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Texas Legislative Update from State Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway

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By State Representative Barbara Mallory Caraway

The 2011, 82nd Texas legislative session and a 30-day special called session was by far the most controversial in recent history.  The 2010 general election gave Republicans a super majority in the House; 101 to 49 Democrats and in the Senate there are 19 republicans and 12 democrats.  Therefore the Republicans controlled the agenda and any legislation that would be considered by the whole body.

Secondly, the Governor also pushed a very conservative agenda. Governor Rick Perry, now seeking the republican nomination for President of the United States, designated six bills as emergencies to ensure they would be considered early in the session.

The emergency bills were:

1) “Voter id” requiring a voter to show a photo id when voting.
2) “Donogram bill” requiring women to get a sonogram before having an abortion.
3) “Sanctuary cities” giving local law enforcement the authority to question the legal status of a personwhen legally detained or arrested.
4) A resolution requiring the federal government to put forth a constitutional amendment to adopt abalanced budget.
5) “Eminent domain” dealing with property owner rights and
6) “Lawsuit reform” requiring losers to pay their opponents legal fees.

“Sanctuary cities” is the only “emergency” legislation that failed.  The budget however presented the biggest challenge.  Texas faced a $27 billion deficit going into the 2011 session.  The state constitution requires that the budget is balanced. Governor Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker of the House Joe Strauss pledged early on they would not increase revenue through taxes and would not use the rainy day fund to offset the deficit.

They committed to balancing the budget with only cuts.  Ultimately, funding for programs in health and human services and education were hit the hardest.  Here is a brief review of some of the budget cuts and how they will affect education during the next biennium:

• Cut in state pension and health-care contributions for retired teachers.
• School districts will receive $4 billion less in state aid, a cut of about $400 a year per student.
• Thousands of jobs eliminated in school districts throughout the state.
• The elimination of discretionary grants from the Texas Education Agency.

I am concerned about the cuts in education and how they will affect our children’s future. Texas is 49th out of 50 states in education funding.  We are still at the bottom because of the lack of commitment by the Texas legislative body to maintain the status quo or to provide funding for the more than 80,000 a year student population growth.

The Governor signed these bills into law.  I did not vote for any of the legislation mentioned in this article because I believed it was detrimental to the citizens i represent.  Texas can do better.

State Representative Barbara Mallory Caraway serves Texas House District 110

Categories: Featured, Politics, Recent Posts, State
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