STATE CAPITOL NEWS AND NOTES
The following is a collection of news and notes from your State Capitol involving issues that affect House District 32.
VOTER IDENTIFICATION PASSES OUT OF THE HOUSE
The Voter ID bill otherwise known as Senate Bill (SB) 14 passed out of the House on March 24, 2011 after receiving a 101 yeas and 48 nays. The passage of the SB 14 marked an important vote for the Texas House of Representatives of the 82nd Legislative Session.
Currently under Texas law, to vote a regular ballot, sometimes voters are allowed to present a voter registration card to an individual working at the polling location. The poll worker then matches the name on the registration card with the list of registered voters in that precinct. Currently, there is no other statutory standard in place to verify the identity of the individual wishing to vote. This issue has caused many to question rather or not voter fraud is occurring. The objective of SB 14 is to require that an individual present a form of photo identification before that individual would be allowed to vote.
During last Wednesday’s debate, approximately sixty-three amendments were offered to make changes to the bill. The amendments ranged from changes which would allow an election judge to make exceptions for individuals in which they affirm to know personally (which did not pass), to allowing a valid identification card that contains the person’s photograph and is issued by a tribal organization (which did pass). Out of the sixty-three amendments which were brought up for discussion, only approximately fifteen received the necessary votes by the House to be added to SB 14.
Now that the House has passed its version of SB 14, the Senate has one of two options before them. They can either concur with the changes made by the Texas House or they can refuse to concur and require that a conference committee be formed, which would be composed of five members from the House and five members from the Senate. Upon the conference committee reaching an agreement, the members of the committee will issue a report that to be considered for approval by both the House and the Senate. Once SB 14 receives the necessary approval of both the House and the Senate, it will then be on its way to the Governor’s desk to be signed.
ANNUAL BUDGET BILL HEARD IN COMMITTEE
On Thursday March 24, 2011, the Committee on State Affairs heard House Joint Resolution (HJR) 33. HJR 33 is proposing a constitutional amendment to institute an annual state budget and to establish annual legislative sessions for budget purposes only. Under HJR 33, the Texas Legislature would meet annually on the third Tuesday in April for up to sixty days in a budget session. During a budget session, the Texas Legislature would only be a able to take up matters which pertain directly to appropriations or such emergency items that the Governor may provide to the legislature.
Currently the Texas Legislature meets every two years during a regular session to work on and pass out a state budget for the next two years. As this past fiscal year has indicated, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Comptroller and the legislature to forecast the state’s revenue intake, two years in advance. Last session, the legislature based the previous biannual budget on having approximately $3 billion more in funds than we ended up having. This deficit was in large part due to a decline in sales taxes in 2009 . An annual budget for the State of Texas will be better positioned for financial shifts.
If you have questions or comments regarding Voter ID or the annual budget bill, or any other bills which have been filed, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).