Lawmakers Begin 83rd Legislature Mindful Of Last Session

Jan 8, 2013

Lawmakers are back under the dome of the Texas Capitol for a new session for a new age in politics, with the reminder of what happened two years ago in the back of their minds.

Two years ago, education funding was slashed by $5.4 billion, the use of the state’s emergency "rainy day" fund was frowned upon, and a controversial Voter ID bill got through both chambers but was found unconstitutional against minority voters by the court system.

On Friday, tour guides conducted their business as usual, straining to speak with hoarse voices. They spoke of the Capitol’s beauty and magnificence and what materials were used to construct the historic statehouse.

And over the next 140 days, the story will unfold inside.

"The mood has changed,” said political expert Bill Miller. “Absolutely you can just feel it. It's just different than it was two years ago. There was antagonism, there was animosity. Now they're sort of like, well we've got work to do, let's live and let live and let's do the best we can."

Miller said that the national political situation will have an impact on lawmakers at the state level just like state politics affect local elected leaders. He believes this session could be completely different than 2011, when, for example, Gov. Rick Perry’s sonogram legislation sparked outrage among many people who felt he should not regulate a woman’s body.

Miller said Republicans got a shake at those controversial bills, but a lot has happened nationally, including a presidential election, and political debates on issues like gun control in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shooting spree.

Miller said one of the issues to watch is school vouchers, where families would have the option of sending their child to a private school with a voucher system. He thinks it will get a lot of attention, but not a lot of popularity.

“One, they can't accommodate you,” he said. “Two, it's impractical. And three, I don't think it'll pass."

Drones might be one of the most unique legislative items. Miller says drone regulation bills are popping up across the country so Texas may try to legislate unmanned aerial vehicles that can capture audio and video because of the privacy issues involved.

"Right now if you have $250 you can buy a drone and you can pretty much do whatever you want with it,” he said.

Lawmakers will begin the session today at noon.