Senator Carona's Email Update
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EMAIL UPDATE

July 10, 2009

The 81st Session of the Texas Legislature adjourned "Sine Die" ("without a day") on June 1, 2009. Of the 7,419 bills that were filed, 1,459 passed through the process and were sent to the Governor. The Senate and House worked very hard during the 140-day period, and I am pleased overall with what was accomplished, though many would agree that some important items were lost in the political wash at the end of the session. Because several of these issues were not passed in time, on June 25, Governor Perry called a Special Session to convene at 10:00 a.m. on July 1, 2009. As stated in the Proclamation calling the session, the purpose was to "extend the operation of five critical agencies and help reduce gridlock by continuing to provide options for financing our state’s highways."

The Governor is the only person who has the authority to bring legislators back to Austin for a Special Session and is responsible for setting the agenda, also known as the "call". Other bills may be filed, but only the Governor can add them to the call and allow them to become law. The First-Called Special Session of the 81st Legislature was limited to only three agenda items, realized in the following bills:

The language in HB 1 and SB 2 both had widespread support in the Regular Session, but did not pass before the Session concluded. These bills were quickly approved by both chambers and passed by the Legislature during the Special Session. However, the CDA legislation, HB 3/SB 3, did not enjoy much support and was not passed out of committee in either the House or Senate.

The remainder of this Update is an overview of the actions taken during the 81st Regular Session. While it is not exhaustive, I have included as many links as possible that might help you with further questions. As always, you are encouraged to call my office with questions or comments.

District 16 Accomplishments

It was a privilege to once again be appointed by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security. I am proud of the way this committee worked together and grateful to work with the other Senators and committees on a wide variety of legislation. Below are several of the bills I authored that passed the Legislature. While we are only in session for 140 days, many of these bills are the product of interim studies or have been in development for several years. I consider these accomplishments the result of the hard work of myself and many others and for the benefit of all Texans.

Budget & Revenue

Each regular session is always centered around passing the budget, the Legislature's sole required task each biennium. During this tough financial season, we balanced the state budget by reducing spending and utilizing some federal stimulus funding. We chose not to dip into the Rainy Day Fund. By leaving this Fund untouched, it is expected to reach $9.1 billion in 2011.

The House and Senate alternate carrying the major budget bill. This session, it was contained in SB 1, and is also called the General Appropriations Act. The budget for the 2010-2011 biennium totals $182.3 billion, with 41.4% going to education and 32.7% to health and human services. Education appropriations include $7 billion directed toward higher education and a $1.9 billion increase for public education. Healthcare appropriations reduce health-related waiting lists, add funding to improve state schools for the mentally disabled and add $450 million in bonds for cancer research.

SB 1 includes other appropriations in areas like criminal justice, natural resources and public safety. Some other highlights of the budget include:

You may visit the Legislative Budget Board for more detailed information on the budget. HB 4586, the Supplemental Appropriations bill, also passed this session. This bill provides for emergency and supplemental appropriations and addresses budget shortfalls that have arisen in this current biennium.

Other bills relating to the budget and revenue:

Passed -

Failed -

Other Areas of Interest

Public Education

Passed -

Failed -

Higher Education

Passed -

Failed -

Appraisal Reform/Property Rights

Passed -

Failed -

Business & Commerce

Passed -

Transportation & Homeland Security

Passed -

Failed -

Environment & Natural Resources

Passed -

Failed -

Health & Human Services

Passed -

Failed -

Criminal Justice

Passed -

Failed -

"Chubbing"

Perhaps the most debated issue this Session was voter identification legislation, namely SB 362. Due to the ongoing controversy over this bill, some members of the House chose to delay bringing it up for a vote by a method called "chubbing". "Chubbing" is a term that refers to the practice of stalling a bill through extended debate or questioning. In this case, when the House Local and Consent Calendar (agreed-to bills that usually pass at lightning speed) was being considered, some members chose to ask questions and debate each of these bills. This chubbing had the effect of delaying the major bills that were to be brought up for vote. While a few in the House managed to pass some priority bills before the deadline, many bills died in the process. Below are a few of the bills that died because of the "chubbing."

Governor's Vetoes

The deadline for Governor Perry to veto legislation passed by the 81st Legislature was Sunday, June 21, 2009. Governor Perry vetoed a total of 35 bills. Among the bills he vetoed:

For a complete list of the Governor's vetoes and links to the bills, click here.

In closing…

I hope this update has been helpful and informative. If you are interested in a specific bill, you can call my office or visit the Texas Legislature Online. For example, if you wanted more specific information on the budget, Senate Bill 1, you would type SB 1 into the "search" box. This would allow you to locate bill analyses, all actions or the text of the bill. There are also links on the home page to find out more about the legislative process, as well as links to the individual pages of House and Senate members.

It is an honor to represent Senate District 16 in the Texas Legislature. I look forward to your feedback and will continue to work on your behalf in the interim.

Sincerely,

John Carona
State Senator - District 16
http://www.carona.senate.state.tx.us/

Capitol Office District Offices
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, TX 78711
512-463-0116
800-662-0334
512-463-3135 (fax)
john.carona@senate.state.tx.us
8080 N. Central Expy.
Suite 1440, LB 44
Dallas, TX 75206
214-378-5751
214-378-5739 (fax)
5401 N. Central Expy.
Suite 300
Dallas, TX 75205
214-521-3884
214-953-1886 (fax)

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