SENATE FINISHES SPECIAL SESSION
(AUSTIN) — The Senate voted on a number of key measures Monday and Tuesday, finishing work on nearly all of the legislative issues that Governor Rick Perry placed on the session call. When a fiscal matters bill critical to balancing the state budget died during a filibuster in the Senate in the waning hours of the 82nd Regular Session, Perry called lawmakers back to deal with budgetary matters.
The Senate approved conference committee reports on SB 1 and SB 2 earlier, which represent compromise legislation between the House and Senate on the state budget. These fiscal matters bills move up some tax collections and defer some payments into the next fiscal period, along with other funding shifts necessary to balance the budget.
Also approved by the Senate on Monday was the conference committee report on SB 7, which makes statutory changes necessary to achieve more than $400 million in healthcare savings over the next two years. It accomplishes this through an expansion of Medicaid managed care and by increasing outcome based reimbursement models for medical services.
On the education side, the Senate passed conference committee reports on Senate Bills 6 and 8. The first measure establishes a textbook and instructional materials fund. The latter will increase local administrators' freedom to change teacher salaries and implement furloughs for employees to help districts deal with reduced state education funding.
Finally, the Senate approved reforms to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. Back in mid-May, before legislators knew that critical measures for balancing the state budget wouldn't pass, Governor Perry told lawmakers that they would be back in July to deal with TWIA if they couldn't come to a consensus during the regular session. This organization, which is virtually the only insurance underwriter along the coast, lacks the fiscal resources to cover damages in the event of another major hurricane. The reforms passed seek to improve transparency, streamline the claims process and give claimants access to both arbitration and the courts to seek a settlement.
The Senate stands adjourned sine die.