9:15 a.m. by
Good morning all! Chairman Pitts opened the debate by outlining HB 1, which he promised lawmakers is based on four major themes: working with available revenue, no new taxes, no Rainy Day funds, and the principles of limited government. "This is just the start of the debate, and is definitely not the finish," he says.
9:29 a.m. by
The House zipped through the third readings this morning, giving final approval to yesterday's budget bills in less than six minutes. Those are the bills that put together a list of cuts and a $3.1 billion hit on the Rainy Day Fund to fill the $4.3 billion deficit in the current budget.
9:32 a.m. by
Now they're in the preliminaries, with members at the back microphone asking general questions about the budget and making early arguing points (it's still cordial) before the amendments start.
Rep. Phil King, for instance, wanted to make sure that voting on the budget is not the same as voting on taxes and fees that would support contingency expenditures in the budget. Those are spending items that are triggered only if the money becomes available. But making the money available will come in different bills during the session, and members will vote on those as they come up. King wanted to make sure. Pitts, from the front mic, basically said it'll be safe to vote.
Pitts in response to a question from Veronica Gonzales: "Our cuts this session are a whole lot more than in 2003." He says that legislators used all of the Rainy Day Fund in 2003.
9:33 a.m. by
Pitts says his committee met 59 times to go over the massive cuts before lawmakers today. He acknowledged there'll be "significant reductions" in reimbursements to hospitals and nursing homes, as well as cuts to schools. "Before we bring back a conference committee report, we'll continue to address problems" with funding for TEXAS grants, Medicaid and nursing homes, etc. Bottom line: this is a first draft. Speaker Straus told the body "We need to move this bill."
9:41 a.m. by
I'm inside the chamber. Outside, there is a group of people holding signs with slogans like "No cuts!" No doubt, they are concerned about cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates. Background from Tribune reports: "HB 1 proposes a $164.5 billion budget for 2012-13, which is $23 billion, or 12.3 percent, smaller than the current budget. General revenue funding — which comes mostly from state taxes and fees — would fall $4.6 billion, or 5.2 percent, from current spending. The state's debt service — what it pays on its borrowing in the budget — would rise 18.5 percent, to $3.3 billion, in the proposed budget."
9:51 a.m. by
Pitts is at the front mic getting grilled by lawmakers at the back mic on the logistics of the bill. One lawmaker just asked if it really accounts for $100 million increased fees through the different agencies (i.e. user fees). Pitts confirmed that's the case, and the fees are from various agencies dealing with the agriculture industry and court filing fees. Asked about areas he's most concerned about, Pitts says the possibility of closing nursing homes is a tough one they're trying to find a solution for. He's also worried about eliminating TEXAS grants for incoming college students. Also, he adds "We've got to look at public school financing." He says they're underfunding the schools, and they need to fix the 'hole' at some point during this session-- or during a special session. "But we cannot spend money we don't have, and until money is generated-- HB 1 reflects the money that we have."
10:02 a.m. by
Just before they start laying out the amendments, Democrats have sent the press a release outlining their priorities for today: making government more transparent, protecting public education by moving funds from other sources and contingency plans, protecting veterans from lay-offs, maintaining the fund that pays for electricity bills for the elderly, and diverting funds to keep nursing homes open. If yesterday's votes are any indication-- and considering the GOP outnumbers the Dems 2 to 1 in the House-- it's not likely these measures will go anywhere.
10:20 a.m. by
Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, on the difficult choices in the budget: "We're going to be making bad decisions all day here."
10:21 a.m. by
Here we go. A debate over what constitutes an essential government service. Amendment #3 proposes eliminating general revenue funds (about $2.5 million/year) for the Commission on the Arts. This would also eliminate their federal funding, leading Rep. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, to say this action would essentially end the agency's ability to provide "underprivileged children some exposure to the arts" when they need it most. Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, says the commission gives money to many schools in his district for music and art programs. "I can't possibly vote for this amendment, and I won't," he says. Rep. Jodie Laubenberg says the funding can be restored in better times, because "Don't you think when we make tough decisions, we have to evaluate the proper role of government?"
10:26 a.m. by
The amendment to remove general fund money from the Commission on the Arts is temporarily withdrawn.
10:38 a.m. by
"Are we striving to become #50" in education funding per pupil? That's the question just posed by Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, who says Texas is currently ranked 44th in this area. He's proposing an amendment to divert any unused money from the offices of the executive and legislative branches to the Texas Education Agency. Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, says this is just more of what the Dems "attempted to do yesterday." By the way, we just heard our first reference to the obvious. "Today is April Fool's Day, but this budget is not a joke," Reynolds says.
