The Legislature began its work Tuesday with a decidedly Republican look and signs of a rightward lurch.
With a slew of newcomers, the GOP has enhanced clout. Influenced by the tea party and an overwhelming House majority, Republicans are poised to cut the budget deeply and push for long-stalled measures on voter identification, immigration, abortion and property rights.
After a fractious fight over whether Speaker Joe Straus was conservative enough, the House re-elected him by a wide margin.
They almost managed to do so by acclamation, but Leo Berman objected, calling for a recorded vote. The count was 132 ayes, 15 nays, and two "present not voting"s.
The no voters were Berman, Phil King, Wayne Christian, Dan Flynn, Bill Zedler, and these ten GOP freshmen: Van Taylor, Jim Landtroop, Jodie Laubenberg, David Simpson, Tan Parker, Ken Paxton, James White, Charles Perry, Cindy Burkett, and Erwin Cain. Rookie legislators Jason Isaac and Bryan Hughes were the "pnv"s, and Lyle Larson abstained.
The five old red dogs know precisely what the consequences are in their defiance, but the green peas are clueless. To vote against an incumbent speaker in your very first action while he's riding a landslide to re-election is no way to get a good committee assignment, to get your bills a favorable hearing in committee, or any other plum from the Speaker's basket.
Frankly I'm surprised that Sarah Davis was smart enough to figure this out. Thank God that moron isn't my representative.
While the governor is not in favor of Arizona-styled legislation criminalizing the appearance of undocumented persons -- TeaBaggers favor this and Berman and Debbie Riddle have already pre-filed bills to its effect -- he had to throw a sop to the TP with his "sanctuary city" baloney. Naturally he is completely unaware that he is a big fat flipflopper:
Perry was right the first time: “The law turns law enforcement officers into immigration officials by requiring them to determine immigration status during any lawful contact with a suspected alien, taking them away from their existing law enforcement duties, which are critical to keeping citizens safe.”
So, Perry was indeed for sanctuary policies (including for state troopers) before he was against them. Apparently he now believes that taking law enforcement officers away from their existing duties does not pose a danger to citizens.
Here's video of the governor embarrassing himself on the issue, courtesy the Texas Tribune:
And Perry also has declared the Rainy Day Fund off-limits, which makes the $27-billion-dollar hole the Lege has to crawl out of that much steeper.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden gave a highly unusual speech when he accepted the position of Senate President Pro-Tem, in which he said that education and health and human services would have to be cut to balance the budget. He also said that the franchise tax would probably have to be overhauled. It has never generated the revenue it was projected to and its failure has exacerbated problems with public school funding in Texas.
The state's budget shortfall is massive. Operating under the assumption the state will spend no more during 2012-2013 than it did during 2010-2011, the shortfall is about $15 billion. The Center for Public Policy Priorities calculates that with population growth and increasing demand for state services, that state agencies would need about $99 billion to maintain the current level of service, in which case the budget shortfall balloons to about $27 billion.
TexTrib had the best live-blog and slideshow. Their coverage stood far out from everyone else's. Vince's new-look Capitol Annex delves deeper into the budget deficit/revenue estimates, and Kuffner aggregates those who were up-to-date, unlike me.
This opening day's attendance from the public was considerably down from 2006 and 2008, with even TeaBag Nation not all that well represented. Here's a couple of photos I took after the opening session had ended.
A protest I joined:
A high school mariachi band from Dallas performing in the Rotunda:
And Brad Pritchett's Facebook posting provided some hilarity:
(H)ad an interesting day at the Capitol. Favorite part being the Tea Partiers wearing misspelled shirts, proving that education in Texas IS truly lacking. Them trying to correct it by marking a white printed letter out in black Sharpie was just icing on the cake.
The misspell was the anti-Straus people were wearing shirts that read, "Oust Rhino Straus". Well he isn't an actual zoo animal Rhino, it's RINO as in Republican In Name Only. The fact that they started marking out the "H" was amazing. That and the guy who thought he was dressed as Paul Revere and was actually Napoleon.
There were three "Paxton for Speaker" Tea-shirts in Jessica Farrar's office, apparently for the taking, but I passed. My dogs have enough chew toys and fight rags as it is.
Special thanks to Rep. Farrar and her staffer Sarah Melecki for accommodating this non-constituent on her bus over and back yesterday, along with the food and drink and schwag.