On Friday we began liveblogging the debate over HB 1, the House version of the general appropriations bills for the next biennium. After more than fifteen hours of back-and-forth over amendments, parliamentary inquiries and the like, the House adjourned early Saturday morning. Members gaveled in shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday to pick up where they left off, finally completing their work late Sunday night, passing the budget on a vote of 98 to 49.
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.
@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.
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?"
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.
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."
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."
The split on the library amendment was more partisan: Democrats were for it, 32-8, and Republicans were against it, 23-71.
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."
"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.
@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
"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.
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
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
Under fire from the back mike, he offers, "That's very good evidence that I am not totally aware of every issue."
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.
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."
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.
"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.
"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."
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."
"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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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