With the 85th Texas legislature winding down. There are lots of bills dead or dying. Most of the action during the last two weeks will revolve around the state budget. The Senate and House have both named five of their members as conferees to work out differences. They started about $2 billion apart. A big part of the difference is whether to use the state’s so-called rainy day fund. And there’s about a $11 billion in that fund now, to fund the next two years. The House says yes, the Senate says no.
Now keep in mind the big drivers of the budget. About a third of the money goes to Texas Medicaid, which is our health insurer of last resort. The other core of it goes to fund public education. On the subject of health care costs, there is some good news. Incredibly the legislature has already passed a bill to allow telemedicine. Which is direct to consumer health care, starting on June the 1st. Texas was one of only two states that didn’t allow it. That Bill is on its way to Governor Abbott.
There are several digital education bills supported by the Texas technology industry to modernize how we train our students. They would allow our students access the technology they use outside the classroom. These bills are pending but championed by Senator Larry Taylor and Lieutenant Governor Patrick. So the prospects are good.
If the budget isn’t settled by May 29, Governor Abbott will have to keep them in a special session. The sessions run 30 days at a time. And the governor solely controls the agenda. There’s also speculation the governor could call them back to fix how we fund public education over the long term, also known as Robin Hood. It’s been an interesting and at times dramatic session, especially in the Texas House. As one example, University of Texas Alums are rallying to stop a bill that would take several hundred acres of land donated by prominent alumnus Karl George Brackenridge in the 1900’s and give it to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. UT calls it a land grab that could put a chill on future donations. It will be interesting to see how Governor Abbott, a Longhorn, would view that bill if it reaches his desk. So, if you’re looking for free entertainment these next two weeks, stop by the Texas state capital. They will not be dull.
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Craig Casselberry is founder and president of Quorum Public Affairs, Inc. and a 20-year veteran of Texas politics. As president of Quorum Public Affairs, Casselberry has managed more than 100 strategic communications projects, issue coalitions, and federal, state and local public policy campaigns for corporate clients of all sizes. You can learn more about Craig HERE.