The House Works a Late Friday Shift

The workload in the chambers picks up on the budget, contracting reform and taxes.

The House isn’t working for the weekend this week. It’s working up until the weekend.

The chamber has set a large daily calendar for today, a clear signal that lawmakers are gearing up for their customary legislative sprint to the end of session.

The House originally intended to meet both today and Saturday, but late on Thursday the calendars committee revised the schedule, combining both calendars into a single, four-page agenda. In other words, it could be another long day for the members.

The House gavels in at 9 a.m.

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Budget conferees earlier in the week held their first organizational meeting, where Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, laid out one overriding priority: that the group not meet on Mother’s Day.

And tracking another important legislative initiative of the session, an expected debate on contracting reform in the Texas House didn’t materialize Monday. House Bill 15 from Appropriations Chairman John Otto, R-Dayton, was scheduled to reach the House floor. Otto, however, postponed the measure.

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Tax cuts, as could be reasonably predicted, proved to be an irresistible option for House members on Tuesday as a proposed cut in the sales tax rate, which would be a first in the 50-plus year history of the tax, received unanimous support.

More Democrats voted no on a tax rate reduction for the business franchise tax, but the caucus was far from unified in opposing the measure.

In fact, the most spirited moment of the debate occurred around Amarillo Republican John Smithee’s attempt to increase the number of businesses exempted from the tax. This change would have moved the House closer to what the Senate is proposing on the franchise tax.

The Smithee amendment, though, was soundly defeated with Speaker Joe Straus making the rare move of casting a vote to table the language.

In other words, the House isn’t yet signaling any willingness to move toward the Senate’s position on tax cuts.

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State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, caused a brief stir when he attempted to attach language to a proposed constitutional amendment by Joan Huffman, R-Houston, allowing the governor and lieutenant governor to take office the day before a legislative session.

Huffines, though, had something else in mind. His language would limit governors and lieutenant governors to two consecutive terms. His language drew support from Houston Democrat Rodney Ellis, who no doubt saw an opportunity to gig Senate Republicans. But after a discussion at the dais on whether the amendment was germane, Huffines withdrew his amendment.

Huffman’s constitutional amendment passed and now awaits action by the House.