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Archive for April 1st, 2009

NPT Capitol: Senate passes its version of the budget, Shapleigh votes no

The Texas Senate passed its version of the state budget, Wednesday. SB 1 passed 26 votes to 5, with El Paso state Senator Eliot Shapleigh voting against.

SB 1, authored by Senator Steve Ogden, R-Bryan uses over $10bn of federal stimulus aid while leaving the state’s rainy day fund untapped (at round $9bn).

Shapleigh, along with Senator Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, raised concerns at the very start of the debate Wednesday afternoon about the legality of using stimulus funds when Texas has the money to plug its own budgetary holes using the rainy day fund. (The Economic stimulus package, HR1, has provisions which prohibit the use of stimulus money if it simply substitutes for cash a state was going to dole out anyway, providing ways for the feds to recover the money.)

Ogden cautioned that Texas’ economic circumstances “could get worse before they get better.” Hence it was prudent to use stimulus money now and keep rainy days funds in the tank for an even rainier day. Otherwise Texas would “really be in the tank” if things continued to slide. (There are rumors circulating in Austin that state comptroller Susan Combs will lower her revenue estimate for the biennium. i.e. work out that Texas has less moolah than she first thought.)

The state budgetary process now awaits the House’s version of the bill. Then the two chambers will appoint a conference committee to hash out the differences before sending it back to their respective chambers and then on to the Governor.

Check out NPT for Shapleigh’s reasons for voting against the Senate version of the budget.

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 1, 2009 at 5:47 pm

NPT Capitol: HB 670: Pope to have less rights than journalists

HB 670 is on the House floor which would give journalists in Texas qualified privilege to not disclose sources in certain situations.

“Under current Texas law, a journalist has no assurance that a whistleblower’s identity or information may be kept confidential without the journalist’s risk of imprisonment,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, in the committee report on the bill.

But state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Houston, isn’t a fan of the bill, thinking it gives a special privilege to journalists not afforded to other important folks in society. Martinez-Fischer maintains it is only a “qualified” privilege. (For example, journalists are obliged to cooperate with courts and law enforcement if they have witnessed a felony.)

“Why are these journalists so special?” said Riddle. “If the pope came to America, the pope would not have the same privileges as these journalists.”

A state Rep. just walked past and shouted to the press corps, “You hear that! You’re not as special as the Pope!”

The bill just passed, with one minor amendment.

More to follow…

–Ben Wright

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 1, 2009 at 10:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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NPT Capitol: April fools day in the House

State Rep. Larry Taylor, R-League city, just took the back mic at the House floor with a very stern look upon his face. He asked Speaker Straus if he would be recognized for a motion. A slightly befuddled Straus took it in his stride and replied, “sure.”

Taylor then made a motion to vacate the chair… followed by a split second of eerie silence

…before Taylor finished his sentence, “Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Jim Dunnam.”

Taylor is the Chair of the Republican caucus in the House. Today is April fools.

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 1, 2009 at 10:15 am

Posted in Uncategorized