As Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus writes to the members of the Texas House in the cover letter to the interim charges he laid out yesterday, “..these charges and the recommendations you develop will form the basis for major legislation we will consider next session”. The letter also made clear that some things were left out, “In the coming weeks, I intend to propose several additional items of statewide importance for the House to study.”
The interim charges include everything from efforts to manage feral hogs (which is a big problem), to whether blogs should be considered “political advertising”. All of the items from the Appropriations, Energy Resources, Environmental Regulations, Higher Education, Human Services, Natural Resources, Public Education and Redistricting Committees should be read in full.
But here are a few that caught my eye (EOW comments are in italics):
House Committee on Corrections
1. Examine implementation of the diversion pilot programs, juvenile case management system, and other policy and funding initiatives to determine whether the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and the Texas Youth Commission have adhered to legislative directive in implementing these programs, and the impact of these programs on commitments at the Texas Youth Commission.
House Committee on Elections
3. Examine the prevalence of fraud in Texas elections. Study new laws in other states regarding voter identification and recommend statutory changes necessary to ensure that only eligible voters can vote in Texas elections. (This is Voter ID. Read BOR’s take on this issue. Suffice it to say that Straus is unable to tell the right wing to give up on this.)
4. Review the Texas campaign finance law in judicial races in light of the recent United States Supreme Court decision Caperton v. Massey. (This case involves preventing a judge from hearing a case involving a person who has made campaign contributions to benefit the judge.)
House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics
2. Review the definition of “political advertising” and determine whether the definition should be expanded to include content contained in blogs and other types of Internet communications. (These links give some background on what this may be about, FTC’s New Rules for Bloggers: A Quick Guide, FTC idiocy, and The FTC & Bloggers: New Rules.)
House Committee on Land and Resource Management
2. Examine unresolved issues relating to eminent domain legislation introduced during the 81st Legislative Session. Monitor any pending litigation. (Still on the agenda even after passage of the Constitutional Amendment earlier this month.)
House Committee on Transportation
1. Monitor the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to ensure the agency is implementing recommended legislative, sunset, and Grant Thornton management audit changes.
2. Review the organization and operation of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). Consider the relationship between MPOs and TxDOT regarding transportation planning and programming.
3. Study the practices and procedures used in the development of toll roads and make recommendations as necessary. (Toll roads are still on the agenda. Nothing here on the gas tax or transportation financing. Hopefully we will hear about that in the coming weeks.)
One interesting item is that there is nothing in the charges about gambling, gaming, slot machines, horse racing, and the like. The charges should be at least scanned for items of particular interest. Because as Straus wrote, they are the basis for the next legislative session in 2011. No matter who is Speaker, or who wins the statewide races next year, the effort and research put in on these issues, and those in the Senate when Lt. Gov. Dewhurst releases the charges for the Senate, are the frame which the 82nd Legislature will begin it’s work.