The Trib previews the biennial hijinks of the 2013 Texas Legislature.
The last time Texas lawmakers convened in Austin, they were absorbed with numbers and boundaries: how to make ends meet with a deflated state budget and draw new district maps the courts would approve.
But with improving fiscal conditions and redistricting mostly in the rearview mirror, they are approaching the 2013 legislative session with some pressing policy questions, from whether to introduce private school vouchers into the state’s public education system to whether they should put in effect — and accept financing for — major provisions of the federal health care overhaul.
Meanwhile, lawmakers will face the consequences of the sweeping cuts and budget-balancing tricks of the 2011 session, including a multibillion-dollar Medicaid shortfall and a lawsuit — expected to be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court early this year and decided in the summer — over how the state finances public education.
The Legislature is also staring down the barrel of some other major investments, from ensuring that Texas has the water to meet its soaring population growth to finding consistent revenue streams for long-delayed transportation projects.
Do not expect a full respite from hot-button issues; lawmakers have already offered legislation to ban abortion after 20 weeks, and to allow teachers to carry concealed handguns in school classrooms. But the Legislature’s Republican majority may take a softer tack toward immigration bills this session, after a national election in which the growing Hispanic population moved even further into the Democratic camp.
Click over and read their list of things to watch for, it’s pretty comprehensive. About the only things I can think of that they didn’t mention were the regularly scheduled push for expanded gambling, a nascent and insane push to eliminate the business margins tax, about which I’ll say more later, and the possibility of further redistricting after the courts have had their say. Check it out.