The Week in the Rearview Mirror

With no opposition, the Texas House passed its first supplemental appropriations bill (they expect one or two more) and sent it along to the Senate. It would spend $4.8 billion in general revenue (state funds) and pull down another $6.6 billion in federal funds. What might have become a debate over 2011's budget cuts was instead a yes-fest, with representatives pulling down all of their proposed amendments and then suspending the constitutional rules to send the legislation forward. This bill covers the cost of the current Medicaid system for the rest of the current budget cycle. To come: Another supplemental for wildfires, prison health care, and probably, a number of amendments that weren't added to this first bill. 

In the midst of ongoing turbulence between the University of Texas System regents and the leadership of its flagship institution, the Texas Senate and House honored University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers this week with resolutions acknowledging his accomplishments and his years of service. The resolutions passed in both chambers, an honor coming at a time of strain between the university and the board of regents whose members have all been appointed by Gov. Rick Perry. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst became emotional when he addressed the Senate and Powers, criticizing the regents for undermining Powers and “cases allegedly of character assassination.”

Houston’s Senate runoff is underway, with early voting running through next Tuesday and the actual runoff election set for Saturday, March 6. Two Democrats — Rep. Carol Alvarado and former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia — are competing to replace the late Mario Gallegos, also a Democrat, in SD-6. An Alvarado win would trigger another special election to fill her House seat.

More than 100 witnesses signed up to testify before the House Public Education Committee this week in a hearing on student testing and graduation requirements that lasted into the evening and proved the unpopularity of those tests in the Texas Legislature. Students, parents and educators overwhelmingly spoke in support of state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock's House Bill 5, arguing that the current system forces teachers to teach to the test and stifles flexibility to provide career-orientated courses.

Just four months after winning re-election, state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, announced he won't seek another term in 2014. He's considering a run for mayor and said he wants to clear the way for other candidates who have shown interest in his spot. The early announcement gives them room, but makes him a lame duck with most of the session still in front of him.