10:51 a.m. by
Rep. David Simpson is back with a revised amendment to move general funding from the Commission on the Arts to the Department of Aging and Disability Services. "It's the right thing to do," Simpson says. "I have nothing against the promotion of the arts, but Austin is doing well on its own. It's the music capital of the world, and we put the weak among us, those who are dependent, first." Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, spoke out against many of the amendments on the floor, including this one. "They are false choices, robbing Peter to pay Paul," she declared. Chairman Pitts points out the budget committee spent more than 200 hours deliberating the cuts, and they've already cut the commission from $12 million to $2 million, the minimum to get federal matching funds. "If we cut this agency anymore-- it will lose those dollars. We cut them as far as we could," he said.
11:02 a.m. by
"I don't believe I'm destroying this agency. There's still dedicated funds left," says Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, in response to hard questioning from Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas. That prompted Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, a doctor and a member of the budget committee's subcommittee on health and human services, to speak passionately against the amendment. Although he supports the effort to give funds to the Dept. of Aging and Disability, he says "$3 million is a drop in the bucket, and what we're going to do is destroy an organization that DOES have value to the state of Texas." Although budget chair Jim Pitts and other Republicans voted against the amendment, a majority of the House voted to adopt it anyway, by a close vote: 67-61 (17 present not voting; 5 absent). The result drew immediate applause from Rep. James White, R-Hillister.
11:32 a.m. by
A lot of buzz in the chamber right now about a re-vote on the amendment to divert funding from the Commission on the Arts to the Dept. of Aging and Disability. Rep. Aaron Pena, R-Edinburg, has Tweeted about this and says he will side with Rep. Simpson and vote for the amendment again. Rep. Donna Dukes, D-Austin, just told me a member of the prevailing side requested the re-vote and that some members "now know" what the amendment actually means. Not sure when the re-vote may happen, but probably after some Democrats come back from a press conference they're holding in another part of the capitol.
11:50 a.m. by
Just checked with the clerk's office, and they say there's a total of 371 amendments filed for HB 1. Keep in mind many of them are repetitive and may be pulled by the sponsor before they're heard on the floor. Right now, the House is considering the 19th amendment.
12:24 p.m. by
A little anecdotal evidence lawmakers are being closely watched by conservatives is evident in the Twitterverse, where we're seeing a couple Tweets like these:
@mqsullivan (of Empower Texans/Texans for Fiscal Responsibility): Ah, there goes State Rep. Jim Pitts siding with Dems in protecting #TxBudget Arts spending. #txlege
@Daniel_Greer: John Zerwas now putting arts above community based services. #txlege
Actually, they're not the only Republicans who voted against the amendment to move funding for the Commission for the Arts to the Dept. of Aging and Disability. Some other Republicans who voted with Zerwas and Pitts to preserve some funding for the arts agency: Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton.
Within the Democratic caucus, there are some notable names who didn't vote for or against the amendment: Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas.
12:45 p.m. by
We're learning that many of these amendments seek to divert money from the same funds, but for different purposes. For instance, Rep. Joe Farias, D-San Antonio, sponsored an amendment to take $1.2 million in '12-'13 out of the governor's trusteed 'State-Federal Relations' fund and place it in the Combat Tuition Reimbursement Program to benefit the children of veterans (which is currently zero-funded). Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, didn't try to table the motion, but he warned lawmakers that "if you want this money to go to this purpose that's been discussed here then vote aye, but understand... you are potentially cutting off other amendments before us utilizing the same funds." The House voted 133-8 in favor of the amendment.
12:50 p.m. by
For those of you who are following the amendments schedule, the House is leaving Article I (General Government) and moving on to amendments in Article II (Health & Human Services). Remember you can see those amendments on our site! See the link above.
1:06 p.m. by
We're going to see lots of attempts to find money for nursing homes (many may close if HB 1 passes in its current form), but it's not going to be an easy road. For instance, Rep. William "Bill" Zedler, R-Richmond, just tried to pass an amendment to divert $498,990 from 'in-home and family support' and $572,174 from 'mental retardation in-home services' to 'nursing facility payments'. Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, warned Zedler, "You're going to be sending more people to nursing homes-- assuming they're going to still be open after all this.... It is a bad deal." Zedler agreed to temporarily withdraw the amendment.
1:19 p.m. by
Lawmakers are considering Amendment 37, which proposes closing the State Supported Living Center IF privatizing that operation will save the state at least $10 million per year (contracts would last at least four years). The House voted to adopt the amendment.
1:45 p.m. by
We're getting into the section of the amendments where we're going to see a lot of abortion/family planning-related politics. Rep. Weber has offered an amendment to move money from a fund that works to reduce unplanned pregnancies to a fund for pregnancy crisis centers. Rep. Villarreal is at the back mic challenging it aggressively.
