Capitol Cocktail Hour
The legislative insider: Texting ban, birth control bill and homage to homemade pie
While the GP in Austin is waiting in SXSW lines, drinking free Lone Star and hoping to run into Justin Timberlake, our dutiful legislators are still working hard. March 8 marked the deadline for all bills to be filed, and now it’s showtime!
Texting and driving
A bill that would make it illegal in Texas to text or email while driving received a favorable report from the House transportation committee. Though the Austin City Council banned texting and driving in the Capital City in 2009, this new bill would make is a statewide misdemeanor. We would like an amendment to this bill that would also make it illegal to not use your blinker to change lanes. You know who you are.
A couple of weeks ago we told you about a bill that passed committee designating February 16 as “Texas Homemade Pie Day.” Well, that bill is one step closer to being an actual resolution. So just days after your feelings of Valentine's Day inadequacy have subsided, here comes Homemade Pie Day to rub in the fact that in addition to being alone, you also can’t bake.
As an aside, the same committee voted out a resolution making pecan pie the Official State Pie of Texas. So far, not much blowback from the peach people — but it hasn't passed the House just yet.
Tax breaks for not providing birth control
Although the buzzwords this session are “gun” and “control,” that’s certainly not stopping Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) from bringing up last session’s hot topic: birth control. HB 649 would provide tax incentives for businesses that refuse to provide birth control on their company’s healthcare plan.
Oh wait, here’s our gun control bill of the week
The Senate heard a bill this week that would establish a whole new type of law enforcement officer called a “school marshal.” This person would be tasked with, according to the bill, “prevent(ing) or abat(ing) ... an offense that threatens serious bodily injury or death of students, faculty or visitors.” School marshals would also carry a gun. They would not, however, be allowed to issue traffic citations. As a certain Oscar-winning film recently taught us, it really is about the silver linings.
UT medical school in the valley
The Associate Press is reporting the Texas Senate approved a measure on Wednesday that allows for the University of Texas to open a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley. The medical school is projected to bring millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs, providing a much-needed economic boost to the struggling area.
Boring but important budget news
In a hilarious twist of rhetoric, the Rainy Day Fund may finally be tapped to fund statewide water infrastructure. If approved, the state would allocate $2 billion (with a “b”) to kickstart Texas water projects. While some are claiming it is an unnecessary excuse for lawmakers to fund the projects of friends, advocates are quick to point out the nationwide drought and Texas’ population increase.
Senate Bill 1, the state budget for 2014-2015, has officially been approved by the Finance Committee and poised to head on down to the Senate floor next week (a.k.a. SXSW Recovery Week). It’s a $94.1 billion (again, with a “b”) budget ($195 billion with the tied federal funds) that will see increase of funding to many of the areas that were slashed last year, including public education and mental health.
On that note, we're off to go find Fred Armisen and talk about a possible guest spot on Portlandia.