After more than 10 hours of debate ending Thursday evening, the Texas House of Representatives passed their version of the overall state budget.

On Monday, more than 240 amendments were pre-filed. Over the course of the marathon legislative day, several of the amendments were withdrawn, making for a uniquely shorter debate than that of previous legislative sessions. Normally, this is a sign of many amendments being negotiated away behind the scenes in what was seemingly a fairly orchestrated discussion on a budget providing for about $247 billion in spending. There were very few contentious exchanges and several points of order that caused amendments to be withdrawn. The overall House version of Senate Bill 1 passed unanimously.

Notable Moments & Flashpoints

Throughout the day, there were a few notable amendments where record votes were taken.

A few amendments were successful in addressing corporate welfare.

Early on, a significant amendment by State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) was adopted that took $100 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund and instead added that money to the Property Tax Relief Fund. This is notably the only attempt by legislators thus far this session to address property tax relief outside of what had already been allocated for in previous legislative sessions, even though property taxes are still rising throughout the state. The Texas Enterprise Fund is known as a “slush” fund controlled by the governor, paying out tax dollars to businesses convinced to move to the state.

State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) was successful in his amendment attempt to effectively eliminate the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program by zeroing out its allotment ($45 million) and instead send that money to the Teacher Retirement System.

There were a few amendments addressing Republican Party of Texas legislative priorities—such as taxpayer-funded lobbying and school choice—as they relate to the budget.

An amendment offered by State Rep. Yvonne Davis (D–Dallas) struck existing language in the budget that prohibited certain funds directed to schools from being used to hire a registered lobbyist.

Davis was successful by a vote of 84 in favor and 54 opposed.

This included 22 Republican lawmakers voting yes: State Reps. Trent Ashby (Lufkin), Ernest Bailes (Shepherd), Travis Clardy (Nacogdoches), Drew Darby (San Angelo), Jay Dean (Longview), Charlie Geren (Ft. Worth), Sam Harless (Spring), Dan Huberty (Humble), Kyle Kacal (College Station), Ken King (Canadian), John Kuempel (Seguin), Stan Lambert (Abilene), Lyle Larson (San Antonio), J.M. Lozano (Kingsville), Geanie Morrison (Victoria), Chris Paddie (Marshall), Four Price (Amarillo), John Raney (Bryan), Glenn Rogers (Cisco), Hugh Shine (Temple), John Smithee (Amarillo), and Gary VanDeaver (New Boston).

State Rep. Abel Herrero (D–Robstown) offered an amendment similar to ones he has offered the last few legislative sessions. Herrero’s amendment would require money in the budget “not be used to pay for or support a school voucher, education savings account, or tax-credit scholarship program or a similar program through which a child may use state money for nonpublic primary or secondary education.” He was successful by a vote of 115 in favor and 29 opposed. This means only 29 Republicans voted in favor of a school-choice amendment.

There were a few notable amendments surrounding good government, as well.

State Rep. Jeff Cason (R–Bedford) had an amendment that ultimately failed by getting tabled by a vote of 91 in favor and 49 opposed. The amendment would have taken $588,700 from the Board of Geoscientists, an agency that was recommended to be eliminated by the Texas Sunset Commission last legislative session but was kept alive by the Legislature. The amendment would have sent the money instead to provide additional “bullet-resistant vests” for local law enforcement agencies and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

An amendment requiring all state agencies to submit a report to the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) laying out how they would cut their budgets by 1 percent, 5 percent, and 10 percent was adopted. The amendment was authored by State Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R–Fredericksburg). Notably, this amendment had been attempted in previous sessions by other legislators with no success.

Perhaps the most anticipated vote of the debate was around the several amendments that would have expanded Medicaid or brought Obamacare into Texas.

For the last few weeks, a bill authored by Democrat State Rep. Julie Johnson (Carrollton) was gaining support from other lawmakers in the House. But on Wednesday, it reached 76 total authors, which would theoretically be enough to pass the bill if it ever got to the floor. Notably, nine Republicans signed on as supporters. This caused the author of several pre-filed amendments, State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), to hold a press conference Thursday morning where he announced his intent to offer an amendment for Medicaid expansion. After a lengthy introduction of the amendment, the House took a vote, where the amendment ultimately failed with 68 voting in favor and 80 in opposition. Only one Republican voted for the amendment, which was State Rep. Lyle Larson (San Antonio).

Next Steps

Now that the House version of the budget has passed, it will have to be reconciled in what is called a conference committee because it now differs from the version the Senate passed a few weeks ago. The conference committee will be composed of 10 members total (five from each chamber), and they are directed to debate and resolve the differences between the versions. Once complete, the committee will submit a report to be considered by each chamber. Assuming they are accepted, those conforming changes will be made and the bill will move on to the governor’s desk.

All of this will play out over the next few weeks as we move toward the end of the 87th Legislative Session.

Jeramy Kitchen

Jeramy Kitchen serves as the Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard as well as host of 'This Week in Texas', a show previewing the week ahead in Texas politics. After managing campaigns for conservative legislators across the state, serving as Chief of Staff for multiple conservative state legislators, and serving as Legislative Director for the largest public policy think tank in Texas, Jeramy moved outside of the Austin bubble to focus on bringing transparency to the legislative process.