The Seguin Gazette

Copyright © 2003 The Seguin Gazette

78th session a difficult one, legislators say

By Bryan Kirk
Seguin Gazette

Published June 06, 2003

SEGUIN — It has been nearly a week since the state closed the books on the 78th Legislative session and some Texas lawmakers left Austin with mixed feelings.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, who represents all of Guadalupe County, was one of those who felt many loose ends were left undone at the close of this legislative session.

Among those loose ends was the state budget.

The highly touted $117 billion budget approved last weekend will not directly affect the pocket books of all Texans, but according to Wentworth, it will affect those living in some of the urban counties in the form of higher taxes.

“I wanted a better budget,” he said. “I wish we could have stayed another week and done a better job. What we did will be passed on through commissioners courts.”

State Rep. Edmund Kuempel, who agreed that this legislative session was tougher than usual, said he did not share Wentworth’s view that tax increases in some counties were imminent.

Meanwhile, this sessions was regarded as one of busiest legislative sessions in recent memory with lawmakers facing a $9.9 billion budget deficit while proposing 9,000 pieces of legislation.

Approximately 1,400 pieces of legislation passed through both the House and Senate and into the hands of Gov. Rick Perry for final approval.

While the budget, legislation on education reform, tort reform and transportation took the media spotlight this session, Wentworth said many of the inquiries he received from his estimated 750,000 constituents dealt with horse slaughter, the proposed name change at Southwest Texas State University and the state budget.

Wentworth said he and his staff are still going through thousands of emails, letters, phone messages and faxes regarding legislative questions.

“We’ll spend the next several months responding to communications,” Wentworth said. “We have never been inundated as much [with inquiries] as we have this session.”

The queries in some of those pieces of correspondence may get answers during the special session that looms.

Perry is expected to call lawmakers back to Austin before the end of June to tackle education reform and quite possibly redistricting.

It was the redistricting issue that led to more than 50 state Democrats fleeing across the border into Ardmore, Okla.

“We Republicans were in the minority for so long, and anytime we presented legislation we were out voted,” Wentworth said. “We never picked up our marbles and went home.”

The walkout thwarted the passage of redistricting legislation, or so it seemed.

Kuempel believes redistricting will again be an issue when it meets in special session, and this time Democrats may have to stay the course.

“It would be a whole lot tougher this time,” Kuempel said. “But it is certainly a possibility.”