Opinion

Wed
22
Apr

Senate passes version of 2016-2017 state budget

The Texas Senate on April 14 passed its version of the 2016-2017 state budget. Because the House- and Senate-approved budgets are $1.6 billion apart, five Senate members and five House members will be appointed to a conference committee to resolve differences. The Senate’s version of the budget totals $211 billion in state and federal funds to pay for state services over the next two fiscal years.

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Wed
15
Apr

Senate passes bill to remake Public Integrity Unit

Statewide authority to investigate and prosecute public corruption would be moved out of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office under Senate Bill 10, legislation approved by the Senate on April 9. Sen. Joan Huffman, chair of the Senate State Affairs Committee, wrote the legislation under which the Texas Rangers, a division of the Department of Public Safety, would reestablish and support the state’s Public Integrity Unit and assume the initial investigatory role when a complaint is filed against a public official.

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Wed
08
Apr

Bills gain Senate approval

SB 20 by Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, would amend the rules state agencies must obey in making contracts with private sector vendors.

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Wed
08
Apr

House passes state budget after long debate

After 17 hours of floor debate and hundreds of amendments considered, the Texas House of Representatives on April 1 passed House Bill 1, a state budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 that appropriates $209.8 billion. The vote was 141 in favor to 5 against, with nay votes cast by Reps. David Simpson, R-Longview; Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler; freshman MattRinaldi, R-Irving; freshman Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington; and freshman Molly White, R-Belton.

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Wed
01
Apr

House, Senate continue with key task: adopt budget

The House Appropriations Committee on March 24 unanimously approved the General Appropriations
Act (House Bill 1) — the first hurdle toward passing a state budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

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Wed
18
Mar

Lawmakers seek to control elements of state spending

By Ed Sterling

Debates over the Texas House and Senate versions of the state budget lie ahead, and movement toward setting budget controls to blend into a final, agreed-upon budget for 2016-2017 emerged in low-numbered bills filed last week.

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Wed
11
Mar

Senate bills set stage for tax, debt relief

A trio of leading Texas senators, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, on March 5 jointly announced the filing of legislation they coauthored to cut taxes and pay off state debt. Patrick, who presides over the 31-member Senate, Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; Senate Business & Commerce Chair Kevin Eltife, RTyler; and Senate Finance Vice Chair Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, each delivered brief statements.

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Wed
04
Mar

Prison process progresses in punishment, preparation

by Willis Webb

Over the years, several factors have influenced my interest in our Texas prison system. A close proximity at times to the system, some friendships and a newsman’s natural curiosity (sometimes morbid) are among those factors bringing the process into my occasional view in a six-decade exposure to news events and newsmakers. It has often been fascinating viewing. Naturally, major events — executions, prison breakout attempts (think Fred Gomez Carrasco) and court cases about the roles of the system — grab just about everyone’s attention. Long-time close observation reveals other facets that are much more interesting and fascinating.

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Wed
04
Mar

Senate panel passes legislation to fund state highways

by Ed Sterling

In each fiscal year beginning Sept. 1, 2017, the legislation as currently written would dedicate to general revenue the first $2.5 billion in revenues from existing sales tax on new and used vehicles and exiting rental tax on vehicles, according to the official analysis of the bills. The second $2.5 billion would be dedicated to the State Highway Fund with the restriction that it could only be appropriated to construct, maintain, or acquire rights-of ways for public roadways other than toll roads. Those funds also be used to repay Proposition 12 bonds that currently are paid with general revenues funds, which cost about $335 million per year.

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Wed
25
Feb

Governor gives lawmakers his state budget priorities

by Ed Sterling

On Feb. 17, Gov. Greg Abbott delivered his first State of the State address during a joint session of the Texas House and Senate and released his recommendations for the two-year 2016-2017 state budget. In his 43-page Governor’s Budget document, Abbott said he aims to: “Constrain the size and growth of government. Reduce agency spending. Suspend, reduce, and eliminate unnecessary taxes and fees. Ensure government supports job creation and is accountable and transparent.”

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