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Brian Birdwell Capitol Update April 8, 2011

Capitol Update 04-08-11

Greetings from the Texas Capitol!

This has been another busy week at the Capitol and in our Austin office. There are only 52 days left in the legislative session, but there is much work yet to be done.  I want to make sure the residents of Senate District 22 are being kept up to speed, so here are just a few of the subjects we have been focusing on in Austin:

Appointment to Voter ID Conference Committee

Last week the Texas House of Representatives passed SB 14-better known as Voter ID-by a vote of 101-48. This legislation, authored by Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), will require voters to present proper government-issued photo identification before voting. As I have said before, I believe our democratic process is centered around the right to vote-a right that too many men and women fought and died to protect. I was a joint-author of the Senate version of the bill, which passed in January by a vote of 19-11. This week, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst appointed me to serve on the Voter ID Conference Committee alongside the bill author, Senator Fraser, and Senators Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), Huffman (R-Houston) and Williams (R-The Woodlands). Together we will work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of SB 14, ultimately taking that next step toward protecting the sanctity of the ballot box in Texas.

Budget Updates

On Sunday evening the House passed their version of the budget almost straight down party-lines by a vote of 98-49. HB 1 reduces government spending by 12.3%, or $23 billion. The House passed several amendments re-prioritizing funds toward health care and education, resulting in more funding allocated to nursing homes and classrooms. Additionally, Representative Phil King (R-Weatherford) passed an amendment requiring $100 million worth of the bill’s fee increases to be approved in separate pieces of legislation before taking affect. The Senate is still hearing testimony on its version of the budget, SB 1, but progress is being made. This week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) created two subcommittees that were tasked to deal with unresolved budget issues pertaining to natural resources, transportation and higher education. Markup on Articles VI (Natural Resources), VII (Business and Economic Development) and III (Education) took place this week, and the committee will continue markup on the bill for at least the next two weeks.

2/3 Tax Amendment-SJR 12

In the next two weeks, the Senate will take up and consider a joint resolution authored by Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston). I had the opportunity to sign on as co-author of this resolution, which would amend the Texas Constitution to require that any bill creating a new state tax or increasing the rate of an existing tax must pass the House and Senate by a two-thirds record vote before taking effect. This is a solid step forward in the fight to protect hard-working Texans from the implementation of new taxes such as a state income or statewide property tax.

Pastor Gray

Jim Gray-Texas Senate Pastor of the Day (4/5/11)

Every day after roll call, the senators, staff and guests in the Senate chambers rise for an opening prayer. On Tuesday, I was pleased to have Jim Gray represent Senate District 22 and serve as our Pastor of the Day. A little bit about Pastor Gray: After serving eight years in the United States Air Force and graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, Jim completed several post-graduate courses at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. In 1983, Pastor Gray began his career in the church, serving all over Texas. In 1999, he was named the Associate Pastor of Woodway Baptist Church in Waco, where he continues to serve today. Jim and his wife, Kay-also a native Texan-have been married for 46 years. Together Jim & Kay have four grown children and four grandchildren.

Interested in seeing what’s happening day to day at YOUR Texas Capitol? Watch live video coverage of the chambers or committees-even archived footage. Click HERE for the Senate or HERE for the House. And remember, communicating with constituents is one of my top priorities, so I welcome you to contact us with your questions, comments or concerns.

I’m honored to serve the residents of Senate District 22, and I thank you for your continued support and prayer.

God Bless,

Brian Birdwell

State Senator, District 22

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