1:48 p.m. by
Debate is heating up over the first abortion-related amendment (44). Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, is attempting to divert about $8 million from a fund for temporary assistance to needy families to a fund that's focused on alternatives to abortion that "offer counseling, training, help with diapers, budgeting, continuing education... " It has sparked a face-off between Weber and Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, who says, "HHSC uses that fund to reduce the rate of unplanned pregnancies through a number of different strategies- and you're picking one type of organization to counsel women who are pregnant already. Isn't that counter productive?" Weber responded by citing a non-American Medical Association study that says "the highest abortion rates" are among women who use contraceptives. Here's the terse exchange:
Villarreal: "You think contraception doesn't work? "
Weber: "Not for those who get pregnant."
Villarreal: "Have you ever used contraception yourself?"
Weber: "I don't think I know you well enough to go down this road."
Villarreal: "You're trying to make a judgment... and you're moving into a strategy that has nothing to do with prevention. So isn't it counterproductive?"
2 p.m. by
The exchange over the Weber amendment is getting nasty. At one point, Rep. Alvardo was literally shouting into the mic that Weber's amendment (44) effectively shifts money to a completely unregulated facility. Weber has responded with sarcasm and quips: "My doesn't the time time fly." "I'm glad you're here with me." Now it's a Randy Weber-Dawnna Dukes face-off.
2:02 p.m. by
The debate over Amendment 44 continues. Rep. Veronica Gonzales, D-McAllen says,"I want for women to be able to plan for a pregnancy.... but when we take monies away from counseling for women, the impact to our state is going to be higher costs." Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston followed by asking Rep. Weber, "Are you aware of the difference between family planning services and abortion?" Weber responded by saying, "I understand that abortion takes the life away of a baby." Alvarado then said, "Well, since you don't know, I'm going to tell you what family planning is... well woman exams, screening for diabetes, breast and cervical cancer testings and other medical screenings. so you're taking away from family planning services... to give to this alternative organization that's not even regulated? Why are we going to give money to a facility that's unregulated?"
2:03 p.m. by
The controversial Weber amendment passes 100-44.
2:10 p.m. by
Family planning under attack yet again. This time, Rep. Wayne Christian wants to move money from it into a de-funded autism program. Interesting side note — Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, keeps speaking ON these amendments (not in favor or against) — in a way that seems to be defending the cost-effectiveness of state family planning.
2:15 p.m. by
Another Republican to watch in this debate, in addition to Zerwas, is Rep. Wooley. She's defending the state Women's Health Program at every juncture.
2:19 p.m. by
If we're choosing between funding poor women and autistic kids, Rep. Olivera says, it's time to talk about the Rainy Day Fund again. "I don't understand how long we're going to continue this charade," he says. "This is the biggest unfunded mandate bill we're going to see this session."
2:20 p.m. by
Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, calls this "the biggest unfunded mandate we're going to see this session." He says he'll be voting against the budget, but "I can't stand idly by now and just sit and watch, while we're talking about the poorest of the poor... autistic children. Our Texans need us."
2:21 p.m. by
Christian: "We don't choose between good and bad. We choose between necessary and necessary."
2:22 p.m. by
106-34, the Christian amendment passes. Zerwas, despite his comments, voted for it.
2:31 p.m. by
Sound familiar? Rep. Bohac wants to move millions of dollars from family planning to mental health services for kids.
After questioning from Dukes, Zerwas says the proposed House amendments will cut a total of about $70 million from family planning services over the next biennium, if they all pass. It would bring the total down from $100 million to $30 million.
2:40 p.m. by
Dukes is suggesting that these anti-family planning amendments could jeopardize millions of dollars in federal matching funds. "I share your concern," Zerwas says. Dukes says she thinks lawmakers are flying by the seat of their pants.
Zerwas says there is about $32 million that cannot be cut in order to keep getting some federal matching dollars. "It looks like it will come within the number... to preserve the funding."
2:47 p.m. by
Bohac's amendment, #49, passes with 95 ayes, 6 nays, 44 present not voting — following an impassioned speech from Turner.
3 p.m. by
The Democrats, rather than getting pinned by the choices offered — family planning vs. this desirable program or that one — have started voting white lights (green is yes, red is no, white is present not voting) so that they won't be recorded as opponents of things they like. Sylvester Turner started that off with this line: "I will not be caught trying to decide whether to fund child one or child two."
3 p.m. by
As the barrage of amendments reducing funding for family planning continue, Dukes has started listing facilities across the state that will be de-funded. "Many of you think you’re defunding a program that provides abortions," she said. "This program, … actually funds so many other very important things."
3:16 p.m. by
Rep. Murphy's bill to move money from family planning to trauma care passes with 91 ayes.
3:40 p.m. by
The House voted 79-55 not to raid the governor's film and music marketing to fund aid for libraries. The Appropriations chairman was on the losing side.
