FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 20, 2011
Austin — Here in Austin, those of us in the Legislature are in the second week of session and are off the starting block and picking up the pace for the long race ahead. Going into this session, everyone knew it would be a challenging time, and now we see the beginning of some of the issues that will define the course in the coming months.
Five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol are:
1. Inauguration - On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst took their oaths of office. This begins Perry's third full term as Texas' 47th governor. His inaugural address celebrated the priorities that help make Texas the best state in which to live, work and raise a family. Dewhurst stressed Texas' unique role as a leader for business and economic growth relative to other states. The inauguration festivities, paid for with private donations, were scaled back this year in part to reflect the fiscal conservatism needed for the upcoming session.
2. House Budget - Elected officials did not get a chance to celebrate too long before they had to get back to business. The House version of the state budget came out just hours after the inauguration. This budget is the Legislature's first draft at what will eventually be the state budget for the next two years. This budget has no tax increases and does not use any money from the Rainy Day Fund, but it also makes significant cuts. It is more than 16 percent smaller than the current budget. While this budget is a starting point, it gives legislators a basic idea of where funds will go. Some areas will be cut more while others are cut less. There will much more discussion and debate on the topic in the following months.
3. Senate Rules - On Wednesday, the Senate adopted the rules we use throughout the session, including how many votes are needed to bring a bill to the floor. Traditionally, a two-thirds vote is required in order to hear a bill in the Senate, and the Senate decided to keep that tradition despite some opposition. There is, however, one exception. Because it is specifically named in the rules adopted by the Senate, a bill requiring citizens to show identification in order to vote may be debated with just the majority's approval. This continues the same policy from last session. As I said before, a voter identification bill deserves special consideration because protecting the integrity of the ballot is fundamental to democracy.
4. Home Inspector Bill - This week I filed a bill to remove a requirement for home inspectors to carry an unnecessary form of insurance. This requirement creates an unfair and unneeded cost for home inspectors, a cost that can get passed down to the homeowner. What is most important to know about the bill, however, is that it addresses a real-world problem of a resident of Senate District 3. As a home inspector, he saw a problem with this new regulation and approached me to see if I could help. After working with this constituent and researching the issue, I drafted this bill to correct the problem. Had this resident not contacted me, I would have no idea this problem existed.
5. Honoring heroes in Arizona - In the Senate we ended the Legislative week on a somber note, passing a resolution honoring the heroes and victims of the tragic Arizona shooting. It was co-authored by every member of the Senate. As we go into a session where there will be division on many issues, it is good to stand united in an act of sympathy and civility.