House budget night is here: What you need to know
What’s happening: This Thursday, the Texas House will debate House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 30.
Here’s the lowdown on the bills:
- HB 1 is the proposed two-year state budget for fiscal years 2024 and 2025.
- 👉 The budget is the only “must pass” measure of the session.
- SB 30 is the supplemental appropriations bill for the current FY 2022-23 biennium.
- What is it? The supplemental appropriations bill usually addresses shortfalls, reduces allocations and addresses other unexpected budgetary circumstances. Budget writers also utilize it to jump-start new budgetary priorities.
How is this night different from all other nights?
Whether you’re a new staffer or member or just newly acquainted to the Texas Legislature, debate during House budget day (and night) looks a little different from the hundreds of other bills that come before the chamber.
Here are five things to look out for ahead of this Thursday.
1. Hundreds of amendments will be offered. Not all will be debated.
Rule 11, Section 6(h) of the House rules requires members to file amendments at least 72 hours ahead of floor debate. This year, House members filed 389 amendments ahead of floor debate on HB1. It is highly unlikely that any other legislation, even with many major Sunset bills still to go, will have as many amendments filed for consideration.
Just because the members filed 389 amendments does not mean that the House will debate each one of those amendments. Last session, members filed 245 amendments. But from the completion of the pre-filing period through floor debate, budget writers, budget staff and House parliamentarians worked with amendment authors and staff to try to alert them of procedural or policy issues with amendments.
The end result was that a total of 147 amendments and amendment-to-amendments were laid out before the body, dozens of which were withdrawn by the amendment authors after being laid out. Toward the end of debate, House members approved a motion to “sweep” the 28 amendments left on the speaker’s desk into Article XI.
👩🎓 The more you know: Article XI in the budget bill is a wish-list budget article of sorts that includes the proposed amendment language for consideration by the conference committee to the budget.
👩🎓 The more you know, pt. 2: The conference committee to the budget refers to the group of House and Senate members who meet after passage of the budget in both chambers to reconcile differences between the two versions.
Amendment stats for previous sessions:
304 pre-filed amendments
137 amendments and amendment-to-amendments debated
150 amendments swept into Article XI
401 pre-filed amendments
198 amendments and amendment-to-amendments debated
180 amendments swept into Article XI
2. The “Put-And-Take” Rule
As has been the approach of the House for many sessions, House members adopted a Calendar rule last week setting parameters for budget amendments and debate. Again, as is traditionally the case, the Calendar rule requires all amendments increasing general revenue appropriations for a given item to make equal or greater corresponding reductions in general revenue appropriations elsewhere in the bill.
This is the Put-And-Take Rule. This requirement, once #txlege slang and now a more general term of art, has the effect of making large, wholesale spending changes difficult to do on the House floor.
👩🎓 The more you know, pt. 3: The budget bill before the House floor summarizes the result of weeks of deliberation and decisions by House Appropriations committee members after hearing hundreds of hours of testimony from agencies, Legislative Budget Board, and the public. Budget writers must also keep into consideration methods of finance and spending limits along the way. This Calendar rule has historically ensured amendments that contemplate increasing spending for an item must at least consider how to pay for it.
3. Mind the spending limits
As discussed in earlier blogs (here, here and here), the spending decisions in HB 1 and SB 30 are connected to the state’s various spending limits. The supplemental appropriations bill (SB 30) as passed by House Appropriations allocates a net total of $8.42 billion in general revenue, leaving $96.4 million in general revenue spending capacity under the tax spending limit, the controlling limit for the current FY 2022-23 biennium.
The additional current biennium spending in SB30 expands the base for the FY 2024-25 tax spending limit, increasing the limit to $120.5 billion. As revenue deposits to the General Revenue Fund also include revenue not subject to the spending limit, the maximum amount of GR appropriations associated with this limit is $138.2 billion. CSHB1 appropriates $136.9 billion in GR, leaving $1.3 billion in spending capacity.
For reference, LBB summaries show that the CSHB1/CSSB30 package leaves $25.6 billion under the “pay-as-you-go” limit and $12.5 billion under the new Consolidated General Revenue limit.
4. Bills moving on a different track
When a proposed constitutional amendment creating a constitutionally dedicated fund is approved by the Legislature and Texas voters, the associated initial appropriation of money to the newly constitutionally dedicated fund does not apply to the tax spending limit.
There are a few large spending items with attached constitutional amendments that are funded in HB1/SB30. Some examples include the $3.5 billion for the proposed new higher education research endowment or the $3.45 billion for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas benefit enhancement. It is notable, though, that multiple House leadership priority bills attached to constitutional amendments are not funded in the current versions of HB1/SB30.
Among the Speaker’s big ticket items not yet funded in the House budget bills are:
- HB9/House Joint Resolution 125 – State Rep. Trent Ashby’s creation of the Texas Broadband Infrastructure Fund ($5 billion in Article XI)
- HB10/HJR130 – State Rep. Tracy King’s Texas Water Fund ($3 billion in Article XI)
- HB15/HJR135 – State Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s creation of the Mental Health and Brain Research Fund (HJR135 references a $3 billion GR transfer.)
Please note: This list is not exhaustive of all bills/constitutional amendments with large price tags, but Texas 2036 is tracking many of these as they move through the process.
5. It’ll be a hard day’s night!
Even with the parameters on debate placed by House rules and the Calendar rule, hundreds of amendments guarantee a long day. The bulk of amendments are in Articles II and III, the articles associated with Health & Human Services and Education, and correspondingly, most of the discussion of the day is spent on those topics. The major factor in the tenor and length of debate is the nature of the hot-button issues of the session, and the members’ interest in engaging publicly.
The House has not adjourned on budget night earlier than 10 p.m. since 2013. In recent years, the House adjourned at:
2021: 10:21 p.m.
2019: 12:26 a.m.
2017: 1:35 a.m.
2015: 5:40 a.m.
2013: 9:47 p.m.
2011: 10:34 p.m.
2009: 4:07 a.m.
In other words, stay hydrated and pace yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
We’ll conclude with Speaker Dade Phelan’s admonition to the members at the close of today’s meeting of the House.
“Get your sleep,” he said. “You’re going to need it.”