Water Texas, a political action committee formed by Speaker of the House Joe Strauss, R-San Antonio, and Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, is getting ready to start a campaign to encourage voters to approve the use of $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to help fund the next 50 years of water projects in Texas.
The final transportation bill will provide the Texas Department of Transportation with $1.2 billion per year in road funding from the Rainy Day Fund.
The speaker of the House and the lieutenant governor will appoint a ten-person committee each legislative session -- five members each of the House and Senate -- which will determine a sufficient balance in the Rainy Day Fund before money can be transferred into the State Highway Fund.
The Rainy Day Fund minimum will then have to be approved by the full House and Senate on a simple majority vote.
Pro-business groups are hoping to persuade House lawmakers to approve a transportation bill that has now been up for debate four times.
The transportation bill working its way through the House this special session involves using money from the Rainy Day Fund and has seen a little bit of controversy in the 83rd Legislature, but was still projected to pass during the first special session.
It failed because of the filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, which effectively ran the clock out on the session.
A transportation panel of seven state representatives heard from the head of the Texas Department of Transportation about the transportation bill that passed the Senate and how it will benefit the State Highway Fund beyond the next two years.
"If we don’t increase our resources now, our production in dollar terms will fall to levels not seen since the early 2000s," said TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson. "Meanwhile, more and more people move to Texas [and] congestion worsens."
Update (2:30 p.m.): The Senate took the house transportation plan, replaced it with their own funding mechanism, and then passed it on a unanimous vote.
The original House bill's plan to end the gas tax diversion has been eliminated, and the Senate has elected to go with the 50-50 oil and gas industry tax split in their own version of the bill. The Senate also established a $6 billion floor for the Rainy Day Fund, which must be maintained for the State Highway Fund to get the money from the oil and gas industry tax.
Gov. Rick Perry joined fellow anti-abortion lawmakers and advocacy groups at his side to sign into law House Bill 2, the controversial abortion bill tightening requirements on clinics that perform abortions and banning the ability to have an abortion after 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
Less than 72 hours after the passage of House Bill 2, the bill that will hold clinics performing abortions to a standard equal to a ambulatory surgical center, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst released a campaign video that features his role in the bill's passage with clear political and religious undertones.
On June 19, before the filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and before the second special session was even being discussed, Dewhurst sent a tweet that featured an ad about how the abortion bill would close all but five clinics in Texas.
A rally that started at the capitol in Austin yesterday only drew a small number of people compared other abortion rights events around the state.
About 300 abortion rights supporters gathered at the capitol to speak out against last week’s passage of a strict abortion bill during a national day of action. Demonstrators huddled under umbrellas and rain gear intently listened to keynote speaker Jim Hightower, the former agriculture commissioner, who had a few choice words for Gov. Rick Perry and other Republicans at the state capitol.
The Texas House has given initial approval to a transportation funding plan that uses money from the gas tax rather than tapping the Rainy Day Fund.
As it stands today, and has since 1991, 20 cents of every gallon used to fill up your car has gone to the state's highway fund with the stipulation that five cents of it would go to fund education.
House Joint Resolution 2, authored by Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, would stop that diversion. Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, is the co-sponsor of the bill and explained the difference between the House bill and the Senate version.
It took lawmakers ten hours of debate to pass the strictest abortion legislation Texas has ever seen on a vote of 19 to 11 Friday night.
Democratic lawmakers in the Texas Senate tried 21 times to change the bill by adding resolutions but none of those attempts were successful. Sen. Judith Zafarinni, D-Laredo, was one of those who tried to change the bill.
"As a pro-lifer I tried mightily to amend this bill to prohibit the abortion of an unborn child after 5 months," Zafarinni said. "Please remember that 11 Democrats voted for that amendment today."