3:41 p.m. by
We're back on the family planning train, after a brief venture into the Workforce Commission and library funds. Reps. Miller and Perry have laid out an amendment that would move roughly $10 million a year from family planning to early childhood intervention and the Department of Aging and Disability Services.
3:46 p.m. by
Rep. Gutierrez is sparring with Zerwas, who is speaking on behalf of the Appropriations health subcommittee: "Are you for or against this amendment?" Gutierrez demands.
Zerwas fires back, and won't say one way or another: "These are choices this body has to make. That's what people send us up here for, to represent their interests."
3:55 p.m. by
Rep. Davis asks Zerwas if the family planning cuts will leave enough money to run the program effectively. Zerwas responds: "It will serve much fewer people as a result of the magnitude of the cuts."
4:01 p.m. by
The Miller/Perry amendment passes with 104 ayes.
4:03 p.m. by
Now it's getting just plain direct. Rep. Zedler just asked to move funding from the "abortion industry" — read family planning — to aging and disability services for deaf/blind services.
4:04 p.m. by
There's not even any debate on this one. House Democrats may be giving up on this line of questioning. Zedler's amendment passed quickly.
4:10 p.m. by
"Get some order in the House if you can't hear me," Rep. Thompson says to Zedler.
4:12 p.m. by
Actually, that vote on Libraries was the second vote that saw Pitts on the losing side. The vote earlier in the day to take money from the arts commission — a 67-61 nail-biter — had both Pitts and former House Speaker Tom Craddick together on the down side. That was bipartisan, too, with Republicans voting 46-49 against the amendment and Democrats voting 21-12 in favor of it.
The split on the library amendment was more partisan: Democrats were for it, 32-8, and Republicans were against it, 23-71.
4:41 p.m. by
Warren Chisum is pushing another family planning amendment that would prioritize the funding for those services to go to public and federal clinics that provide "comprehensive" health services — which appears to be an effort to keep funding out of the hands of clinics like Planned Parenthood.
5:21 p.m. by
Amendment from Garnet Coleman adopted that would allow HHSC to seek medicaid waivers for those seeking mental health care — which he says will help the commission use less general revenue, by moving people into medicaid that are currently in state programs.
5:34 p.m. by
Cruising through several amendments here as they are temporarily withdrawn.
5:43 p.m. by
Adopted: a Zerwas amendment that would provide assurances to hospitals that their payments will not be disrupted if HHSC expands Medicaid managed care.
5:51 p.m. by
"You aren't selling cars, you're selling an amendment," Rick Hardcastle reminds Fred Brown, who says amendment 91 will keep "big Pharma" from overcharging the state for its services. But before the back and forth can get more colorful, a point of order is raised, and the amendment is withdrawn.
5:55 p.m. by
Frullo's "Medicaid Funding Transparency" amendment passes without debate — discussion really slowing down here.
6 p.m. by
Looks like we are getting close to Article III (Education) — but that depends on how many of the temporarily withdrawn amendments we revisit.
6:02 p.m. by
Called it! Speaker says we're now moving to Article III.
6:07 p.m. by
We're starting off with a Bonnen amendment that would move money marked for prisoner education programs to support Bachelor of Applied Technology degrees at four community colleges. And it passes without objection.
6:24 p.m. by
After a parliamentary motion from Sid Miller, we're reconsidering Bonnen's amendment. He's currently at the backmic, asking Bonnen how his amendment saves money. Bonnen says he doesn't see how taking $500,000 of the Windham District's $84 million is harmful, and that the community colleges — whose funding is currently zeroed out — are providing the $10,000 college degree touted by Gov. Perry.
6:28 p.m. by
"These are a group of amendments that would basically wipe out Windham schools. I have some problems making that decision in this format," says Jimmie Don Aycock. He says he'll vote for Bonnen's amendment — but not for any of the other three coming up, one of which defunds the prisoner education program completely. He says that kind of policy decision is best made outside of the budget process.
6:59 p.m. by
An interesting exchange going on between Sylvester Turner and Bonnen. Turner, who proposed an unsuccessful amendment yesterday to restore funding to all community colleges, asks why lawmakers should single out the colleges in Bonnen's amendment for special treatment. "This is about allowing these colleges to keep a four year degree program they have had since 2005 alive," Bonnen says — pointing out that none of the state's traditional four year university programs are being completely cut.
7:03 p.m. by
A record vote on the Bonnen amendment: with 106 ayes, 34 nays, it passes.
7:19 p.m. by
Burt Solomons, introducing the next amendment, says he's targeting "a bloated bureaucracy" aka the Texas Education Agency. It pretty much defunds the agency, and reduces the commissioner of education's annual salary from $186,000 to $50,000. Noting the growing crowd gathering at the backmic, Solomons says he's amending it to remove the part that strikes Windham's funding.
