Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Convicted felons could be carrying guns in a mall near you

In perhaps my last post of the day to make up for my inactivity during the Easter weekend, I want to announce that HB 1393 by Rep. Kino Flores (D-Mission) was approved during second reading today and passed to engrossment. HB 1393 would exempt corporate private security forces from felony background checks and fingerprinting by the state's Private Security Board. Its companion bill, SB 622 by Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) is still in the Senate Business & Commerce Committee.

If passed, guards hired through a private security force employment company would not be exempted. HB 1393 would only apply to those hired individually or "in house" private security.

Gambling rally tomorrow

Tomorrow there will be a rally by conservative folks on the South Steps to urge legislators to vote against current gambling proposals, such as those proposed by Rep. Turner (D-Houston). As I reported earlier, gambling could be the only issue that the Democrats have any leverage on since Republicans are scared of their constituents - such as those who will show up on the South Steps tomorrow.

Some of the more moderate Dem's are interested in passing gambling, and the budget proposals were written on the assumption that some gambling proposal of some form will pass (apparently the House budget proposal is already $600 million short because of this, which is in addition to the $600 million that lawmakers are expecting from the "rainy day fund").

But look for some Democrats to make it to the rally.

Budget bill to use rainy day fund: "It's raining" says Committee Chair

The House budget bills, HB 1- the main budget and HB 10- the supplemental budget, were passed out of the Appropriations Committee last night, and they will be heard on the House floor next Wednesday.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that $600 million from the rainy day fund would flow into HB 1, and HB 10 draws on $1.3 billion in "rainy day" money to pay for needs including Child Protective Services, textbooks, Medicaid and CHIP. Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) stated "It is raining. We have some needs."

HB 1 allocates $1.5 billion less than SB 1, the Senate' budget proposal. Some of the differences between the $137.5 billion House plan and $139 billion Senate plan are (from the same AAS article):

  • The House plan also calls for a 3.2 percent increase in spending on higher education, less than the 8 percent approved by the Senate.

  • Public schools would reap 15 percent more, counting state and federal aid, and health and human services spending would rise 10 percent. Business and economic development aid would increase 18 percent.

  • The House budget calls for a 3 percent pay raise for state workers but doesn't include the money for it, falling far short of the two yearly 4.5 percent raises approved by the Senate.

  • Like the Senate approach, the House plan restores eye care and dental benefits for participants in the Children's Health Insurance Program and maintains the partial restoration of mental health benefits put in place last year. It does not, however, restore any of the optional Medicaid services for adults, such as hearing aids and mental health counseling, that the Senate backed.

  • The House plan includes $3 billion in additional public education spending, assuming lawmakers approve a version of the school finance plan endorsed earlier this month by the House. The Senate budget funded public education but left specifics to its Education Committee.

Telecom opposition going a little too far

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Rep. Phil King's government offices in Austin and Weatherford received two letters that alleged to contain anthrax: they were covered in white power and said "By the way, enjoy the anthrax."

Uh... writing an irresponsible bill leading to higher phone rates is by no means grounds for threatening his - as well as each member of his family's - life.

Another HB 2 update

Right now, the massive plan to overhaul schools - HB 2 - is in the Senate. Members of the Senate Education Committee heard testimony that the plan, if implemented, would cripple schools, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Check out some of my past posts: here, here, here, here, and here.