Life After Session

Life After Session

150 150 Jim Murphy

Memorial Day marks the end of the 82nd Session but not of our work as legislators. There is a possibility of a special session (covered in last week’s column) but there is far more ahead for us. By working into detail on major issues between now and January 2013, we can address matters in a more deliberate and inclusive way that we can during the 140-day Regular Session.

As each session wraps up, the Speaker in consultation with each of the committee chairs develops a list of interim charges for each of the committees. We will meet both in Austin and around the state to take testimony from interested parties and listen to our constituents. These recommendations will be developed into reports which will be provided to the legislature for consideration in the 83rd Session.

I expect our Ways and Means committee, charged with overseeing revenue for our state and local governments, to consider what changes would be appropriate for the Margins Tax. We will also look at other options to increase revenue to keep up with the growth of our state. The Economic and Small Business Development on which I also serve, will be tasked with evaluating our economic incentive programs for impact, utility, and transparency. This will include both the direct aid programs (e.g. Enterprise Fund) as well as tax abatements. Other charges will be added before we start meeting
in the summer.

We will also have a number of Task Forces appointed as a result of legislation we passed. These will include House and Senate members along with citizen members. They will function like the House committees with respect to hearings and reports. However, their more diverse composition provides a wider range of viewpoints and develops a more broad consensus.

Legislators also have conferences that are national in scope. We learn from our peers, address complicated national issues, and hear from issue and procedural experts. Since our primary conferences are in San Antonio and New Orleans, we expect Texas to have strong attendance. One of the real values is spending time developing our relationships with our Texas colleagues. There is little free time during session and we are spread across the state so these conferences are a great opportunity.

There are also conferences for interest groups like Realtors, recyclers, education groups, and the like. We attend these to learn about issues and meet with the people directly affected by our taxes, regulations, and policies. It is often the case that we participate in these conferences as presenters and panelists, providing updates on the legislative process and forecasting future activities.

One of the most rewarding tasks we undertake is getting out in our communities and meeting with individuals and groups about the session. I will soon be “on the circuit” and get to meet with community groups, business organizations, churches, scouts and more. Understanding our constituents’ concerns and priorities lets us serve and represent them better. We also keep our staff working and our offices open year round to allow us to provide a high level of constituent services.

And then there is getting back to our families and our professional endeavors. A lot of things go “on hold” during session so we are eager to get back home and to work. Plus, at a legislative salary of $600 monthly, those of us with jobs have to make up some lost ground.

One other issue not in the immediate future but happening by December 1st will be the next filing deadline for candidates in the next election. Believe it or not, our next races will start then, if not sooner. So, the cycle continues for the 2012 elections.

Our work doesn’t end, it just moves to the next task.