Senate Finance panel starts work on state budget

Jane Nelson, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, on Jan. 22 said she would follow an aggressive agenda to deliver a budget ready for floor debate by the end of February.

“There are a lot of things this committee and the full Senate will decide to add, subtract, change, before we actually recommend out of this committee a budget,” she said. At the top of the list are school finance and property tax relief.

Nelson, R-Flower Mound, has chaired the powerful committee for three consecutive sessions. On Jan. 15, Nelson filed Senate Bill 1, a base budget for the 2020-2021 biennium, and scheduled daily meetings for the panel to consider the particulars that go into a document that typically exceeds 1,000 pages in length.

Important in the budget-writing process is the state comptroller’s revenue estimate, an amount based on economic indicators and models that predict how much revenue the state will collect over the next two fiscal years. That number also serves as a constitutional cap on spending; the legislature cannot appropriate more in spending than the comptroller forecasts in revenue.

Comptroller Glenn Hegar estimated just over $119 billion would be available in general non-dedicated revenue – nearly $7 billion more than the $112.2 billion in the Senate’s base budget – in the upcoming fiscal biennium.

Speaker names committees
House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, after weeks of meetings with individual members, on Jan. 23 announced committee assignments for the 86th Texas Legislature and named Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, as speaker pro tempore.

Chairs and vice chairs are as follows:
• Agriculture & Livestock: Drew Springer, R-Muenster, and Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco;

• Appropriations: John Zerwas, R-Richmond, and Oscar Longoria, D-La Feria;

• Business & Industry: Trey Martinez-Fischer, D-San Antonio, and Drew Darby, R-San Angelo;

• Calendars: Four Price, R-Amarillo, and Joe Moody;

• Corrections: James White, R-Hillister, and Alma Allen, D-Houston;

• County Affairs: Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, and Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston;

• Criminal Jurisprudence: Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, and Bill Zedler, R-Arlington;

• Culture, Recreation & Tourism: John Cyrier, R-Bastrop, and Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco;

• Defense & Veterans’ Affairs: Dan Flynn, R-Canton, and Tony Tinderholt, R-Fort Worth;

• Elections: Stephanie Klick, R-North Richland Hills, and Philip Cortez, D-San Antonio;

• Energy Resources: Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, and Abel Herrero, D-Robstown;

• Environmental Regulation: J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, and Ed Thompson, R-Pearland;

• General Investigating: Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, and Nicole Collier;

• Higher Education: Chris Turner, D-Arlington, and Lynn Stucky, R-Sanger;

• Homeland Security & Public Safety: Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, and Dennis Paul, R-Webster;

• House Administration: Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and Donna Howard, D-Austin;

• Human Services: James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, and Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin;

• Insurance: Eddie Lucio III, D-San Benito, and Tom Oliverson, R-Houston;

• International Relations & Economic Development: Rafael Anchia, R-Dallas, and John Frullo, R-Lubbock;

• Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence: Jeff Leach, R-Plano, and Jessica Farrar, D-Houston;

• Juvenile Justice & Family Issues: Harold Dutton, D-Houston, and Andrew Murr, R-Junction;

• Land & Resource Management: Tom Craddick, R-Midland, and Sergio Munoz Jr., D-Mission;

• Licensing & Administrative Procedures: Tracy King, D-Uvalde, and Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth;

• Local & Consent Calendars: Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, and Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint;

• Natural Resources: Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, and Will Metcalf, R-Conroe;

• Pensions, Investments & Financial Services: Jim Murphy, R-Houston, and Hubert Vo, D-Alief;

• Public Education: Dan Huberty, R-Houston, and Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio;

• Public Health: Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, and John Wray, R-Waxahachie;

• Redistricting: Phil King, R-Weatherford, and Chris Turner;

• Resolutions Calendars: Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, and Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land;

• State Affairs: Dade Phelan, R-Nederland, and Ana Hernandez, D-Houston;

• Transportation: Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa;

• Urban Affairs: Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson, and Matt Shaheen, R-Plano; and

• Ways & Means: Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, and Ryan Guillen.

Voter roll advisory issued
Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, the state’s chief elections officer, on Jan. 25 issued an advisory to county voter registrars regarding voter registration list maintenance activities.

In the advisory, Whitley said about 95,000 individuals identified by Texas Department of Public Safety as non-U.S. citizens have a matching voter registration record in Texas and about 58,000 of those have voted in one or more Texas elections.

Voting in an election in which the person knows he or she is not eligible to vote is a second-degree felony in Texas. Because the secretary of state has no statutory enforcement authority to investigate or prosecute alleged illegal activity in connection with an election, the matter has been referred to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the state’s chief law enforcement officer.

Higher Ed chief resigns
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on Jan. 24 announced the resignation of Higher Education Commissioner Raymund A. Paredes after 15 years in the position. The resignation is effective Aug. 31.

Prior to joining the agency, Dr. Paredes spent most of his academic career at UCLA, where for 30 years he taught as a professor of English and also served 10 years as vice chancellor for academic development.

Ed Sterling is Director of Member Services for the Texas Press Association.

edsterling@texaspress.com

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