Items for Senate study this year released

Posted by Jon Weist, on Fri January 10 2014 at 02:00 PM

Maybe it was the 7 months it took to adjourn the Legislature, or the focus on passing the constitutional amendment for water development, or the ice storm.

Whatever, leadership in the Texas Legislature has slow-played the list of items to study in the legislative interim to the point that the hearings – which are often ignored anyway – will be even less valuable than usual.  Especially when one considers that there is a primary election in two months, which will alter the makeup of the Legislature and in some cases reduce the members’ enthusiasm for participating in interim studies.
In any case, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst has, since November, periodically rolled out a few charges for Senate committees to look at before the 84th session begins next year, and Thursday he finished the list.
Dewhurst is in a tough, four-way primary to remain the presiding officer in the Senate and the state’s vice governor (not a real title).  It would not be a stretch to see the influence of his political messaging – his attempt to be more-conservative-than-thou – in the language of his charges.
For instance, for the Economic Development Committee (a charge issued in November last year), to “make recommendations on options for state government intervention to reduce the negative impact of the federal health care law on Texas businesses.”
No assessment of the law’s impact, no study about who might actually get health care treatment, just a flat, declarative assertion that there are negative impacts that to be studied.
Of more significance to the Arlington Chamber, perhaps, is a charge to state affairs examining the negative impact of companies that try to cash in on other people’s patents – patent assertion entities, the charge calls them. The Chamber has a substantial economic development effort through the Center for Innovation in bringing patented products to market right here in Arlington. These “patent trolls” delay product development by claiming a patent is someone else’s idea, and that someone else wants some – if not all – of the revenue associated with licensing and developing the product.
Dewhurst is also calling for a review of the state’s TEXAS grant program, its chief college, financial aid initiative. In recent years, the grant’s funding has not kept up with demand from low-income high-school students, the point that legislators have been wrestling with making larger grants to fewer, presumably more potentially successful students, or not extending the grant throughout a student’s college career. More money, of course, would make those tough decisions go away, but getting increased money for higher education is an idea way out of step with legislators who have been cutting higher Ed funding for most of this young century.
A complete list of interim charges from Dewhurst can be found on his official, state web site, at http://www.ltgov.state.tx.us/icarch.php
Charges from House Speaker Joe Straus are still in the works, though they are expected to be released soon, and likely all at once, rather than a few at a time. Given the timing, its unlikely hearings of any substance will take place until after the March party primaries.

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