Senator Carona's Email Update
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July 1, 2005

What's new . . .

On Saturday, June 18, Governor Rick Perry issued a proclamation ordering the Texas Legislature to return to Austin on Tuesday, June 21, for a special session to address school finance, education issues, including a teacher pay raise and textbook funding, and property tax relief. This is the fifth special session called by Governor Perry and the first for the 79th Legislature. Following is a brief summary of the procedures during a special session.

As stated in the Texas Constitution, the governor is the only official that can call the legislature to Austin for a special session. Each special session lasts only 30 days and the governor can call as many as he or she sees fit. In his proclamation, the governor specifies the purpose for which the Legislature is convened. No other issues may be finally passed unless the governor adds them to the "call" of the special session.

The governor may broaden the call at any point during the special session to include additional topics. Because of this, a wide range of bills are usually filed during a special session. Often times, these are bills that died at the end of the previous regular session, because of the numerous deadlines. For instance, during the current special session, bills relating to regulation of the telecommunications industry (SB 21), a judicial pay increase (HB 11, SB 11, HB 12, SB 36), preventing the taking of private property in Texas for economic development purposes (HB 78, HJR 19, SB 62, SJR 9, SJR 10), and the management of our state's water resources (SB 15) have been filed. Several of these proposals have already had committee hearings. While Governor Perry has stated that he will not add any other issues to the call until education and property tax relief measures are enacted, governors often add other issues if the main purpose for which the session was called is accomplished.

The legislative process during a special session is similar to that of the regular session, with the exception that most deadlines and posting requirements are shortened.

The Texas Legislature returned to Austin on June 21 for the special session on school finance and property tax relief, which must end by July 20. The House and Senate have each filed bills addressing our state's school finance system and reenacting the education budget vetoed by Governor Perry, HB 2 and SB 2 respectively; the House has also filed a bill restructuring our state's tax system, HB 3. Each of the school finance bills has been voted out of committee, but SB 2 has now been dropped since HB 2 was voted out of the House on June 28. On June 30, the Senate received HB 2 and suspended its rules so that HB 2 could be considered in the Senate Education Committee immediately. The Senate Education Committee substituted its version of HB 2 (which is the engrossed version of HB 2 that the Senate passed on May 11, 2005, during the regular legislative session) and referred the bill back to the full Senate where it was debated and passed. The Senate version of HB 2 will be sent to the House, and it is anticipated that the House will request a conference committee on the bill. It is expected that the House and Senate conferees will be appointed and begin meeting to work out the differences in their versions of HB 2 around July 6.

On June 29, the House Ways and Means Committee voted out HB 3, which restructures the Texas tax system. The bill decreases the maximum property tax rate from $1.50 per $100 valuation to $1.23 per $100 valuation this year and $1.12 next year. To make up for the property tax decreases, HB 3 expands the franchise tax on businesses by closing loopholes and increases the state sales tax by 1 percent while expanding it to include car repairs and bottled water. The bill also adds $1 per pack to the cigarette tax. HB 3 is expected to be heard on the House floor on July 6. If it passes the House, the bill will be sent to the Senate and heard by the Senate Finance Committee. If it passes the Senate committee, the bill will be heard on the Senate floor. HB 3 will then be sent back to the House, where it is anticipated that the House will request a conference committee.

Focus. . .

The Veto process and bills that were vetoed

Once bills have passed both chambers of the Legislature, they are then sent to the Governor. He can either sign them, veto them, or if he does not sign them, they pass without his signature. These bills are effective upon their passage by the Legislature.

Governor Perry vetoed 19 bills this session. Three of the higher profile bills that were defeated were SB 1195, HB 2193, and HB 2572.

SB 1195 would have prohibited peace officers from requesting permission to search vehicles stopped for traffic violations unless the officer had probable cause or received written consent or oral consent, recorded by an audio or video recording. In his veto proclamation, Governor Perry noted that some municipalities in Texas require their officers to get a signed or recorded consent before performing a consent search, and that there is nothing in Texas law that would prevent others from doing so. He also added that, in his belief, current protections are sufficient to guard against unreasonable searches.

HB 2193 would have reformed our state's probation system. Among the key reforms, the bill would have allowed judges to reduce or terminate one's probation after completing half of the term. The changes were intended to reduce the number of probationers and allow the state to concentrate its resources on those that need the most supervision. In vetoing the bill, Governor Perry cited the potential for certain violent offenders to be subject to reduced probation terms, along with concerns of the state's district attorneys.

HB 2572 would have made numerous changes to the local mental health and mental retardation service delivery system, which included allowing local Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authorities to serve as service providers. This change was one of the reasons Governor Perry vetoed the bill. He felt this would create a conflict of interest, since local MHMR authorities would control funds distributed in their areas and provide services.

In addition to vetoing 19 bills, the Governor vetoed $35.3 billion for the Texas Education Agency in the appropriations bill. The appropriations bill is the only legislation in which the Governor has line item veto authority. (This means the Governor can veto individual items in a bill; with other bills, the Governor can only veto the entire bill.)

Governor Perry vetoed an additional $1.7 billion funds from the appropriations bill, including $314,252 for computer services at the Texas Commission on the Arts; $8.8 million for administrative services at the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission (since the transfer of functions of this agency to a division within the Texas Department of Insurance is expected to achieve significant cost savings); and $1.2 billion to various agencies and programs which were contingent upon passage of legislation that did not pass.

Did You Know. . . ?

There were 5484 bills filed by the Legislature during the 79th regular session, 3592 House Bills and 1892 Senate Bills. Of those, 1389 passed the Legislature; the Governor vetoed 19 of these bills.

During the 78th regular session 5592 bills were filed by the Legislature, 3636 House Bills and 1956 Senate Bills. Of those, 1384 passed the Legislature; the Governor vetoed 48 of these bills.

Student Opportunities . . .

Texas Commission on the Arts Scholarship

The Texas Commission on the Arts is now accepting applications for its Young Masters Scholarship Program. The program provides art students in grades 8-12 financial assistance to pursue advanced study in visual art, literature, music, theatre and dance. Those selected will receive the title Young Master and a scholarship in the amount of $2,500. You may apply at the Texas Commission on the Arts web site or call 512-936-6564. Young Masters scholarships are not available for collegiate study.

In Closing . . .

I hope you have a safe and wonderful "4th of July" holiday!


John Carona
State Senator - District 16