Monica Gutierrez


Point of Order on Marriage

It appears the House is trying to tie up all loose ends before sine die. Rep. Peggy Hamric (R-Houston) offered a house resolution granting Rep. Mary Denny (R-Aubrey) the ability to use the House floor for her wedding ceremony. The odd thing about this motion is Denny already got married on the House floor... on May 6th.
Hamric offered the resolution to simply make her colleague's use of the floor legitimate.

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Budget Passes Senate

SB 1, the budget bill by Sen. Steve Ogden (R- Bryan), just passed the Senate this evening 30 to 1 after opposition to the bill was expressed by several senators. Senators Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin), Mario Gallegos Jr. (D-Houston), and Eliot Shapleigh (D-El Paso) were the most vocal about their reservations and disappointments with the budget, mostly concerning the limited funds for teachers and schools.

"I don't like this budget, it makes me anxious.... we need to do more for Texas," said Sen. Barrientos.

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Why Work When You Can Play Football

Priorities, priorities. Shortly before 1 pm today, after only being in session since 11 this morning, the House adjourned until 8 pm. Why did the House decide to take this seven hour recess just two short days before sine die? To play football of course! Apparently members need to take out some of the aggression that's been building up all session.

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The Poor Men Nameth

Rep. Sylvester Turner (D- Houston) wasn't joking when he said he would have admission certificates for his newly recruited 'poor man's caucus.' Today, shortly after House members adopted his amendment (98 to 39), earning them their 'poor man's caucus' status, Turner's staffers began drafting letters for those both accepted and denied. The acceptance letters offer gratitude and congratulations, while the denial letters offer another chance of acceptance in January 2007, at the beginning of the 80th Legislative Session.

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Bad Bill Survives

One of the bad bills mentioned in The Texas Observer, SB 481, survived the numerous pulls and probes of the legislative process and made its way into the hands of the Governor. And in his observant grasp, good ole' Perry signed this legislation, allowing it to become law beginning September 1, 2005.

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Let There Be Light

SB 1863, the appropriations Christmas tree, was adorned with several amendments today, including one by Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston). His amendment re-designates the money in the system benefit fund (the pot comprising of 65 cents per kilowatt hour charge on every Texan's electric bill). Though the system benefit fund was created to give low-income Texans a discount on their electric bills, starting last session the money has instead been allocated towards general revenue, thereby acting as a tax. Turner's amendment, however, changes that by designating the money to where it was originally intended- to low-income Texans.

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Minority Shutout is no Secret to Pro-Tem

Diversity was not the theme when House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) named the conference committee appointees for HB 2 and HB 3 on Friday. Now the fate of the school finance plan will rest partially in the hands of nine white males and a single white female; all Republicans.

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What Can #2 Really Do?

This afternoon the House passed HB 2330 that will largely eliminate the Top Ten Percent rule. The close vote, 73-69, followed an emotional debate. A number of African-American representatives made pointed remarks about how they believed that passage of the bill would hurt diversity at state universities, despite the contention by the bill's author Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) to the contrary. Earlier in today's debate, Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) had tried to put an amendment on the bill that would guarantee that it would in fact promote more diversity.

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Uniformity Fails, Intact HB 2330 Prevails

The much debated 'anti-top ten percent' bill, Rep. Geanie Morrison's (R-Victoria) HB 2330, passed the House today with a 75 to 69 vote. But it passed without several amendments which aimed to lessen the bill's blow to the 8-year-old law created for the purpose of assuring greater access to public universities. One of those amendments, by Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), provided uniformity to the grading system so that a grade at one high school carries the same weight as a grade at another high school (currently grades are weighted by the prestige of the school, among other things).

