News Roundup: Texas House Unanimously Passes Budget

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMarch 28, 2019 1:37 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

The Texas House of Representatives unanimously approved a $251 billion budget Wednesday night, covering the next two years of state spending. It’s the only bill state lawmakers are required to pass.

The House’s version includes a $9 billion change to public education funding. About $6 billion would go directly to school districts. The rest goes to reducing property taxes, which fund school spending.

Rep. John Zerwas, a Republican from Katy, is the House’s chief budget writer. He said that bill brings the state closer to shouldering a bigger load in public education.

“I think the goal, ambition, ultimately would be is that the state have a 50 percent stake in public education,” Zerwas said. “That is not achievable, even in the prosperous times that we are in. But it definitely takes us in the right direction.”

Lawmakers proposed over 300 amendments to the budget over the 11 hours, most of which failed. That includes an attempt by Austin area Democrat John Bucy to expand the number of people in the state eligible for Medicaid. Texas is one of 14 states that has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“Our tax dollars, your tax dollars, my tax dollars, and everyone of constituents go toward paying for progress in 36 other states. This is our money and we want it back.” Bucy said.

The State Senate will now take up its own version of the budget.

Harris County has sued Intercontinental Terminals Company over environmental violations related to a recent fire at its Deer Park facility.

Jen Rice of Houston Public Media reports that the county’s lawsuit is just the latest in several legal actions taken against the company.

The county’s lawsuit charges ITC with violating the Texas Clean Air Act and discharging industrial waste into nearby waters. Assistant County Attorney Sarah Jane Utley says one of the objectives is to make sure ITC complies with the law before reopening.

“This is a very large and significant incident that’s going to take a lot of fact-uncovering, significant discovery,” Utley says.

The State of Texas is also suing, adding disposal and water violations to its previous Clean Air Act complaint.

Residents have filed multiple lawsuits. Houston attorney Benny Agosto, Jr. says they are questioning air and water safety.

“The lawsuits are, unfortunately, the means that we can get answers,” Agosto says.

An ITC executive says the company doesn’t comment on litigation and is focused on the remediation and recovery process.

Thursday is opening day for Major League Baseball. Both the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros start their 2019 seasons today. The Astros open on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays, while the Rangers play at home against the Chicago Cubs.

Oddsmakers see the two Texas teams having very different seasons though. Betting website Vegas Insider predicts the Astros will win around 96 games this year, and puts the Rangers’ win total closer to 70 games.