Is Hughes’ Knife Sharp Enough for ‘Meat & Potatoes’ Session?

By BOB PALMER,
Jimplecute News Editor
02
State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola

AUSTIN – State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, carries a light legislative load which could well position the first term senator if Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick taps him for heavy committee assignments in what many expect to be a kinder, gentler session than in 2017. Patrick, who blew off the opening of the 86th Legislature Tuesday to attend a pow wow in Washington on border security, will name new committee assignments and chairs probably later this month.

In the last session, Hughes who begins his second session as a senator, but served 14 years in the House, chaired the Senate Select Committee on Election Security and was vice-chair of State Affairs. He also had back row seats on Administration, Criminal Justice, Education, Judicial Salaries and Cybersecurity.

Everyone expects a minimum of polarizing partisan issues during this 140-day session, primarily because Democrats now have enough numbers to make a difference. Patrick will need all Republican senators to vote as a block in order to bring bills to the floor. No one expects Hughes to be a problem, but other Republican senators may see party loyalty as secondary to philosophical or district interests.

In a recent interview on Austin television station KVUE, Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey said there was a “get to work” feel about the Legislature this time. “I think it looks a little bit like a ‘meat and potatoes’ session,” Ramsey said. “You know, a lot of the noise you hear out of Washington, state politicians are running away from that and running toward other problems like school finance and a budget and a bunch of serious things.”

Even if the diet is plain fare, Ramsey does not think the work will be easy. “There’s a lot of budget stuff. And I know it’s like talking about dieting or financial planning, it’s sort of boring, but it’s the meat and potatoes,” Ramsey said. “And there are a lot of big issues that are sort of ‘if you solve this, then you have to mess with that.’ So, there’s a lot of money that they would like to talk about putting into Health and Human Services and into other things.” The Legislature must also face other responsibilities.

“They’re also talking about school finance and easing property taxes and those are both expensive from the state’s standpoint,” Ramsey continued. “If you’re going to lower property taxes, you have to increase what the state spends, so we’ll all feel good about our property taxes going down, but state legislators will have to raise enough money to pay the difference. So, there are a lot of big financial issues that they’ve got to settle, and they’ve got to settle them in a way that doesn’t alarm taxpayers and it’s going to be interesting to watch that.”

The Legislature will also encounter money problems. “They’re going to be behind when they start,” Ramsey said. “They shorted Medicaid spending by about $2 billion. So, they knew at the end of the last legislative session that when we start the next legislative session, the one we’re starting this week, the first order of business is going to be find enough money to finance Medicaid through the rest of the budget period. Probably about $2 billion.”

As the Legislature makes sausage out of the budget, Hughes will attempt to pass a few bills. So far, he has filed:

SB317 : Relating to the taking of feral hogs without a hunting license.
SB205 : Relating to the use of information from the lists of noncitizens excused or disqualified from jury service.
SB316 : Relating to the attorney general’s duty to defend public school teachers.
SB31 : Relating to establishing a guardianship abuse, fraud, and exploitation deterrence program.
SB315 : Relating to the prosecution of organized criminal activity involving the interception, use, or disclosure of certain communications

While not necessarily impressive or attention getting, most appear to make sense, like the one allowing a landowner without a hunting license to shoot a feral hog ripping up his pasture. Some may smirk, however, at SB205 as another piece of Republican paranoia attempting to find voter fraud somewhere. SB205 requires the Secretary of State’s office to compare jury lists to voter registration lists to see if anyone struck from a jury as an undocumented immigrant was registered to vote. You are permitted to wonder how this will help balance the budget.

The Jimplecute reached out to Sen. Hughes for an interview. He failed to keep three appointments.

Marion County represents approximately only 1% of Hughes’ constituents.

 

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