the House budget vote: Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Pflugerville, continued her poor attendance record. Chito Vela, who has pledged to challenge Dukes should she run again, called her no-showing the vote "not only disappointing but disrespectful," and again demanded she resign. What makes Dukes' absence particularly galling for local Dems is that one of the few reasons they still back her is that she sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, responsible for (guess what?) building the budget... Ending speculation that he might quit lawmaking, Speaker Joe Straus confirmed he will run for House Speaker again next session. Another victory would make him the long­est-serving speaker in Texas history... Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, rolled his eyes on Twitter after receiving a letter from Straus in appreciation of his vice-chairmanship of the House Redistricting Com­mittee. "This symbolizes perfectly my 85th #TxLege: a form letter thanking me for serving on a committee that never met even once. #worstsessionever"....

Local Interest Bills

Lawmakers still hope Abbott will not veto HB 62, the long-awaited texting-while-driving ban championed by Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland. Abbott's office has voiced concerns that the bill does not fully pre-empt all local regulations, like those in Austin, with a statewide standard... A late-night filibuster by Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, killed an annexation bill opposed by local officials (and other major urban cities). SB 715 by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braun­fels, would have forced voter approval (election or petition) before cities with at least 500,000 residents could annex areas. (Current practice allows cities to annex 10% of their extraterritorial jurisdiction each year.) The bill would have restricted planning and zoning opportunities and given residents close to cities a chance to evade chipping in to the tax base while reaping city benefits, argued those in opposition. After two hours of standing on the Senate floor, Menéndez – who saw support from Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin – effectively squashed the legislation, providing a rare win for a city besieged by the Lege... Abbott signed HB 100, a statewide regulatory system for transportation network companies that overrides city-specific rules, into law on Monday. See "Breaking Up Was Hard to Do," p.18... SB 451, which would have banned the local regulation of short-term rentals in Texas cities, died in a House committee after making its way through the Senate. Bill author Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Rich­land Hills, tried to revive the measure by amending it to another bill (HB 2445) but ultimately failed when the conference committee removed the amendment.

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