State Capital Highlights
State budget bill moves forward as conference committee agrees
AUSTIN — Texas Senate and House budget conferees met frequently last week and on May 20 managed to reach compromise on a $218 billion state budget for fiscal years 2018-2019.
However, Senate Bill 1 must gain final approval from both the House and Senate in order for the budget to continue on to the governor’s desk. But as pressing a matter as the budget may seem, the bulk of time in weekend floor debates was used on a variety of other measures, such as property tax reform, municipal annexation, school bathroom accommodations for transgender students and religious conscience considerations for government employees.
Disagreements among Republicans, who hold majorities in the House and Senate, and the rivalry between the lieutenant governor and the House speaker continue to slow the customary end-of-session rush of bills. Also, the usual talk about the need for a special session to take care of unfinished business has arisen as the May 29 end of the 140-day session approaches.
One bill that did pass and is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk is House Bill 62, a statewide ban on texting while driving. Authored by former speaker and dean of the House Tom Craddick, R-Midland, the bill was sponsored and amended in the Senate by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who offered companion legislation, SB 31. The House concurred in Senate amendments.
“Awareness of the dangers of texting while driving has been growing, and an April poll found that 90 percent of Texans support a statewide prohibition. Accordingly, it is time for Texas to join the 46 other states that already have banned this deadly habit,” Zaffirini wrote.
Fallen officers honored
The Texas Department of Public Safety on May 16 held a memorial service in conjunction with National Police Week to honor the state troopers, special agents and Texas Rangers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The Texas Governor’s Mansion was lit with blue lights on May 17 as part of the commemoration, as a sign of solidarity with the Dallas community, that day honored officers killed in the line of duty during a terrorist attack last July.
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