From Jay Barksdale, VP of Public Policy -
Well, here we go again. The 82nd Session of the Texas Legislature is underway! I was in Austin last week for the swearing-in festivities and excitement around the Speaker’s Race (such as it was). On Monday night I had an opportunity to attend Jim Pitts’ (House Appropriations Chairman) bi-annual dinner he hosts for his constituents. It was a classy affair and it was great to see Jim and a lot of friends from Ellis and Hill counties. Jim was in great spirits considering the challenging task at hand for is committee regarding the budget shortfall ($27B). It probably helps to have such a great support from the folks back home.
On Tuesday morning everyone woke to find a front had blown in bringing high winds and freezing temperatures. The Capitol grounds were swarming with advocacy groups, family members and an occasional lobbyist. I saw a number of TEA party folks and LULAC members making their cases at different entrances to the Pink Building. Thankfully the lines to get thru security were not too long and we didn’t have to wait outside in the freezing wind. I didn’t even have to use my fast pass!
The gallery in the House was packed with lines trailing down the stairs to the 1st floor lobby. No thanks! I watched the house proceedings from various TVs in legislative offices. Governor Perry spoke to both legislative bodies and declared private property rights and abolishing sanctuary cities as emergency priorities. This will allow these issues to be fast-tracked through the legislative process.
The House and Senate adjourned later in the week without adopting rules (yet) on how they will govern themselves. These rules are very important and can set the stage for future legislative battles. Lt. Governor Dewhurst and Speaker Straus are expected to announce their committee assignments soon. It will be interesting to see all of the expected changes in the House!
Governor Perry and Lt. Governor Dewhurst were sworn in this morning on the South Steps of the Capitol. Governor Perry is the longest serving Governor in our State’s history. Eddie Deen’s Catering of Terrell (and a DRC member) was hired to provide a free catered BBQ lunch for those in attendance. Eddie has been doing this since President George W. Bush’s first term as Governor. Sorry I missed it!
Many involved in the legislative process anxiously await Chairman Pitts to release the draft budget later tonight. It will include major cuts to government programs and services. No new taxes or use of the rainy day fund are expected.
I’ll be headed back to Austin on Thursday to meet with my colleagues from the Metro 8 Chambers to discuss strategy and prepare for our Presidents and Chairmen to visit with legislative leaders in early February.