FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2011
This week Texas finally received some relief from drought as thunderstorms rolled across the state. Here at the Capitol rain fell, but the real storms were inside as legislators worked to finalize legislation before the end of the special session in a few days.
Five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol are:
1. Governor Perry Announced vetoes
Last Friday, Gov. Rick Perry announced his vetoes of bills from the 82nd Legislative Session. He rejected 24 bills including a ban on texting while driving and legislation allowing transit buses to use highway shoulders. While the Legislature may in theory override a veto with a two-thirds vote, that vote is impossible if the Legislature is not in session. Because almost all legislation is finally passed in the last days of session, there are very few bills the Legislature could revive should the governor veto it. This makes the governor's veto a very powerful tool because it can completely shut down legislation despite its passage by the Legislature.
2. Anti-groping legislation added to the special session call
On Monday, Gov. Perry expanded the call for special session to include legislation concerning airport security searches. During the regular session, the House passed a bill banning intrusive searches by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials. The bill stalled at the last minute in the Senate and did not pass before the legislative deadline. I voted for this legislation in committee during the regular session and plan to vote for it again during the special session.
3. Senate approves redistricting committee
The Senate approved a bill that would establish a bipartisan committee to determine congressional boundaries when redistricting every 10 years. The committee would consist of four Republicans and four Democrats selected by the House and Senate. A ninth non-voting member would be selected by a majority of commission members to serve as the presiding officer. I voted against this bill because I believe it is the Legislature's constitutional duty to draw and approve Congressional districts. While the legislation passed the Senate, it may not have time to make it through the House before the special session ends.
4. Texas Windstorm Insurance Association debated
Legislators may face another special session if issues related to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) are not resolved. The quasi-governmental association was created in 1970 to provide insurance for coastal residents after many insurers pulled out of the market following Hurricane Celia. At issue are the amount policyholders may sue for if denied their claim and if the state still needs TWIA at all. If a resolution is not reached, Gov. Perry has indicated he will call another special session to settle this issue before the upcoming Hurricane season. A bill has passed the House and Senate, but the differences between the two versions must still be worked out by the end of special session on June 29.
5. Amazon looking for a deal from the state
Online retailer Amazon, tried this week to negotiate a deal with Texas officials for a break in sales tax in exchange for generating jobs in Texas. The company promised to invest more than $300 million and create at least 5,000 jobs in Texas during the next three years if lawmakers would approve a measure exempting Amazon from collecting online sales tax in Texas for the next four-and-a-half years.
In February, Amazon announced it would close its Texas distribution center after Texas Comptroller Susan Combs tried to collect more than $200 million in sales tax from the retailer. While online companies without a physical presence in Texas do not have to collect sales tax, Comptroller Combs argued the retailer's distribution center made sales to Texas residents subject to sales tax.
To make the deal work, a last minute change would have to be added to Senate Bill 1 and the Legislature may not be willing to make such a dramatic change in the final hours of the special session.