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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
End of session slowdown mires legislation
Wednesday, May 11, 2011 • Posted May 12, 2011

AUSTIN — Deadlines for legislation to meet or die are fast approaching, and so the Texas House of Representatives last week worked evenings, including Saturday morning, May 7.

But the body fell short of its goal of debating long lists of bills as philosophical differences between the Republican majority and the Democratic minority ate up the clock, and that, coupled with procedural sticking points, brought action to a trudge and finally a halt.

HB 400, the public education “flexibility” bill by Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, was in the pack. The bill would allow school districts to increase the students-to-teacher ratio, furlough teachers and reduce their pay in the name of saving money.

Last week, Gov. Perry suddenly ordered the Legislature to put “loser pays” legislation on the fast track as an emergency item. That’s HB 274 by Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, amending civil court procedure. In floor action on Saturday, parliamentary inquiries, points of order and a spate of amendments dragged out the debate. The bill was tentatively passed and soon after, the House recessed. When this happens, other bills die because there won’t be enough time to bring them up on following days.

The last day of the session is May 30, and this week, important deadlines for legislation kick in, such as Monday, May 9: Last day for House committees to report House bills and joint resolutions (proposed constitutional amendments).

Bills signed or awaiting signature

About 60 Senate bills and 15 House bills have made it through the gauntlet to Gov. Perry’s desk. As of May 8, only 21 Senate bills and no House bills had been signed by the governor. Here are a few of the signed ones:

• SB 24 by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and House sponsor Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, relating to the prosecution, punishment, and certain criminal and civil consequences of offenses involving or related to the trafficking of persons and to certain protections for victims of those offenses.

• SB 37 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and House sponsor Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, extending the life until Sept. 1, 2017 of the Promoting Independence Advisory Committee to ensure appropriate care settings for persons with disabilities.

• SB 115 by Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, and House sponsor Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, limiting the liability of space flight entities to encourage development of a commercial space launch industry in Texas.

• SB 309 by Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, and House sponsor Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, making the Academy of Country Music Awards, the National Cutting Horse Association Triple Crown, and a national convention of the Republican National Committee or the Democratic National Committee eligible for the state’s Major Events Trust Fund program and to require a study of the measurable economic impact of the events.

Officials comment on bin Laden

With messages posted to their official state websites, Gov. Rick Perry and other state officials on May 2 hailed the United States’ successful mission to find and kill international terrorist Osama bin Laden.

On May 1, the planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America was in a walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, when a team of U.S. Navy SEALs entered and killed him on orders from President Barack Obama. The body of the al-Qaeda leader was transported to an aircraft carrier and buried at sea.

Excerpt from Perry’s statement: “Our thoughts and prayers remain with those who will continue to wage our global fight on terror, placing their own lives on the line to keep us safe back here at home.”

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: “I salute President Bush, President Obama, the brave men and women of the United States military and our intelligence community who never gave up on bringing Osama bin Laden to justice for the deaths of 3,000 innocent Americans on 9-11. The demise of bin Laden sends a clear message to al-Qaeda and the enemies of freedom still seeking to do harm to America. We will never forget 9-11 and we will not rest until we bring justice to those responsible.”

Attorney General Greg Abbott: “The face of evil has been eradicated thanks to American forces’ dogged pursuit of justice. The Twin Towers may no longer stand, but American justice — and exceptionalism — will forever prevail. We will never forget.”

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