Representatives of the Legislative Budget Board testified in front of the Senate Finance Committee regarding Senate Bill 1, the appropriations bill for the 2006-2007 biennium. Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton outlined the state's economic growth since the 78th session, citing a 7.9% increase in sales tax revenue and a 1.8% increase in employment growth. Hamilton says these increases, among others, have led to the legislators having an approximate $400 million surplus. He was quick to caution that supplemental spending earmarked during the 78th Legislative Session could reduce that figure before the process is complete. Finance Committee Chair Senator Steve Ogden laid out a tentative schedule for work on Senate Bill 1, saying he intends to have a bill ready to go to the Senate floor by March 18th. Between now and then, the committee will hear testimony from representatives of every state agency regarding their past and current budgets, and any increases in appropriations needed to allow the agencies to operate at top effectiveness.
Elsewhere, the Texas Capitol hosted to the Texas Capitol Schoolhouse, a showcase for technologies used in state classrooms. The Schoolhouse is a way for educators to familiarize state legislators with the latest methods for incorporating technology as a learning tool in public schools. Students from fifteen districts from around the state are participating today and tomorrow, transforming the basement rotunda into a high-tech classroom. Legislators had an opportunity to talk with both educators and students about the ways in which computers can enrich learning and how investment is needed in order to give all Texas students access to cutting-edge technologies, like laptops and high-speed internet.
Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst named the standing committees for the 79th Session today, and one hundred bills were referred to committee, with a hundred more to come tomorrow. Among these bills referred was Senate Bill 6, which would restructure the state's Adult and Child Protective Services. This issue was designated by Governor Rick Perry as an emergency issue, and Health and Human Services Chair Senator Jane Nelson says her committee will work hard to get a bill to the Senate floor as soon as possible. "If there was ever an issue that deserves emergency status, this is it," said Nelson, "Lives are in danger and we need a rapid response." Senate Bill 6 as filed is a skeleton bill which will be filled out during committee using public testimony and recommendations from the many work groups that have been tackling this issue for several months. Nelson said she thinks the committee will have a bill ready to go to the full Senate for consideration within three weeks.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, February 1st at 11:00 A.M.