November 30, 2020      5:17 PM

LBB takes conservative route on budget revenue cap

Comptroller Hegar says the budget should be “very manageable,” Dick Lavine at Every Texan says “Fully funding services is more important than ever given the public health crisis, the challenges facing schools, the stress and financial hardships facing families, the rising uninsured rate, etc.”

The Legislative Budget Board chose a growth rate of 7.06 percent – roughly equivalent to population plus inflation – to put a constitutional cap of $105.8 billion in general revenue on the budget for the 87th session.

The vote was unanimous and on the lower end of the five projected growth rates provided by the Comptroller, which ranged from 5.27 percent to 12.64 percent. Comptroller Glenn Hegar own estimate was at the lower range of those projections, which peg the estimated increase in personal income in the state.

Hegar’s message to the board, co-chaired by Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, was that the eventual hole in the budget will be less dire than predicted in July, although Hegar did not land on a specific number on Monday afternoon.

By Kimberly Reeves

November 30, 2020      11:19 AM

Presumptive Speaker Phelan asks members to start collecting and assessing ideas for changes to Texas House rules

Representatives Ana Hernandez, Todd Hunter, Brooke Landgraf, and Joe Moody have been asked by Phelan to reach out to all House members for their ideas. Meantime, the workgroup on legislative operations during the pandemic continues its work

Presumptive Speaker Dade Phelan’s letter is here.

November 24, 2020      4:37 PM

Bipartisan push begins for full insurance coverage of telehealth services

The health plans push back, saying the proposals would “do nothing to remove the regulatory barriers that everyone says they do”; supporters of the legislation say “doctors deserve to be paid for their services,” plain and simple

Two bills filed in the Texas House would expand insurance coverage to mental health providers and require full reimbursement for telehealth services. Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Dallas, authored HB 522. Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Houston, authored HB 515.

The identical bills would require insurance plans to pay the same rate for telemedicine services as they do for in-person sessions, also known as pay parity.

By James Russell

November 23, 2020      5:13 PM

Amid budget shortfall and with growing bipartisan support, marijuana reform may get a boost in Texas

Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, opened the virtual Texas Marijuana Policy Conference with his own conversion story. Moody was an El Paso prosecutor when he joined the Texas Legislature in 2013.

“I was an assistant district attorney,” Moody told conference attendees. “I’ve put people behind bars for marijuana possession.”

But the words of one of his constituents – someone who gave him a real-life look into his world – convinced Moody to switch sides.

By Kimberly Reeves

November 23, 2020      4:23 PM

Walmart Rejected by Supreme Court on Texas Liquor Sales

The latest via Bloomberg News:

The U.S. Supreme Court turned away a bid by Walmart Inc. to start selling liquor at its Texas stores, leaving intact for now a state law that bars such retail sales by publicly owned companies. The rebuff, which came without comment, sends Walmart’s challenge back to a federal trial court, where the world’s largest retailer will have to show that Texas is intentionally discriminating against out-of-state commerce with the 1995 ban.

Walmart said it shouldn’t have to show intentional discrimination because the Texas law has the effect of excluding virtually all out-of-state retailers, violating the Constitution. The company says 98% of liquor stores in the state are wholly owned by Texans. The ban “operates to block anyone in a position to compete with Texans in the retail liquor market from doing so,” Walmart argued in its unsuccessful appeal.

November 23, 2020      10:38 AM

McCaig: It is time for a serious GOP investment in the Rio Grande Valley

In this opinion piece, Houston GOP activist Mark McCaig argues the Republican Party can win in South Texas if real work is done there, not just the photo ops embraced by Texas GOP Chairman Allen West

The historic gains made by President Trump and other Republicans in the Rio Grande Valley has been one of the most widely reported stories to come out of the recent election. While President Trump outperformed other Republicans in this region, the coattails of his success were experienced in other races as well.

For example, Monica de la Cruz Hernandez came within less than three points of achieving a monumental upset against incumbent Congressman Vicente Gonzalez in a district anchored in Hidalgo County. Additionally, Republicans picked up two seats on the 13th Court of Appeals that had been held by Democrats.

While unexpected by many, the success of Republicans in the Rio Grande Valley should come as no surprise. Culturally, the Rio Grande Valley is similar in many respects to the rural regions of Texas that are now the backbone of Republican dominance in Texas despite having been Democratic strongholds a few decades ago.

By Mark McCaig