BY ED STERLING
AUSTIN â€” Gov. Rick Perry addressed a joint session of the House and Senate for the last time on Jan. 15, opening day of the 140-day regular session of the 84th Texas Legislature.
Before recounting various aspects of the stateâ€™s performance during his record-breaking tenure as chief executive, Perry said, “I have come here to reflect on what we have done together, and to say farewell. But most of all, to tell you it has been the highest of honors to serve as your governor for the last 14 years.â€
Perry painted a picture of Texas “as a land of unlimited opportunityâ€ with mentions of such items as job growth, the booming oil and gas industry, various other economic drivers, fiscal management, education and public safety. “While some still struggle in the shadows of opportunity, we have created tremendous possibilities for millions of Texans. While the rest of the nation has lost middle class jobs, Texas has created them,â€ Perry said. He also reminded the audience of challenges recently faced, such as “the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike, devastating wildfires, the spread of Ebola and a humanitarian crisis at the border.â€
Wrapping up, Perry said, “I couldnâ€™t pick a better successor as governor than (former Texas Attorney General) Greg Abbott. And he couldnâ€™t have two better partners to lead this state than (Lieutenant Governor and former Senator) Dan Patrick and (House Speaker) Joe Straus. As I bid farewell, I know the future is in good hands.â€
Straus reelected as speaker
State Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, was elected to a fourth consecutive term as speaker of the Texas House of Representatives on Jan. 13, opening day of the 84th Texas Legislature. The vote was 128-19 in favor of Straus. The 19 votes were for second-term state Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, a businessman and former National Football League player.
Revenue estimate is given
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Jan. 12 released the stateâ€™s Biennial Revenue Estimate, necessary information for Texas lawmakers to craft a state budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The 94-page document shows the state is projected to have some $113 billion in revenue available for general-purpose spending during the 2016-2017 biennium. State revenue from all sources is estimated at $221 billion for the next biennium, a total that includes $110 billion in federal receipts and other income.
State government begins with a projected $7.5 billion ending balance from the current biennium and that amount is added to the estimated $110 billion in projected general revenue-related collections from taxes, fees and other income over the course of the 2016-17 biennium. And, about $5 billion will be set aside for transfers to the Rainy Day Fund and State Highway Fund. The resulting $113 billion represents the estimated revenue available to the Legislature for general purpose spending in the next biennium, according to the comptrollerâ€™s office.
Hegar noted, “The significant drop in oil prices in recent months will likely lead to a marked slowdown in oil exploration and production. This slowdown will dampen overall economic growth in Texas. However,â€ he added, “in addition to the economic boost felt by Texas motorists as a result of lower gasoline prices, there are industries in Texasâ€™ diverse economy such as transportation and some manufacturing that will benefit from lower energy prices. This, coupled with continued strength in construction, professional services and other sectors of the broader economy, should somewhat counterbalance a slowdown in the energy sector.â€
Donate Life program grows
Texas Department of Public Safety on Jan. 14 announced that in 2014 nearly 1.4 million people added their names to the Glenda P. Dawson Donate Life Texas Registry, the database “of individuals who have officially indicated their decisions to donate organs and tissue to benefit thousands of people currently awaiting transplants.â€
DPS Director Steven McCraw said, “Every person who selflessly elects to register as a donor has the potential to save another individualâ€™s life.â€
In 2014 a record 226 registered donors made nearly 800 transplants possible and currently, more than 13,600 individuals are awaiting organ or tissue transplants in Texas alone, according to the group Donate Life Texas.
Three organ and tissue recovery agencies: LifeGift, Southwest Transplant Alliance and Texas Organ Sharing Alliance participate in the registry along with the Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.