The TEA "has become a beast of bureaucracy," he says, and their money should go to classroom instruction. "I think the commissioner ought to try to contribute as well," he says about the salary reduction, adding "I don't know any of us that go home and say hip hip hooray for the TEA."
7:23 p.m. by
Rob Eissler, who chairs the Public Education Committee, is pressing Solomons hard on the amendment. He asks if it has anything to do with his own educational agenda.
"Since the School for Blind is contributing, since the Texas School for the Deaf is contributing, I think the commissioner should contribute as well," Solomons responds, adding, "I think you need to start over with the TEA, I think from scratch."
Eissler's not persuaded. "Now is not the time or the place to be taking an entire agency away," he says.
7:28 p.m. by
And Solomons' amendment goes down with a record vote on a motion to table: 91 ayes, 45 nays, 2 PNV.
7:32 p.m. by
On the frontmic, Madden is talking about his amendment to defund the Windham district. He says "out of respect for the membership" he is going to pull it down. But first, he is raising questions about why the state is providing education for inmates while cutting funding for its regular student population.
7:47 p.m. by
Some twitter reaction from members on this evening's proceedings:
@joaquincastrotx: Debating the budget bill -- The Republicans are engaging in FISCAL CANNIBALISM against each other with their amendments. Floor is tense.
@ElectRaulTorres: Almost was able to get Del Mar $500,000. Amendment pulled.
@waynechristian: I second that. RT @JimLandtroop: Great day for the unborn children in Texas #txlege #prolife
8:01 p.m. by
Aycock accuses Gallego's self-dubbed "Save Our Schools" amendment — which would move money allotted to the second year of the biennium to the first year, with the hopes that the Lege will come up with more money in the next session — of "frontloading."
"Here's our opportunity to save every first year teacher who is going to lose their job," Gallego says, "Here's our opportunity to fully fund public education right now. In the next session, he says, the Lege can come in and fill in the gap with a supplemental bill.
"This is a very clear vote either for or against public education in Texas," he says.
With 89 ayes 48 nays, it's tabled.
8:12 p.m. by
Another amendment taking a shot at the Texas Education Agency, this time from a Democrat. Harold Dutton originally shaved $8 billion from the agency, which he says is on "steroids," but with an amendment, he replaces that number with $57 million— to avoid harming the Foundation School Program, he says. Dutton is currently challenging anyone in the building to stand up and tell him what TEA has done to help students in their district.
8:17 p.m. by
"One guy and one phone" — Harold Dutton's vision for the TEA.
8:26 p.m. by
After Dutton delivers impassioned defense of his amendment, members vote to table it: 86 ayes, 52 nays, 2 PNV. Comparing that to the breakdown for Solomons' amendment (91 ayes, 45 nays, 2 PNV), looks like he was able to persuade a few of his colleagues.
8:42 p.m. by
A Villarreal amendment would put $4 billion from the Rainy Day Fund into the Foundation School Program. That would require a two-thirds vote — so he withdraws it.
9:23 p.m. by
Coleman wants the state to do a study of the financial impact of tuition and fees on students in college and all of their families. Aycock objects to it as an unfunded mandate. That's gone, by 90 to 48. Onward.
9:35 p.m. by
Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, wants to move $24 million from the Skills Development program to college financial aid programs. He says businesses should train their own employees and that the money would be better used in TEXAS grants and in Texas Equalization Grants. He's catching flak from fellow Republicans at the back microphone. The vote? 103-35, and Isaac joins the Century Club, losing with more than 100 votes against him.
10:02 p.m. by
Freshmen, commiserating over defeat...
Just failed miserably trying to increase funds for the Texas Grant and Texas Equalization Grant programs. It's not over! #txst #txlege
RT @ISAACforTexas: Just failed miserably - I know how you feel , I was unsuccesful in trying to get more money for @SWICD #txst #txlege
10:07 p.m. by
Drew Darby wanted the comptroller to do a tax amnesty program (there's other legislation in the food chain that would do that) and wanted some of the money produced by that to go to San Angelo State University. This one dies on a point of order.
10:10 p.m. by
This is getting faster, relatively speaking, with more amendments getting pulled down and more members pushing their ideas into Article 11, the part of the budget better known as the Wish List. That's relative: the last amendment that came up was on page 234. The last page is 428.
10:25 p.m. by
Wayne Christian talking about "pansexuals" at the front mike, on behalf of his amendment that would require "family and traditional values centers" at colleges and universities where any state money supports gender and sexuality centers or any "other center for students focused on gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, transgender, gender questioning, or any other gender identity issues." It's adopted by a vote of 110-24.
