AUSTIN — Will he or won’t run? If Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential candidacy intentions could have been symbolized by a green, yellow or red light last week, it was arguably yellow, even though he spoke at Republican gatherings in New Orleans and New York.
Regardless, Texas’ chief executive had plenty on his desk, namely a heap of legislation awaiting his final decisions. June 19 was the last day for the governor to sign or veto bills passed during the Legislature’s regular session, which ended May 30. He released his final-action list on June 17.
Perry signed the 2012-2013 state budget, a document $20 billion lighter than the current 2010-2011 state budget. Perry praised the bill for not dipping into the so-called rainy day fund and not creating new taxes. As of June 20, Senate Bill 2, the fiscal matters legislation that makes the budget balance, had not reached the finish line in the still-in-progress special session of the 82nd Texas Legislature.
SB 9, the sanctuary cities bill that allows local police to question persons stopped for due cause about their immigration status, was approved by the Senate and has moved to the House for consideration. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst praised the work of the body he presides over, saying: “Drug traffickers and transnational gangs should think twice before they step foot in Texas.”
SB 4, the congressional redistricting bill, was heavily amended on its trip through the House. Now back in the Senate, upper chamber lawmakers must accept or reject the amendments. Following SB 4’s approval by the House, Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said, “I am particularly pleased that we have passed all four redistricting maps required this year. The members provided much input and direction on maps that reflect the population changes in our state. The redistricting map for the State Board of Education (HB 600) is now law. The House (HB 150) and Senate (SB 31) redistricting maps were simultaneously passed and now await the governor’s signature.”
Now, about those vetoes
Perry, after reviewing the bills on his desk, said “there were some bills that would have done more harm than good to Texans, and I have used my authority to veto them.” He vetoed 23 bills.
One of the more attention-getting vetoes was of HB 242, legislation that would have made it a misdemeanor offense to send a text message while driving a motor vehicle.
Perry said the bill, by the dean of the House, Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, “is a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults. Current law already prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from texting or using a cell phone while driving. I believe there is a distinction between the overreach of House Bill 242 and the government’s legitimate role in establishing laws for teenage drivers who are more easily distracted and laws providing further protection to children in school zones.”
Here are a few more:
• HB 992 by Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, relating to excess undergraduate credit hours at public institutions of higher education. Perry said the bill “would encourage students to waste time and money, along with taxpayer dollars, and would prevent students and community colleges from being held accountable for responsible academic planning and advising.”
• HB 1768 by Rep. Sergio Munoz Jr., D-Mission, which sought to regulate roadside vendors in a county with a population of 450,000 or greater, also was vetoed. Perry said, “It would be unfortunate if, through regulation, we unintentionally prevented, for example, the owner of a peach orchard with baskets of fruit or a Girl Scout troop with cartons of cookies from reaching their consumers.”
• HB 1616 by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, allowing the filer of a campaign finance report to correct without penalty any report within 14 days after a sworn complaint has been filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. Perry said the bill would have undermined the agency’s enforcement authority.
No signature on some bills
The governor let 27 regular-session bills, most of them local district bills, pass without putting his signature on them, which is his prerogative.
Among the non-local unsigned bills are these:
• HB 600 by Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, defining new districts for the election of State Board of Education members.
• HB 1541 by Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, tightening requirements for the state’s Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority.
• HB 1788 by Rep. Joe Farias, D-San Antonio, relating to capturing reptiles and amphibians by non-lethal means.