Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 3: HB 1 Was SB 1811, No You Can't Go Back to SB 1811

Today is the 3rd day of the first called session of the 82nd Texas Legislature. The House returns from recess at 10 am, the Senate reconvenes at 1 pm.

A note on bill numbers during special session: Bills filed in the Texas Legislature are assigned designations based on the chamber in which they were introduced (HB=House Bill, SB=Senate Bill) and the order they were filed. At the conclusion of the 82nd regular session last Monday the bill designation sequence reset, so HB 1 from the 82nd Legislature's regular session is different than HB 1 from the 82nd first special session. From here on out LQ will be referring to bills from the first special session by their bill number and bills from the 82nd regular sessions as "82(R) [bill number]." Many, if not most, of the bills filed during the special session will be identical or substantially similar to bills from the regular session, when that is the case we will endeavor to provide both bill numbers for reference

The House Appropriations Committee meets this morning at 9:00 am to receive public testimony on HB 1 [82(R) SB 1811]. The "fiscal matters" bill contains provisions that accompany the state budget adopted during the regular session, clarifying how funds are to be distributed and adjusting fees levied on certain kinds of transactions and payment schedules for those fees. It's a fascinating read. Among other things the bill would reduce the amount of time consumers can collect remaining funds on expired gift cards (did you know money left on expired gift cards gets turned over the state after five years, now it will be three) and creates a $50 fee if you sell your used car yourself and don't file the proper paperwork to inform the state of the sale. It's a very long document that covers a lot of ground, but it's well worth the read.

Why is a blog that covers queer issues talking about a fiscal matters bill? Because back when HB 1 was 82(R) SB 1811, Wayne Christian (R-Center) prefiled two amendments that would have defunded and banned LGBT resource centers from Texas universities. He can do that because the bill governs the way that some funds are distributed to universities, since the bill is already talking about how universities spend money the issue of spending any of that money, even indirectly, on LGBT resource centers could be germane. Christian eventually withdrew his amendments (More HERE). The risk of Christian attempting to add his amendments to HB 1 remains.

During a regular session there are rules in place that slow down the process so that the public has time to review what's going on and tell their lawmakers what they think (for instance committees must give five days notice before hearings, and the House and Senate have to wait 24 hours before approving each others amendments). During a special session those rules get thrown out the window. This means the process can go more quickly, but it also makes it harder for the public to respond to things like bad amendments. We'll have to pay careful attention to be certain that Christian's amendments aren't stuck in during the special session.

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