Lubbock legislators discuss big issues of special session

Tomorrow will be the first time state legislators meet together during the pandemic for their bi-annual legislative session. The last ten months have changed the priorities and the funding available. 

The estimated state revenue for the next two years is $112.5 billion state Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced Monday. 

That means the state will have about half a percent less than what was made available last legislative session. The balance is estimated to be in deficit of about $1 billion.

Though it means less money to work with, lawmakers say, is it no where near the bind they were in back in 2011.

"'11 was real. Those were real numbers and real dollars and hard conversations," State Sen. Charles Perry said. "This one we've got so many more, avenues and pockets on money and momentum, that we didn't have in '11"

"It went from roughly 4.5 billion down to 1 billion. So that's really good news. Texas is out there, things are starting to happen," State Rep. John Frullo explained.

Ahead of the 87th legislative session, Lubbock-based lawmakers are feeling good about the estimated budget. Despite a year of economic crises, they fell confident there is still room to maintain programs passed in previous sessions.

"Going in, we had all decided that H.B.3 specifically will be funded in its entirety," Sen. Perry said. 

Two years ago, it was considered one of the most 'transformative Texas education bills'. 'The Texas Plan', or House Bill 3, budgeted for $11.6 billion for teachers and classrooms across the state. 

Sen. Perry promises to maintain long-term plans, despite short-term problems. 

Perry also calls the initial budget plans 'conservative', but that is understandable due to the uncertainty that lies ahead. He believes what they have to work with now is 'manageable' unlike the budget passed in 2019. 

"It was unrealistic to expect $251 all funds budget continuing I think, because it's just economics at some point supply and demand kicks in, and catches up with oil and gas and industry sectors," Perry said. 

The pandemic has also set the stage for what may be brought to the floor for consideration. 

Over the summer, Sen. Perry called on the governor to convene a special session so the state legislature could be consulted on how to handle COVID-19. 

That never did happen, and Perry says to expect bills to change the emergency disaster code in periods of extended crises.