BELTON — Time is becoming a precious item to state Rep. Hugh Shine and other legislators as the end of the 85th legislative session nears the end on May 29.
“After this weekend, we’ll be working 24/7 until the 29th,” Shine said.
The Temple Republican held his Monday forum at the Harris Community Center in Belton. People representing Belton ISD, Temple College, city of Belton and Bell County attended.
Rules that institute deadlines prior to the end of session kick in today. It’s also the last day for House Committees to report House bills and House joint resolutions.
There are deadlines throughout the week that move the legislative process along. There will be fewer committee meetings.
Last Wednesday, the Senate Bill 4 eliminating sanctuary cities, with House amendments, was passed and signed by the governor on Sunday.
The amendments protect immigrants who are victims of a crime, report a crime or witness a crime, Shine said. He said he met with local police chiefs last week who said they do not question immigration status unless the person being questioned committed a crime.
“We debated that bill for eight or nine hours,” he said. “Just remember, all the bills behind it get pushed back and have to be dealt with the next day, which has its own calendar of bills to be presented.”
Last week, the House spent 55 hours in session, which doesn’t include committee hearings.
There were two bills related to education last week. House Bill 22, the public school accountability reform, received unanimous approval.
“I did have an amendment to that bill that dealt with special needs,” Shine said.
House Bill 23 will require the commissioner of education to establish a program to award grants to public and charter schools that provide innovative services to students with autism. This bill was approved and will move to the Senate.
House Bill 515 addresses testing in the schools and reduces the number of standardized tests and puts the focus back in the classroom, he said.
“There are some things in the bill that are not so great, but there are some things that are,” Shine said. “We know this bill will go to the Senate and come back to us, but we want to get something done.”
On Saturday, the Texas House voted to prohibit any governor’s big donors from appointments to state boards and commissions.
“It’s an effort to end the practice of putting prestigious non-paying jobs in the hands of people who make large contributions,” he said.
There are four high-speed rail bills that received hearings by the House Transportation Committee last week. There are three Senate bills on the subject.
“There’s lots of concern with high-speed rail in the House, especially among those of us who are concerned with eminent domain issues,” Shine said.
The budget is in the conference committee, which is working daily to bring the Senate and House versions together.
“We have only one constitutional requirement in our 140 days and that is to pass a budget,” he said.
A defining issue is whether to use stabilization money in the next biennium or not. The Senate version does not, the House does.
Shine was one of the sponsors of establishing the stabilization funds in the 1980s.
“The intent of the Legislature was to have an ESF for the purpose of helping the Legislature bridge its budget in the biennium,” he said.
The Senate wants to do some accounting changes to balance the budget, Shine said.
Though the state’s economy continues to grow, sales tax revenue’s percentage of that growth is slowing down.
“We think part of the reason is because more people are shopping on the internet,” he said. “The state doesn’t collect sales tax on internet purchases.”
Sales taxes are a huge part of the state’s revenue and in communities, Shine said.
Bell County Judge Jon Burrows said Commissioners Court opposes Senate Bill 2, which could require taxing entities to hold an election if the amount of operating and maintenance funds they plan to collect from property taxes is 5 percent more than what was taken in the previous year.
“It doesn’t produce any significant tax relief and this is a state overreach to city and county governments,” Burrows said.
Shine said he expects the SB 2 debate will last for hours on Wednesday.
“There’s no telling how many amendments we’ll have on this bill,” he said.
Burrows went on to say that if the Legislature proposes a mandate for counties and communities it needs to provide the funds, as well.
Shine will host other local forums Saturday. The first will be at 10 a.m. at Academy High School, 602 E. Main St. in Little River-Academy. The second will be at 2 p.m. at the Kuhlmann Civic Center, 100 W. Travis St. in Holland.
There will be another forum Monday at the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, 1 Santa Fe Plaza Drive, Killeen.