Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 42: 'Flurries' - But No Blizzard

Today is the 42nd day of the 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature. The Senate reconvenes at 11 am, the House at 1 pm.

The House is finally starting to get to work after waiting 30 days for committee assignments. With committees in place the speakers office is able to start referring bills. The Dallas Voice Instant Tea blog described this as a "flurry of activity', which is somewhat true, but not completely accurate. Bill referral is the only part of the process that is guaranteed; all bills get referred to committee. Bills are referred in the order they are filed (for the most part) - so it might look really good when HB 24, HB 130, HB 170, HB 172, HB 208, HB 224, HB 415 and HB 604 all move on the same week, but the truth is that was always going to happen.

For some of these bills referral to committee is the last movement they will make, since the committee chair is under no obligation to schedule them for a hearing. I will reserve my excitement for when these bills start getting scheduled for hearings.

In "how did I miss that" news: The Department of State Health Services' commissioner, Dr. David Lakey, has disbanded the Texas HIV Medication Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee was made up of health service providers and people living with HIV/AIDS who provided input to the way the Department structured it's HIV medication programs. Commissioner Lakey testified before the House Appropriations committee on Friday that the elimination of the advisory committee was necessary for budgetary reasons. The Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition is encouraging people to contact the members of the Appropriations subcommittee on Human Services and ask them to "Tell Commissioner Lakey to reinstate the Texas HIV Medication Advisory Committee and work with community stake holders. People living with HIV/AIDS and community stake holders should not be shut out of the process!"

Representative John Zerwas (512) 463-0657
Representative Dawnna Dukes (512) 463-0506
Representative Susan King (512) 463-0718
Representative Craig Eiland (512) 463-0502
Representaive Warren Chisum (512) 463-0736
Representative Charles Schwertner (512) 463-0309

The big state legislature news story for the last week has, of course, been in Wisconsin where that state's newly elected governor is attempting to prevent collective bargaining by some public employee unions - most notably teachers. Texas is one of only 5 states that currently doesn't allow for collective bargaining by teachers unions. Interestingly enough those five states rank 50th (South Carolina), 49th (North Carolina), 48th (Georgia) 47th (Texas) and 44th (Virginia) in average state SAT/ACT scores. I'm sure that's just a coincidence. If you are in Austin and would like to show solidarity with the public employees of Wisconsin there is a candlelight vigil tonight at 6:45 starting at the AFL-CIO headquarters (1106 Lavaca St.) and marching to the capitol.

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