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83rd Texas Legislature Begins
On Tuesday at noon, the 83rd Legislative Session kicks off at the State Capitol. The dome will be filled with a young group of lawmakers: nearly a third of the House members are freshmen, and they’ll have no shortage of issues to face during the next 140 days.
The beginning of the new legislative session comes a day after Comptroller Susan Combs reported $8.8 billion in surplus revenue. After the shortfalls and cuts of the previous session, lawmakers will have around $100 billion to spend for 2014-15, a roughly 12 percent increase over the 2012-13 budget, and plenty of debate when deciding how to spend that money.
Three of the biggest issues remain education, transportation and water. Lawmakers will look at crafting a plan to provide enough water long-term for the rapidly-growing state, possibly using $1 billion or more from the Rainy Day Fund, which the State Comptroller project Monday will have nearly $12 billion by the end of 2015.
Public education is another issue lawmakers will wrestle over, after $5.4 billion was cut during the last session. They’ll look at possibly changing the school accountability and school choice systems.
Transportation remains another big challenge in the booming Lone Star State, specifically figuring out a way other than debt and tolls to fund highway projects. One option being looked at: directing sales tax from new car purchases and directing it toward financing.
Here are some key dates on the 83rd Legislative Calendar:
- Feburary 11: the first day committees can meet to consider non-emergency bills
- March 8: The last day bills can be introduced.
- May 27: Session ends
- June 16: Governor Perry will sign bills into law.
By Adam Bennett