Kicking off 83rd session
The Hutto News
Wednesday, January 9, 2013 5:39 pm
The 83rd Texas Legislature convened Tuesday with infrastructure, water, education, transportation and health anticipated to be top agenda items this session.
So far, House and Senate members have filed nearly 800 bills, the greatest number of which, are related to education. Together, the chamber have filed 83 bills in education, 48 in crimes, 35 in taxation, 33 in criminal procedure, 27 in elections and 26 related to state agencies, boards and commissions.
Legislators have filed 22 bills related to each of the following: Health, Health-Human Services Commission and Human Services; and 19 bills related to minors.
House Rep. Larry Gonzales has filed HB103 related to a supplemental payment for retirees of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas and the unfunded actuarial liabilities allowed under that system.
Gonzales also filed HB104 related to the repeal of the driver responsibility program.
He is the only local legislator who had filed bills as of Friday afternoon.
Education, particularly standardized testing and school vouchers are expected to be hot topics this session.
Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick in December promised to work to do away with the 15 percent STAAR End-Of-Course policy for good. He also backs a tax credit scholarship for low-income students that would give them the opportunity to attend private school.
He and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have expressed a desire to lower the number of standardized tests Texas public students are required to take but have offered no specifics.
No bills addressing these topics had been filed as of Friday.
Another big topic this session will be health and several related bills have already been filed.
Among those bills is SB11, relating to the administration and operation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which involves 11 legislators.
Other bills involve Medicaid, health benefit plans and mental health issues.
Very few bills have been filed related to infrastructure and transportation. The more important bills are usually filed once the Legislature goes into session and some of those bills are expected to touch on these topics.
Panelists featured in a policy session on demographic and infrastructure challenges in December agreed that the state will need to consider investing in roadway maintenance, particularly, as the population continues to rise.
“I serve on the transportation committee. We need to tweak [our infrastructure] considerably. There are roads and bridges that are crumbling all over the state of Texas. We’re going to have to look at how we address that. And it’s got to be a probable mix of tolls, rails, maybe some gas tax and things like that,” said Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, one of the panelists.
“To be realistic, we have to put all those things in one basket and see how we can fund it. Sooner or later we are going to have to deal with our transportation infrastructure as a necessity, and hopefully, we’ll do that much sooner rather than later.”
Lawmakers are expected to emphasize the importance of water conservation this session.
State Rep. Lyle Larson filed a bill to create a sales-tax exemption for water-saving appliances sold over Memorial Day weekend.
The Water Conservation Advisory Council released a report in December to legislators about water conservation progress in the state.
“How effectively water conservation is implemented today will have a profound effect on the level of additional water resources needed in the future,” wrote presiding officer C.E. Williams in the introduction to the report.
The Council believes the state needs to work on, among other things, funding a statewide water conservation public awareness program.
The Legislature convenes at noon Tuesday in the State Capitol.