10:28 p.m. by
Here you go:
pansexual |panˈsek sh oōəl|
not limited or inhibited in sexual choice with regard to gender or activity.
a person who is sexually inclusive in this way.
pansexuality |-ˌsek sh oōˈalitē| noun
10:46 p.m. by
This next amendment, also from Christian, would require that colleges and universities make at least 10 percent of their courses "provide instruction in Western Civilization."
Under fire from the back mike, he offers, "That's very good evidence that I am not totally aware of every issue."
10:51 p.m. by
Christian wasn't able to say, for instance, whether African-American studies would fit into studies of Western Civilization. That one, after a tortured and awkward defense, failed 108-27.
10:58 p.m. by
Boris Miles line to Christian, just before that vote: "Let's take this down, brother."
11:23 p.m. by
Geanie Morrison wants to make the top four degree plans at state universities available online, and asks, via amendment, for a study of what that would cost. It goes on, after an attempt to kill it fails 80-60.
11:46 p.m. by
It's a little cold in the room (men have to wear coats and ties, so it takes longer to get to us). Rep. Debbie Riddle packed for winter.
11:57 p.m. by
it's late and it's cold in the House chamber. Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Southlake, tucks in. (All photos in the liveblog were shot by Bob Daemmrich or Marjorie Cotera).
12:08 a.m. by
They've finished Article III of the budget and have been cleaning up loose ends from that and from Articles I and II. That's either a sign that they're going to wrap up for the night, or a sign that they're vamping while they get ready to dig into the rest of the budget.
12:14 a.m. by
We're back to family planning. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, wants to move $4.6 million in Family Planning money to Children with Special Health Care needs, both of which are in the Department of State Health Services. That goes in, 113-29.
12:39 a.m. by
They're getting ready to stop for the night and plan to come back on Sunday, according to Rep. Dennis Bonnen, speaking from the chair. When they come back, they'll have just under 200 pages of amendments left to consider.
12:39 a.m. by
The House is adjourned until 4pm on Sunday. We'll be back then.
4:24 p.m. by
It is shortly after 4 p.m. on Sunday, and the House has returned to finish hammering out the budget. They are currently on Article V.
4:32 p.m. by
An amendment by state Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Plano, chairman of the House Corrections Committee, to charge TDCJ employees for maintenance and utilities at state-owned housing passed wthout objection. This is expected to save money by allowing the state to pick up less of the bill for housing these employees.
State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, questioned if the move was overly punitive to TDCJ workers, since some other agencies provide housing for workers but were not mentioned in Madden's amendment. She asserted that the policy should be applied to all state agencies. Madden agreed, though he noted that he was simply focusing on his area of expertise.
4:49 p.m. by
An amendment by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, to make the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education train police officers in "ethical decision making" was withdrawn.
4:52 p.m. by
In fact, many of the amendments have been withdrawn. Things are moving at a brisk pace thus far.
5:04 p.m. by
State Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Plano, says he had an "Oh my gosh!" moment when he looked at how much money the Texas Youth Commission is approved to pay juveniles for work. He's trying to eliminate those funds. State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, says he would like to discuss the matter a bit more. Madden says he's willing to do that.
5:06 p.m. by
We are now on Article VI, which covers natural resources.
5:20 p.m. by
Ok, that didn't take long. Most of the Article VI amendments were withdrawn, and we are moving on to Article VII, which deals with buisness and ecomonic development.
5:27 p.m. by
Those watching along at home are hearing many lawmakers agree to put their amendments in Article XI, which we will get to later tonight.
Because Ben Philpott, who covers the Capitol for KUT and the Texas Tribune, has such a knack for boiling down complex issues, I turned to him for a little explainer — or "Texplainer," as we say around here — on what exactly lawmakers were doing.
Here's Ben: "So, Article XI is where spending ideas go when there's not support on the floor to add them. For most it's a black hole. The amendment will never be heard from again. BUT - if extra money is found - an amendment must be in article XI for a House/Senate conference committee to bring it up. to do so otherwise would be going 'outside the bounds' of the bill. And a conference committee is only allowed to negotiate their bills. Unless they get orders from the House or Senate to go outside the bounds."
He added: "I'm sure that didn't help."
5:44 p.m. by
Now, we are in Article VIII, the regulatory section. An amendment by state Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, just passed that removed a requirement for the Texas Department of Insurance to submit certain quarterly reports. An amendment by state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, is also adopted that requires TDI to conduct a review of mental health disorders in Texas children.
5:45 p.m. by
And as quick as you can say "And now we're on to Article VIII!" — we have moved on to Article IX! This section deals with general provisions.
6:01 p.m. by
Though it was previously passed over, state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, moved to reconsider an amendment that would fund his effort to pluck the state's Public Integrity Unit, which is supposed to investigate political corruption, out of the Democratic Travis County District Attorney's office and put it instead in the Republican attorney general's office. State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-River Oaks, amended the amendment to make sure that, if Zedler's bill moving the office doesn't pass, it won't lose its money. Zedler then moved the issue to Article XI.
