Dispatches from the Dome

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of occasional columns—Dispatches from the Dome—providing a brief roundup of the week's work at the state Capitol.
Every day now, the Texas Capitol gets a little more crowded, a little louder, a little more energetic.

Why? Because the 83rd Legislative Session, after its first 40 days, is starting to pick up steam. The committees have been named, bills are being filed and special interest groups are starting to book the Capitol steps on a daily basis.

First floor debate set

Look to the House next week for the first action, when lawmakers take up an "emergency" supplemental budget bill that spends $4.8 billion right now to fill a gap in Medicaid funding from the last two years before the program runs out of cash midsession.

It is a fairly routine bill, and it cuts into the state's reported $8.8 billion cash surplus, but lawmakers said it was not unexpected.

It will not pass without a fight from the House Democrats, however. They support funding Medicaid but have also pushed state leaders to declare school finance an "emergency" matter and take it up right away.

Committee work

Senate committees have been meeting for a while now, but House committees start meeting in earnest next week—organizing their agendas and preparing to schedule public hearings on bills.

The Senate Nominating Committee made some headlines this week when it quizzed State Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara Cargill on whether her conservative political views would affect her decision making. (She said they would not.)

The committee will decide whether to confirm her nomination to return to the position—no small thing for a committee that has not approved an SBOE nominee since 2005. That vote is scheduled for next week.

Also, the House Transportation Committee heard from officials at the Texas Department of Transportation that the state needs $4 billion more in annual state funding to build and maintain necessary road projects.

Fewer bills

Some talk around the Capitol is about the fact that lawmakers have filed many fewer bills and resolutions than they normally do by this time in the legislative session, just around 2,700.

By the filing deadline last session, lawmakers had filed 10,315 bills and resolutions; they passed slightly more than half of them.

Plenty more bills could be filed by the March 8 deadline, but observers said they have been amazed at how slow the filing has been this session.

One reason is that the committees had yet to be organized, and because of a large freshman class and several committee leaders retiring after last session, most lawmakers were waiting for the shakeup before figuring out which bills to file and when.

There is also the intense focus this session on larger, more long-term projects—water, transportation, public education—that have taken attention away from smaller issues, another theory on why the filing is low right now.

Quote of the week

"I would have slept better last night if I knew we were going to do that." —House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, after his committee passed the supplemental budget bill unanimously.


Aqua S
Australian ice cream shop Aqua S announces Heights opening date

The ice cream shop, founded in Sydney, Australia, in 2015, serves over 100 flavors that rotate out bimonthly, with a variety of toppings and add-ons, such as cotton candy.

Pi Pizza
Pi Pizza closing in the Heights as Sambrooks focuses on other concepts

The restaurant group Sambrooks Management Co. acquired Pi Pizza in 2018.

Houston City Council
Grappling with equity, Houston City Council approves recommendation for widespread affordable housing proposals

“In an effort to maintain the flow of money from HUD, we have agreed that we are going to be objective and not political about our allocation of these developments,” City Attorney Ron Lewis said.

District 148 covers parts of the Heights, Northwest Houston and Northside. (Courtesy Harris County Clerk)
Primary election Q&A: Democratic candidates for Texas House District 148

Shortly after electing a representative to fill state Rep. Jessica Farrar's vacated seat, voters are returning to the ballot to chose from a slate of primary challengers aiming to compete for the seat in November.

Lalo’s Molcajete includes beef, chicken, shrimp, Mexican sausage, Mexican cactus and cheese served in a molcajete with hot sauce and the diner’s choice of rice and beans. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Cy-Fair eatery Monica's Mexican Restaurant gets help from all members of the family

The restaurant has operated off Hwy. 290 and Village Drive since early 2019.

The Boba Shop
The Boba Shop now open near I-45 in Spring

The specialty drinks eatery serves boba, smoothies and teas in addition to foods such as noodles and Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches.

(Courtesy city of League City)
League City City Council to consider new water, sewer rates Feb. 25

League City residents will soon see a hike in water and sewer rates after the League City City Council discusses and votes on the issue Feb. 25.

The Texas Department of Transportation has announced several lane closures planned along Hwy. 290 this weekend. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
22 Hwy. 290 lane closures affecting Cy-Fair drivers this weekend, Feb. 21-23

The Texas Department of Transportation has announced the following lane closures planned along Hwy. 290 this weekend.

Crews at Hwy. 6 and Town Center Boulevard are preparing to pour concrete for the new outermost, southbound lane. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Hwy. 6 road-widening project in Sugar Land experiences delays

The delays stem from underground utility conflicts that were discovered during excavation.

Nassau Bay Police Department warns of credit card issues at Bucky's

Bay Area consumers that made purchases at Bucky’s Convenience Store on NASA Parkway between October and December could see multiple charges on their credit or debit card due to a processing issue, according to a news release from the Nassau Bay Police Department.

Texas Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, announced two adult prisons in the state will close in 2020. (Courtesy Pexels)
Jester I Unit, an adult prison in Richmond, will close in 2020

The prison closure is due to declining inmate populations statewide.

Wendy Graves, assistant superintendent of elementary education, addresses the Montgomery ISD board of trustees Feb. 18. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
Montgomery ISD plans for state-mandated Texas Reading Academies

All teachers and principals who serve kindergarten through third-grade students must begin Texas Reading Academies training before the 2022-23 school year.

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