Friday, July 1, 2011
Why is this guy smiling?
• WINNER: Gov. Rick Perry, who walks away from the legislative session with a list of victories on most of the issues he identified as important. Those wins could help Perry if he decides later this year to seek the Republican presidential nomination - or re-election in 2014.
• LOSER: Democrats, who had almost no say on the budget that was the session's defining issue and redistricting that is designed to keep the state Capitol and the state's congressional delegation in Republican hands.
• WINNER: Fiscal conservatives who stood firm on their position that Texas should close its multibillion-dollar budget gap without raising taxes or tapping the state's rainy day reserve fund.
• LOSER: The next Legislature, which will convene in 2013 to fix an array of budget and revenue problems that were not fixed this session and is expected to have to tap the rainy day fund.
• WINNER: Texas senators, who were unyielding in their position that public schools could not absorb more than $4 billion in cuts.
• LOSER: Public schools, college students, state workers and people who rely on Medicaid, who will face cuts in an assortment of programs as a result of an overall 8 percent reduction in state spending.
• WINNER: Federal airport checkpoint screeners, who will not face the prospect of criminal charges for inappropriate touching during security pat-downs, after a bill criminalizing the touching died in the House.
• WINNER: Taxpayers, who will see the first prison in state history shuttered this fall, for an estimated savings of $24 million over two years, as prison officials consolidate programs to deal with budget cuts.
• WINNER: Community-based juvenile justice programs, which are expected to blossom with additional funding and a de-emphasis on remote lockups as part of a merger of all state juvenile justice agencies into one.
• WINNER: Teachers, who are required to be informed if one of their students has a criminal history, under a bill sparked by attacks in Austin and other cities.
• LOSER: The Windham School District, one of the state's largest and located inside prison walls, saw its funding whacked significantly, and layoffs already have begun.
• LOSER: Medicaid, the insurance program for low-income families, was underfunded by an estimated $4.8 billion, a debt that will come due next legislative session.
• LOSER: Family planning programs that were cut by $74 million, probably eliminating services to 284,000 low-income women and resulting in 20,500 additional births.
• LOSER: Planned Parenthood, which could lose up to $72 million in family planning money over the next two years as GOP legislators targeted the abortion provider, although the money could not have been spent on abortions.
• WINNER: Abortion opponents, who won passage of new rules that require a pre-abortion sonogram and a waiting period, and will cut state funding if the Travis County hospital district, Central Health, continues to pay for abortions.
• LOSER: Home health companies, which face rate cuts that could threaten care that allows people to live at home and avoid more expensive nursing homes.
• WINNER: Parents who oppose school spanking, who won passage of a bill that allows them to opt out of a school district's corporal punishment policy.
IMMIGRATION AND BORDER SECURITY
• LOSER: Mexican drug cartels, which have been smuggling money, guns and other contraband south from Texas. Under a bill expected to be signed into law, state police can operate new southbound checkpoints to curb the illicit trade.
• WINNER: Undocumented immigrants, who won't have to deal with dozens of bills targeting them, including the so-called sanctuary cities legislation and bills that would have required cities to report costs associated with providing services to undocumented immigrants and would increase the surcharge for wiring money to countries south of the Texas border.
• LOSER: Texas voters who have no photo identification. Under a new law designed to curb voter fraud, most voters will have to show a photo ID to cast a ballot.
• LOSER: Texas drivers will now have to prove they have citizenship or are in the country legally to get a driver's license.
• WINNER: Legal aid programs that will benefit from the late addition of $17 million to preserve civil court access for 25,000 low-income Texans.
• WINNER: Defendants in lawsuits, who should benefit from a new law that could cut frivolous lawsuits with a "loser pays" provision.
• WINNER: Texas Campaign for the Environment, which got a television recycling program established by the state.
• WINNER: State Rep. Jim Keffer, chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee, who held together a coalition of natural gas and environmental groups on a measure that forces companies to tell the state which fluids they pump underground to recover natural gas in a process called fracking.
• LOSER: Emissions-reduction programs that suffered in budget cuts, as did initiatives to cut pollution.
• WINNER: Texans who continue to use incandescent light bulbs. Under a new state law, the state attorney general is required to defend Texans if the federal government tries to prosecute them for alleged violations of federal law encouraging the use of alternative light bulbs.
• LOSER: Teachers, who emerged from the regular legislative session feeling good that they had defeated efforts to weaken contract rights and reduce teacher pay, only to find that victory quashed in the special session.
• LOSER: The University of Texas, which saw its state funding cut 16 percent. A provision that could have provided $100 million in bonds for a new engineering building failed.
• WINNER: Texas A&M University System regents, who were granted two appointments to the nine-member board of the University of Texas Investment Management Co., which oversees billions in UT and A&M endowments.
• LOSER: Students from low-income families, tens of thousands of whom won't get state financial aid grants in the next two years.
• WINNER: Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students with fellowships, who can now get health insurance through their universities.
• LOSER: Perry appointees to public university boards, which will get new scrutiny by a House-Senate committee established to review policymaking by public university governing boards - all of whom were appointed by Perry.
• LOSER: Perry administration, which failed to win passage of legislation hinging 10 percent of base funding for colleges and universities to graduation rates and other performance measures.
• WINNER: Public colleges and universities, which saw numerous redundant reporting requirements eliminated, potentially saving them millions of dollars.
• WINNER: About 28,000 small-business owners who are exempted from paying margins tax, if their business has less than $1 million in gross receipts.
• LOSER: Gambling proponents saw legislation die that would have let the voters decide whether they want to allow slot machines at race tracks and bingo halls, and permit the building and operation of full-scale casinos.
• LOSER: Coastal residents in 14 counties insured by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. Lawmakers tried to overhaul the quasi-public insurer of last resort. But the House and Senate didn't fully address how to fund the association, and instead reduced the amount of money that policyholders could sue for.
• WINNER: Texas builders, who won't be penalized for hiring undocumented workers.
• LOSER: Homeowners associations, which, under a new law, are prohibited from penalizing residents with solar panels.
• LOSER: Online retailers such as Amazon.com that will have to collect sales tax if they do business in Texas. Perry vetoed an earlier bill making this change, and both sides are waiting to see what he does this time - though the provision is included in a key budget bill.