6:10 p.m. by
Dripping Springs Republican Jason Isaac sends up an amendment stating that it is the intent of the members that general revenue not be used to compel individuals to buy health insurance. It is adopted after state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, asks him to clarify that it does not create law. Though it is brief, it's the first exchange from the back mic we have seen in a while.
6:25 p.m. by
State Rep. Rob Orr, R-Burleson, offers up an amendment to cut a big chunk of funding for cancer research, which he notes has been spared the pain of budget cuts up to this point — unlike teachers and nursing homes. Lawmakers rise to oppose it, including Waxahachie Republican Jim Pitts and Dallas Republican Dan Branch. Overwhelmingly, the lawmaker move to table it with a vote of 125-16.
The 16 that voted against tabling the amendment: C. Anderson, Cain, Christian, Creighton, Hancock, Harper-Brown, Hartnett, Hughes, P. King, Laubenberg, Murphy, Orr, Phillips, Quintanilla, Weber, and Zedler.
7:01 p.m. by
State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer offered an amendment to have an 18-month budget that would allow them to come back later, check on the revenue situation, and appropriate money for the rest of the biennium at that time.
"Let's not make a rush to judgment," Martinez Fischer argued, observing that members on both sides of the aisle do not like these cuts. "This is not a gotcha," he assured the members. He said it was about budgeting with the money they knew they had instead of relying on potentially incorrect projections.
Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said that it was a bad idea to front-load the budget and that House tradition was that they established a two-year budget. State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, said the proposal seemed to be out of step with the Texas Constitution, which says that lawmakers meet every two years unless called on by the governor.
State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, took to the mic to explain that the state has a biennial budget because the process was developed at a time when lawmakers had to ride horses to the session and couldn't come back to Austin as often. Nowadays, they tend to drive or fly.
State Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, said adopting the amendment would "be like stepping off the plank without a net." Martinez Fischer countered that, if the governor did not call them back, not only would he have "a lot of explaining to do," the Legislative Budget Board would "slip in" and do the budget for them.
Ultimately, the bill is tabled with a vote of 98-49. So, it will be a two-year budget.
7:55 p.m. by
The members are currently trying to deal with all the pending amendments before delving into the pile-up of amendments in Article XI.
8:19 p.m. by
An amendment by state Rep. Phil King, R-Weathorford, requiring separate enabling legislation to be passed for any fee increases in HB 1 passes with a vote of 136-9. It's actually an amendment to an amendment by state Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, which calls on state agencies to evaluate their operations with regard to efficiency and legality. It is adopted, King amendment to the amendment included, without objection.
8:24 p.m. by
An amendment by state Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, would establish the legislature's intent for businesses to become ineligible for tax breaks and similar benefits if they are creating jobs outside the country instead of inside the country. It is tabled with a vote of 82-58.
8:38 p.m. by
State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, tried to set aside $2 million from the money appropriated to the Health and Human Services Commission for the Burke Center, a rehabilitation facility in Lufkin. It is pointed out that this move falls into the dreaded "earmark" category, inspiring many hoots and hollers from the members on the floor. It is tabled with a vote of 131-11.
9:05 p.m. by
"Members, we are now on Article XI."
9:35 p.m. by
State Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto, is the first to offer a closing argument on House Bill 1. She says, "We could have done better. Our approach was not as balanced as it could have been." She says she will vote "no" on the bill.
9:52 p.m. by
State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, and state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, also speak in opposition to the budget, highlighting what they believe are other options that could have been explored.
"This budget and this bill represent a choice that the Republican majority is making," Castro said. Later in his speech, he tied that choice to Gov. Rick Perry, saying, "I don't think we should be trapped by the ideology of someone with political ambition."
After Castro, state Rep. Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco, and State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, spoke in opposition to the bill. Howard argued that the bill "sacrifices fiscal responsibility in the name of fiscal conservatism."
9:56 p.m. by
State Rep. Mike Villarreal says House Appropriations, of which he was a member, went about their job the wrong way. He says, "We cut before we prioritized. We should have prioritized before cutting." He especially criticizes decision out of the gate to not spend any of the Rainy Day Fund in the next biennium.
10:02 p.m. by
Rep. Villarreal on what Democrats want: "We value the quality education found in our schools. We value keeping nursing homes open. We want big corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. We want a balanced budget that uses some — not all — of the Rainy Day Fund so that we can present a budget that represents the morals of our state." He says he will be voting "no" on the budget "because it fails on all counts."
10:04 p.m. by
State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, is speaking "on," not "against," House Bill 1. He says he knows one thing: "This is not the budget."
Indeed, the Senate has to wrap up their version of the budget, and then — somehow — the differences between the two will have to be hammered out in conference committee.
