AUSTIN — Last week, the Senate Finance and the House Appropriations committees were busy gathering input in daily hearings to fine tune their respective versions (Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1) of the state budget for 2012-2013.
The committees have to figure out how to make ends meet on much less revenue, so it’s all about what to cut. They are looking at a spending ceiling of perhaps $160 billion for the two-year period, in the face of budget requests from all agencies totaling more than $200 billion.
It’s a monumental task to sort through compelling needs brought before them as they struggle toward decisions that will result in cuts to education, health and human services, prisons, transportation, law enforcement and more.
Meanwhile, the decennial United States Census figures for Texas arrived on Feb. 16. The information not only provides the basis for the Congressional seat allocation and redistricting, it generally determines how much federal funding Texas rates. And that will play into state budget calculations Texans will see in the House and Senate bills.
Sonogram bill gets approval
The Texas Senate on Feb. 17 passed legislation that would require a medical doctor who is about to terminate a pregnancy to make a digital image of the fetus and offer to show the sonogram image to the patient before the procedure continues.
Senate Bill 16, authored by Dan Patrick, R-Houston, tentatively approved on a vote of 21-10, now moves to the House for consideration.
The doctor also would be required to record the heartbeat of the fetus and offer the patient the opportunity to hear it; plus, the doctor would be required to give a verbal explanation of the images. That explanation would be optional if the pregnancy is a result of sexual assault or incest; or the fetus has an irreversible medical condition or abnormality, as previously identified by reliable diagnostic procedures and documented in the patient’s medical file.
And, among further requirements in the bill, there is a clause that authorizes a doctor to perform an abortion without obtaining informed consent in a medical emergency.
Gov. Rick Perry praised the Senate in regards to SB 16 and said, “I look forward to working with House members to pass this legislation quickly, to ensure Texans are fully informed when considering such an important decision.”
AG testifies against EPA actions
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was in Washington , D.C. , on Feb. 9 to testify before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Abbott, while discussing the state of Texas ’ legal challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent takeover of the greenhouse gas regulatory role, said “ Texas cannot support the EPA – and in fact must challenge it – when it pursues regulations that are contrary to the (Clean Air Act) and devastating to the economy.”
Free tax filing available to some
The Texas Workforce Commission on Feb. 11 announced the availability of Free File, a free, federal income tax preparation and electronic filing program for eligible taxpayers.
Taxpayers with a 2010 Adjusted Gross Income of $58,000 or less who meet additional requirements can qualify to use it. Visit IRS.gov for more information.
The Workforce Commission also encouraged qualified taxpayers to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit allowing lower-income earners and families to pay less or no federal income tax, or receive cash payments.
Tuition program near deadline
Feb. 28 is the deadline to enroll in the Texas Tuition Promise Fund, the state’s prepaid college tuition program.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs last week reminded families to take advantage of the program, which offers a hedge against future increases in tuition and required fees at Texas public colleges and universities.
Participants lock in the cost of undergraduate tuition and required fees at today’s prices and choose from a variety of options to prepay for those costs.
Longest-serving jurist laid to rest
Former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Joe Greenhill, 96, died Feb. 11. He joined the court in 1957 and served as chief justice from 1972 to 1982.
The Houston native’s 25-year tenure on the high court is the longest of any Supreme Court justice in the history of Texas. Burial was in the Texas State Cemetery on Feb. 15.