Senate Budget Committee Kicks Off 2019 Budget Hearings

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJanuary 23, 2019 1:52 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 86th Texas Legislature is kicking into higher gear this week – and one of the first topics up for discussion is the state budget.

The Texas Senate Finance Committee held its first hearing on their two-year spending bill on Tuesday. And Wednesday, this powerful group of lawmakers was back at it. Flower Mound Republican Jane Nelson chairs the committee.

“Welcome! Today we’re going to pick where we left off yesterday with the Legislative Budget Board’s overview of Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 500, we will also begin our deliberations on Article 1, General Government, which will include presentations on funding for veterans services, the arts, historical preservation, cancer prevention and research, pensions, and benefits for state employees – major priorities for the state,” Nelson said.

The Texas House, like the Senate, has already released its initial budget proposal. The two chambers will spend the next couple of months reconciling their respective funding plans.

The Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments today over whether the state can keep the identity of one of its execution drug suppliers under wraps. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has unsuccessfully argued before lower courts that the pharmacy would be endangered if it was named.

The Texas Tribune explains three lawyers who represent death row inmates want to know which company supplied pentobarbital in 2014. That’s a year in which states tried new drug combinations in an effort to create lethal doses, but it resulted in some “botched” executions.

The Texas attorney general and state health officials announced a new website aimed at educating people about the dangers of opioid abuse. It’s part of an effort to curb the number of deaths in Texas caused by prescription painkillers. KUT’s Ashley Lopez+- reports.

The website – which is called Dose of Reality – is modeled after a similar initiative out of Wisconsin. It’s supposed to be an education tool and resource for people who want to safely discard excess painkillers they get from medical providers. Opioid addiction, which are often start with misuse of prescription painkillers – has killed thousands of Americans in the past several years. Marc Rylander, a spokesperson with the attorney general’s office, says they are hoping this new tool can be used to prevent future addictions and death.

“The reality is that this is the hour when the resources were made available,” Rylander says. “And were able as the state, representing the state, to put that website there as a resource and a help and hope for people in Texas.”

Rylander was asked if the AG’s office was seeking more marking funding from the legislature to spread the word about this education campaign. However, he said he was unable to confirm whether that was going to happen this year.

The largest county in Texas is facing a new lawsuit over its bail system. The legal team that successfully challenged the constitutionality of Harris County’s misdemeanor bail system is now tackling bail for felony charges.

And their argument is similar. The lawyers say the current system is unjust because people are being jailed on felony charges simply because they can’t afford cash bail. That’s while those who can afford it are able to await trial outside of jail.

The Houston Chronicle reports the class action lawsuit points out since 2009, 125 people have died in Harris County jail while awaiting trial.