FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 27, 2011
Austin — The third week of session is busier than usual as the Legislature begins tackling some of the most pressing and important issues we will face this year. By working on one of the most hotly debated issues first, the Legislature will be able to avoid roadblocks as we address even larger challenges ahead.
Five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol are:
1. Voter ID
This week the Senate passed legislation requiring citizens to present photo identification to verify their identity when voting. (Certain exemptions are made for those older than 70 and the disabled.) This is an important step to significantly protect the integrity of the vote and reduce voter fraud. Despite being very popular with most Texans, similar measures were controversial in the last two sessions. In fact, legislation came to a standstill in the House late in 2009 and prevented many other bills from having a vote.
By tackling voter ID so early in the session, the Legislature can approve this popular and necessary reform while still pursuing an ambitious agenda including redistricting, closing a budget gap and strengthening border security. The bill, Senate Bill 14, will now go to the House where it must pass before being sent to the governor.
2. Senate Budget
This week the Senate released what we refer to as our base budget. It is called the base budget because it serves as the starting point for budget negotiations and is by no means the final word. Like the House budget, it makes significant cuts and assumes no new tax increases or uses money from the Rainy Day Fund. It does, however, have one billion dollars more for education and public safety items than the House version. Over the next few months the Senate and House will not only reconcile the difference between the two budgets but will make new changes and alterations.
3. Sonogram bill
At a Right to Life rally at the Capitol, Gov. Rick Perry announced he would add a new emergency item for the 82nd Legislature. The emergency item clears the way for the Legislature to consider legislation requiring a woman who seeks an abortion to first view a sonogram. The Legislature is not allowed to fully pass any legislation in the first 60 days of the 140-day session unless the governor designates an item for emergency legislation.
4. Balanced budget amendment
In addition to the sonogram issue, Gov. Perry also added a balanced budget amendment for the U.S. Constitution to the list of emergency items. While the U.S. Government has spent our nation into deep debt, Texas and almost all other states are bound to not spend more money than they have.
Traditionally, however, the Constitution has been ratified starting at the federal level. Texas' own U.S. Senator, John Cornyn, is calling for Congress to adopt a balanced budget amendment. Whether an amendment comes from a state-called constitutional convention or through the federal legislature, the U.S. Government clearly needs to hear the message that trillions of dollars in national debt endangers the future and well-being of our nation.
5. Protecting drinking water
On Thursday I filed legislation to require notification to groundwater districts when there is a proposed injection well in their area. Because injection wells could pose a danger to water supplies, it is essential groundwater districts are informed about potential wells in the areas they oversee. Only by receiving notification can a groundwater district take timely steps to make recommendations for improvement.
I was disappointed by a decision from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to permit an injection well in Montgomery County despite strong local opposition and questionable evidence of this well's safety. I am working on several other bills to address potential threats from similar injection wells. While I believe some wells can be built safely, that safety can only be guaranteed when proper precautions are taken. Texas drinking water is too precious to take unnecessary risks.