The Big Conversation:
Buoyed by positive economic news, the Legislature rides back into town today, with a daunting list of priorities in tow.
In case you missed it, state lawmakers head back to Austin today, returning, as they do every odd-numbered year, for a five-month legislative sprint during which they'll take on a host of pressing policy matters. A sampling of the big issues expected to arise this year: private school vouchers, Medicaid, federal health care reform, school financing, water infrastructure and immigration enforcement. To name a few.
As with 2011, expect spirited and sometimes divisive debate in areas like public education and immigration, which sparked some of last session's more memorable fireworks. Two years after helping pass an abortion sonogram bill, Republicans may also take another crack at major abortion legislation, this time in the form of a ban on the procedure after 20 weeks.
Still, the budget reigns. And while the improving fiscal conditions that Comptroller Susan Combs announced Monday have altered the landscape by potentially allowing the Legislature to reverse some of the sweeping cuts it made in 2011, lawmakers will still spend much of their time determining how to fund state services.
"Even as we head into the 83rd legislative session with higher revenues, we still need to focus on separating our wants from our needs, and continue to follow the conservative fiscal principles that have led to Texas’ ongoing success and will keep Texas strong," Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement in response to Combs' announcement.
Some recommended last-minute pre-session reading:
- The Tribune's comprehensive rundown of every major issue lawmakers are likely to confront this year.
- Ross Ramsey on what to expect today in the speaker's race (hint: not much) and potential changes to Senate rules.
- TM Daily Post on how the state ended up with an $8.8 billion surplus.
- The San Antonio Express-News on how the session could shape Perry's political future, and the Austin American-Statesman on how it could shape Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's.
Also, if you really want to keep up, check out our list of the 120 Texas lawmakers on Twitter.
The 83rd Legislature convenes at noon.
- Ted Cruz draws presidential buzz, but is he eligible?, Politico
- Castro a hot ticket in San Francisco, San Antonio Express-News
- Conflicts of interest a way of life in Texas Legislature, Houston Chronicle
- Panel says Austin should pursue more rooftop solar, Austin American-Statesman
- Report: $18 Billion Spent on Federal Immigration Enforcement, The Texas Tribune