It was a big week in the Texas Legislature. The Senate passed its budget smoothly and harmoniously with just one nay vote — in sharp contrast to the at-times contentious 18-hour debate the House went through the week before. For their part, lawmakers in the House took up two hot-button issues this week: a bill ceding control of fracking regulations to the state and licensed open carry. Both passed.
But around those headlines, the Legislature was in classic past-the-midpoint form as things inevitably speed up approaching adjournment sine die, so our playlist of the week’s news starts off with “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies.
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:
On Monday, Tribune columnist and executive Editor Ross Ramsey noted the return of a veteran lawmaker — and former House budget writer — to the Capitol, as lobbyist for an unexpected group. Here’s “The Stripper” played by David Rose and his Orchestra.
Tuesday was budget day for the state Senate. While some senators had reservations, the appropriations package passed with relative ease after just a couple of hours of debate. Before adjourning for the day, fellow lawmakers heaped praise on Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee. We thought of “Easy Does It,” offered here by saxophonist Sonny Stitt.
The Tribune covers the state Legislature gavel-to-gavel, so you’ll always find at least one Trib reporter in both chambers, and of course at myriad committee hearings, where many bills live or (more often) die — and where remarkable testimony from citizens is often heard.
On Wednesday, reporter Eva Hershaw had the duty on the House side, and along the way that day offered a glimpse into the workings of the Legislature through a series of tweets. One young man, years away from being able to being able to vote himself, drafted legislation, convinced a lawmaker to take it up, and got it all the way to a committee, where it got some rough treatment before being left pending.
Successful or not, it was a remarkable demonstration of the democratic process, if a little exhausting for the kid, who said,
We remembered Geoffrey Oryema’s “Hard Labour.”
Hershaw was keeping an eye on all sorts of hearings that day.
We know it’s not the kind of bass they were discussing, but we thought of Stanley Clarke’s “If This Bass Could Only Talk.” The percussive accompaniment comes from tap dancer Gregory Hines.
Bees, so crucial to the ecosystem, were taken up in a hearing that day:
The bee queen herself was there to testify.
We couldn’t wait to share Taj Mahal’s “Queen Bee.”
To describe both lawmakers and the citizens who appear before them as “colorful” is an understatement — reporters can count on memorable sights and quotes being in steady supply in the Capitol.
Here’s “Hogs on the Highway” from Austin’s own Bad Livers.
You can’t make this stuff up.
This is “Colorful” by The Verve Pipe.
Singer and composer John Legend was in Austin this week — not for a concert, but to talk criminal justice reform. Alexa Ura sat down for an interview with the Grammy, Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning musician to talk about mass incarceration rates and his just-launched Free America campaign.
Here’s Legend, backed up by The Roots, singing, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.”
Ryan McCrimmon has been quietly capturing the headline-writing crown in the Tribune newsroom, this time on a story about the grim practice of chopping off shark fins, a treasured delicacy in some parts of the world, but tossing the still-living shark back into the water to die. Listen to Missy Higgins' "Shark Fin Blues."
The Senate was out Friday, but the House was in session with two major pieces of legislation to consider: the so-called “Denton fracking bill,” designed to override municipal regulation of oil and gas activities and leave such matters to the state.
The question of state vs. local control has been a continuing theme throughout this session. Here’s Pussy Riot revving it up on “State Control.”
Licensed open carry was also brought to first vote on Friday.
With over half of House members signed on as co-sponsors, there wasn’t much suspense about whether the bill would pass — it did, easily, as it likely will on second reading, which could happen as soon as Monday. Here’s “Handguns,” by Greensky Bluegrass.
If there was any suspense at, it was around whether Democrats would be able to derail passage on procedural questions, as they had with the open carry bill earlier in the week. As Ross Ramsey explained, the devil’s in the details when it comes to House and Senate rules, and using those points of order, or POO, as lege aficionados know them, is a potent weapon for slowing or even stopping legislation, so we close this week’s playlist with a pair of tunes: “Procedural,” from Trent Reznor’s soundtrack for the film Gone Girl, and Greezy Wheels’ “The Devil’s In the Details.” Enjoy!