It’s impeachment season. In less than 30 days the current Texas Attorney General will face his impeachment jury made up of the 31 Texas senators, including his wife. The judge, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (non-lawyer) will oversee at least some portion of the trial and make judgements on the various legal questions that arise. General Paxton’s legal team is working hard at suggesting the Senate drop many of the 20 impeachment charges, only time will tell how successful that effort is.
The discussion around additional special sessions has, at least for the moment, been put on the back burner till the conclusion of the impeachment proceedings. The impeachment hearing is a “Senate only” event and does not require the Governor or anyone else for that matter to be involved. The assumption is the Governor will call the legislature back into session upon the conclusion of the impeachment hearing. The subject matter for that session will more than likely be some type of school voucher program. This should occur sometime later this fall.
With no other real legislative activity currently under consideration, it is member retirement/campaign announcement/fundraising season. 5 current House members have already announced retirements: Tracy King (D) Uvalde, Four Price (R ) Amarillo, Lina Ortega (D) El Paso, Able Herrera (D) Robstown and Matt Schaefer (R) Tyler, there undoubtedly will be more to come.
Its summer in Texas so it must be hot. Just how hot this year? As of today, we are at 43 consecutive days of 100 degrees plus in Austin. This is the longest streak in recorded history. As of the 10th of August, most of Texas is in a Moderate Drought or worse. At the beginning of this month Governor Abbott renewed and expanded the current drought declaration to 189 counties. That number will probably be expanded. In addition, Governor Abbott recently issued a disaster declaration for 191 counties in response to widespread wildfire activity. August is usually our hottest month and, traditionally with no rain projected till sometime in mid to late September, the drought situation and the fires will simply get worse. 2011 is the current 1-year drought of record, we will see if we break that this year. The recent tropical storm helped break the drought a bit in south Texas and some areas in west Texas but did not significantly impact the overall state condition.
This past legislative session SB 28 passed which authorizes (if the constitutional amendment passes in November) spending $1 Billion dollars on “new” water and fixing local water infrastructure (leaky pipes). Drought seems to the norm now rather than the exception. Hopefully those who typically vote in November constitutional elections will vote in favor of this provision. $1 Billion sounds like a considerable sum, but in the case of both new water and repairing infrastructure it is an actual drop in the bucket, but better than nothing.
An additional item on that ballot is a substantial increase in the “homestead” exemption. This would raise this benefit for homeowners from the current $40,000 exemption to $100,000 exemption. The cost of this increase accounts for the majority of the $29 Billion price tag on all the November Constitutional amendments. That cost being approximately $18 Billion.
There is an interesting article in the current issue of the Texas Tribune about our current water usage and the drought, particularly here in central Texas. It is worth reading. Regardless of whether we agree with everything in the article or not, there is no question that more people are living in this area and that we are using more water. In future sessions, there will be on-going and intensified efforts to restrict, limit and/or curtail landowner rights to their property, namely their groundwater. In addition, those who do not consider desalination a “viable” or environmentally friendly option will continue to speak against what they do not know or understand. While conservation and reuse are certainly part of the answer, expanded desalination will continue to be a growing component of Texas water future.
I am including a link with this update to the article in the Texas Tribune.