After a marathon 17-plus hour debate that started just after noon last Tuesday, the House finally gave its preliminary nod to its version of the state budget just before 6 the next morning. With over 350 amendments to get through, that was actually pretty good time: Lawmakers largely sidestepped the hot button issues that might’ve had them watching the sun set twice through the House chamber windows.
Passing a budget is the only thing the Legislature is required to do by the state Constitution, but amid all that amending and tabling and yielding to questions, it’s easy to forget those are your dollars they’re making plans for spending, so we start this playlist of the week’s news with “For the Love of Money” by The O’Jays.
The easiest way to enjoy the playlist is to download Spotify, a free program. But even without it, you can still follow along. Here are the other selections for the week:
It was a pretty smooth process as these things go, but there were some tense moments in the budget debate. Kaufman Republican Rep. Stuart Spitzer’s amendment shifting $3 million from HIV and STD prevention to abstinence education faced spirited opposition, but the debate took an unusual turn when Spitzer told lawmakers he had abstained from sex until he married at age 29. The amendment passed, 97 to 47. Here’s Summer Camp performing “Last American Virgin.”
After that first vote, the House budget still had to get passed on third reading before going to the Senate and what will almost certainly require a conference committee to reconcile the two versions. Before that vote, state House Appropriations Chairman John Otto, R-Dayton, thanked fellow lawmakers for their work and said, “When you’re a CPA by background, you’re sort of like a hog in a mud puddle up here when you’re dealing with this.” The budget passed, 146 ayes to zero nays. Here’s “Hog Heaven” by Charlie Farley.
Last Sunday, reporter Eva Hershaw wrote about a soon-to-be-issued study from Texas scientists detailing their findings: DNA from antibiotic-resistant bacteria in cattle feedlots is airborne. It’s no small matter — two million Americans are infected with these super bacteria each year, and 23,000 die — and neither are the potential ramifications for the cattle industry, which is skeptical of the report. You might say the answer is blowing in the wind, but we went with Pink Floyd's "Breathe in the Air."
On Monday, a border lawmaker said the Department of Public Safety isn’t offering any proof to back up its assertion that all those millions spent on the border surge is working, reminding us of Herbie Hancock’s “Actual Proof.” On Tuesday, brand-new Tribune higher ed reporter Matthew Watkins disclosed that the University of Houston is paying sometime Austinite and Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey $135,000 plus travel expenses to speak at its spring commencement. The money will go to a charitable organization founded by McConaughey; we looked up Joe Cocker singing “Feelin’ Alright.”
The state agricultural agency has been in the news more than usual ever since former Rep. Sid Miller took over the job in January — early on, he grabbed headlines by granting amnesty to cupcakes. More recently, he told reporter Jay Root that, because of cuts in funding to his agency, consumers were “getting screwed.” On Wednesday, Root reported Miller had first approved, then later nixed, rather lavish renovations to the ag offices. How he came to that decision is disputed, but the request for Miller’s own office for 6-inch “hand scraped flooring” got us thinking of “Back in the High Life Again” by Steve Winwood.
This week, a Travis County grand jury decided not to hand up a bill of indictment against embattled University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall, who has managed to infuriate many but also uncovered irregularities in the admissions process at UT-Austin. Ross Ramsey wrote Thursday that ideally, if there’s no indictment, the public might not even know of a grand jury probe, but this one went one step further, offering scathing criticism of Hall, reminding us of Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil."
Some folks living next to barbecue joints in Austin — and there are a lot of them — aren’t thrilled about the associated smoke and smell, and have taken the matter to the city council. KUT News’ Joy Diaz’s story on Friday brought in plenty of comments and prompted our own barbecue reminiscences, so we’re closing out this week’s playlist with a mini-set dedicated to the smoky science, starting with Marcia Ball’s “Peace, Love & BBQ.”