Dutton closes with words he never thought he'd say: "Thank God for the Senate."
10:14 p.m. by
State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, says he has voted for the Appropriations bill six out of seven times. Tonight, he will be voting against it.
10:20 p.m. by
Turner concludes an emotional speech by saying, "At the end of the day, we are Texans and we go up together or we are Texans and we go down together. This budget is not worthy of the Texas House of Representatives."
10:28 p.m. by
Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie rises to speak for his bill. He says that the bill reflects the available revenue and is the result of the worst recession any of the members have lived through.
"I know this bill is not perfect," he said, before highlights portions of each article that he acknowledges would be nice to provide more funding.
He says what the budget does do is fund essential services of state government within our available means. He promises, "We will do everything we can in conference committee to bring back a better bill." He urges his colleagues to vote for the bill.
10:29 p.m. by
House Bill 1 tentatively passes: 98 ayes to 49 nays.
10:30 p.m. by
Now, the House is about to vote to suspend the rules and move right on to third reading and final passage.
10:33 p.m. by
Edinburg state Rep. Aaron Peña, who switched parties from Democrat to Republican before the session, voted against the bill.
10:34 p.m. by
After third reading, House Bill 1 is finally passed with a vote of 98 to 49.
10:39 p.m. by
Freshman Republican state Rep. David Simpson of Longview also voted against the bill. State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, voted "present." Democratic State Rep. Alma Allen was absent,
10:42 p.m. by
Next step: Members have until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to object to any amendments in Article XI by submitting a statement to the journal clerk.
10:51 p.m. by
Some reactions to the vote:
State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston: "Instead of working on real solutions to protect our priorities in the state budget, the Republican majority was more interested in scoring ideological points and partisan politics...This fiscal mess and our state's ongoing structural deficit are result of corporate tax loopholes and Governor Perry's insistence that the Legislature pass a 'cuts only' budget. That is why House Democrats support a plan protect our state's important priorities through a mix of smart budget cuts, using the state's Rainy Day Fund savings account, and closing massive corporate tax loopholes that prevent some big businesses to pay their fair share to fund our schools."
Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio:"Balancing our state budget requires very difficult choices, and I want to congratulate every Member for their hard work in passing House Bill 1. This is a significant step in the process, and the Texas House looks forward to working with the Senate on the final legislation."
State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston: "Texas should pass a budget that funds the needs of Texans. All we've done today is move around the deck chairs as the Titanic sinks."
Talmadge Heflin, Director of the Center for Fiscal Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation: “Last November, Texas voters sent a loud and unambiguous message that they wanted government to live within its means. Tonight, the Texas House delivered a budget bill for the next biennium that does just that. As Chairman Jim Pitts noted, Texas has about $5 billion less in general revenue than it did two years ago and the budget approved tonight reflects that. The House wisely recognized – as they always have – that a ‘current services’ approach to budgeting is a false premise, and that the 18 percent spending increase that would have resulted from this approach would have crippled our state’s future."
11 p.m. by
The final vote on the budget was close to a party-line tally. All but four Republicans voted for it; those four were Jim Jackson of Carrollton, Susan King of Abilene, Aaron Peña of Edinburg, and David Simpson of Longview.
All but two Democrats voted against it; those two were Eric Johnson of Dallas and Tracy King of Uvalde.
House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, and Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, were recorded as present not voting. That's normal for a speaker; Turner, the vice chairman of the appropriations committee that produced it, gave a passionate speech against the budget before the vote.
Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, was absent. Her husband died last week and services were held on Saturday.
11:09 p.m. by
The votes might be worth looking at tomorrow, after members talk to the clerks about what they meant to do on those last two votes.
The tentative approval of the budget came on a 98-49 vote, with all of the Ayes coming from Republicans and all but two of the Nays — Aaron Peña and David Simpson — coming from Democrats.
Two Democrats — Eric Johnson and Tracy King — and two Republicans — Jim Jackson and Susan King — were shown switching for the final vote a few minutes later. And Johnson's office issued a press release explaining his vote against the budget.
11:27 p.m. by
An aide to Eric Johnson says the representative's vote on third reading was supposed to be a no, just like his vote on tentative approval on the 2nd reading.
There was a bit of confusion at the end of the night, with a vote on the budget, then a vote on whether to go ahead with the vote for final passage, and then the vote on final passage.
It's probably important to the four members whose votes flipped, but it doesn't change the overall outcome.
1:30 p.m. by
As we suspected, it was a clerical error. The Texas Legislative Service transposed the two Kings and Jackson and Johnson who were, respectively, next to each other on the tally sheet.
Your final score was 98-49, with all of the Ayes coming from Republicans and all but two of the Nays coming from Democrats. The Republicans who voted no on both the tentative and final vote were Aaron Peña and David Simpson.