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Movers Can't be Stealers

Now Texans on the move can have a little more comfort when allowing strangers to handle their precious belongs. Rep. Sylvester Turner's (D-Houston) HB 1870 passed the House today, requiring every household and good carrier to have a license number registered with the Texas Department of Transportation, while marking those who fail to have this number in violation of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

This bill was written in response to problems many people were having with moving companies who claimed to be legitimate, stealing people's belongings and disappearing with no way for the victim to trace them. HB 1870 will allow for better oversight and regulation of the industry, placing the blame on the moving company.

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A Shameless Industry

Some industries have no shame when their agenda is on the line. And when lack of shame and cruelly creative tactics (like using the very people you are aiming to screw over to push the legislation that allows you to screw them over) are combined, the result is the sad scenario witnessed by Rep. Sylvester Turner's (D-Houston) Chief of Staff, Mitchell Howie, today.

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Turner Stands Up to Leadership

Many have criticized Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) for following the leadership on many controversial votes, but today he decided to take a different approach and vote in the opposite direction. HB 1006, which creates limits to ad valorem tax rates of certain taxing units (basically creating revenue caps), was highly supported by Speaker Tom Craddick. The bill was passed by the House today (83 yeas; 62 nays; 0 present, not voting) largely because of the Speaker's rare public support from the Chair. But this situation didn't restrict Turner from sticking to his democratic values and voting against the bill.

 

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Turner Walks a Thin Line

Rep. Sylvester Turner's (D-Houston) standing in the gay and lesbian community still proves to be a bit rocky after his 'accidental' voting for Rep. Talton's amendment to SB6, which banned gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from becoming foster parents. This week a new approach to discrimination against homosexuals entered the House- HJR6, which adds a constitutional amendment 'providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union between one man and one woman.' Faced with another difficult vote that directly affects the gay and lesbian community, Rep. Turner chose to vote 'present, not voting,' and obstain from taking a position for either side (HJR6 passed the House Monday with 101 yeas, 28 nays, and 8 present, not voting). This decision, however, did not settle well with some gay and lesbian activists. In response, Turner's office has once again received an array of disgruntle phone calls from these individuals- all upset he didn't stand up against the amendment and some accusing him of following the leadership (Turner is the Speaker Pro Tempore- the second highest position in the House).

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An "AYE" Speaks a Thousand Words

Sometimes you just can't trust your colleagues to correctly take care of business for you. This is a lesson Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) learned the hard way on Tuesday when he asked a colleague on the House floor to vote for him while he was attending a Conference Committee meeting (a practice quite common for Representatives with important business to handle during long House debates). Unfortunately for Turner, however, the colleague designated Turner's vote as an 'aye' for a controversial amendment to SB 6 in which he would have voted 'nay.' The amendment, by Rep. Robert E. Talton (R-Pasadena), bans gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from becoming foster parents. Though it was passed by the House with a 81-58 vote into the lengthy Child Protective Services reform bill (see "Talton Goes After Gays in SB6," TXLO, April 19) and Turner's vote wouldn't have changed that outcome, he has still received a bombard of disgruntle phone calls about this issue.

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Let the Budgeting Begin

The House Conference Committee met for the first time this morning and discussed an overview of Sen. Steve Ogden's (R-Bryan) SB 1. This General Appropriations bill allocates the State's budget, but distributes these limited funds differently in the Senate and House Substitute versions of this bill. While no decisions were made today, a divide and conquer strategy was devised where two sections of the bill were to be approached first. Article IV(Judiciary) and Article V (Public Safety and Criminal Justice) are scheduled for discussion on Friday.

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Turner Steers Toll Road Debate

Texas lawmakers love their road projects. This afternoon the House passed Rep. Mike Krusee's (R-Round Rock) somewhat controversial toll road bill, HB 649. The bill removed the toll equity cap (the amount that can be invested in toll roads) of $800 million. That would grant free rein for the Texas Department of Transportation to have unlimited, non- repayable spending on the construction and maintenance of toll roads. Many representatives from rural areas with out toll roads feared this would cut into their transportation funding. But before it left the House, the bill was amended to keep the toll equity cap, but at a higher $1.5 billion.

 

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