The back mic: final budget lacks federal funding amendment, former senator resigns dean, Democrats push back unemployment benefits
Special session requirement for federal funding withdrawn from the budget
The 2022-2023 budget was finalized by the legislature’s conference committee, although adopted by the House was left out which prohibited the disbursement of any federal COVID-19 funding until the legislature could act in ordinary or extraordinary session.
Texas is expected to receive nearly $ 30 billion in aid from state, local governments and infrastructure. The product of a late-night push by Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) on budget night that withstood a lengthy point of order, lawmakers initially appeared to have had their say on the use of this expected funding.
But the conference committee – a body in which five members from each chamber set out the differences between their respective versions of the legislation – overturned the amendment language. This means that the governor would be responsible for disbursing federal aid dollars to their specified recipients.
On Thursday evening, however, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the allocation of those funds would be taken over by the legislature in the fall special session already scheduled for redistribution.
Kirk Watson rejects campaign speech after retirement announcement
Former State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) ad his intention to step down as Dean of the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston at the end of May.
âAs founding dean of the [University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs] was a huge honor, âsaid Watson. âDespite the incredible challenges of launching so many efforts during COVID, we have seen tremendous progress and success. I am extremely proud. “
In February of last year, Watson announced his resignation from his Senate seat to take the post.
His decision to leave the University of Houston stems from the year of remote work affecting his enthusiasm for the position, according to at Texas Tribune.
This immediately sparked speculation that Watson was looking to run for public office again. With 18 months of the 2022 statewide election, Texas Democrats are already positioning candidates behind the scenes to challenge the Republican elected slate.
Watson’s last statewide run was in the 2002 race for attorney general against then-Supreme Court judge Greg Abbott. In this race he raised $ 5 million but easily lost. Democrats see current Attorney General Ken Paxton’s vulnerability after the criminal allegations were taken from him last year by former increased probability a major challenge from Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Lambasts, Governor on Unemployment Benefits
Earlier this week, Governor Greg Abbott ad the elimination of the additional $ 300 per week in federal unemployment benefits, citing a surplus of jobs available to the unemployed. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) took umbrage at the move, saying in a letter to the governor: âYour abrupt, one-sided decision to cancel unemployment benefits for more than ‘One million Texans in the event of a pandemic is of deep concern. . “
The unemployed will still receive the typical amount of $ 600 per week provided by the state.
âI recognize that several other states have taken similar steps in recent weeks, which probably prompted your announcement,â he continued, â[but], in several of these states, unemployment rates have returned to pre-pandemic levels. “
For a few months now, Texas’s unemployment rate has hovered around 7% – significantly lower than a year ago, but more than double its all-time low towards the end of 2019.
The shutdown is expected to go into effect on June 26, but Turner has asked Abbott to postpone that until the end of July. He also asked Abbott to use some of the federal dollars coming in for coronaviruses to help the unemployed get back to work.
âAs you navigate the next steps and how best to help unemployed residents of our state return to the workforce,â he concluded, âI encourage you to engage the members of the legislature. [and other state officials] fashionableâ¦ an approach that provides needed support to unemployed Texans, helps businesses[,] and grow our economy now and for the long term. “