AUSTIN) — The Senate approved Tuesday the final slate of legislation laid out in Governor Perry's special session call. Early in the afternoon, legislators passed a bill that would create a new funding source for state highways. Bill author and Transportation Committee Chair Senator Robert Nichols of Jacksonville said the state is facing a transportation funding crisis, with a growing populations and dwindling reserves to pay for maintenance and operation. "These are challenges that need to be addressed, and I'm thankful that Governor Perry has asked us to address this now instead of two years from now, when it will be too late."
Nichols' bill, SJR 2, would ask voters to approve the use of oil and gas severance tax collections to pay for highway and road construction and maintenance. Currently, all of that money goes into the state's Rainy Day Fund. If voters approve the constitutional amendment laid out in SJR 2, then up to half of that money would go into the state mobility fund. Nichols said the Comptroller estimates that this would put up to $900 million each year into the fund for the next biennium. If Rainy Day Fund balances dip below a floor of $6 billion, then the new transportation revenue stream would be suspended until fund balances go back above that floor.
After several hours of debate, the Senate approved a bill that would place new restrictions on abortion providers. SB 5, by Katy Senator Glenn Hegar, would require that all clinics that provide abortions meet ambulatory care standards and that all doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. It would also require that abortifacient drugs, like RU-486, would have to be administered in person by a doctor.
Both SJR 2 and SB 5 now head to the House for consideration. The special session is scheduled to end on Tuesday, June 25, so lawmakers have until then to send legislation to the Governor's desk for signature.
The Senate will reconvene Friday, June 21 at 1:30 p.m.