Texas Legislature Fails To Approve Tax and School Reforms;
Second Session Begins

Friday,July 22, 2005                               By Shawn Wade

      Pledgingto keep legislators in session until they deliver school and tax reformlegislation, Governor Rick Perry immediately called a second special sessionJuly 21 as the first one expired at Midnight July 20.

      Duringthe first special session, House and Senate leaders have been unable to hammerout agreements on the two issues, despite it being practically the only thingthey have had to work on. One thing the two bodies have going for them duringthe second session is the fact that the process is much further along than itwas 30 days ago.

      Thatmay be little consolation for those watching to see what shape the tax andeducation reform bills finally take and how they might be affected.

      Thefinal day of the session saw the defeat of the school finance reform plan (HB2) in the Senate, thanks in part to the efforts of Democrats who were able tostall consideration of the bill until the Midnight deadline for the end of thefirst special session.

      TheHouse had already abandoned its own effort to approve a companion bill and waswaiting to see if the Senate bill could make it through before the midnightdeadline.

      Asit stands now the school finance reform plan and legislation to enact propertytax reform and other tax changes, have been referred back to committee foraction during the second special session.

      Perry,Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker of the House Tom Craddick were alreadyworking to develop a plan to get the school finance and tax reform legislationpassed as quickly as possible on Thursday. Also on Thursday, Craddick announcedthat any rules about pre-filing amendments for HB 2 and HB 3 would be announcedMonday, July 25.

      Craddickalso announced that HB 2 and HB 3 are scheduled for consideration on the Housefloor on Tuesday. That schedule could be slightly different if the Senatefollows through with a plan to consider its version of school finance reform(SB 2) on Monday.

      Shouldthe Senate pass SB 2, the plan would be for the House to hear it in committee,substitute the House language and consider a revised bill numbered CSSB 2 onTuesday instead of HB 2.

      Shouldno unforeseen obstacles crop up to derail this series of events, CSSB 2 couldbe approved and sent to a House Senate conference committee as early asWednesday, July 27.


HighPlains Looking For Help From Hurricane Emily To Keep 2005 Crop On Track

Friday, July 22, 2005                               By Shawn Wade

      With the remnants ofHurricane Emily spinning through Mexico, cotton producers on the Texas HighPlains are hoping that some of that moisture will make its way north andprovide a timely boost to 2005 cotton crops.

      Cotton growers in theLower Rio Grande Valley and along the Texas Gulf coast are breathing a sigh ofrelief that the storm moved inland well south and did not make a direct hit onthe region. A final tally of storm damage from Emily is probably weeks away,but it seems the region has fared pretty well.

      Much of South Texas isstill receiving significant rainfall from Emily and will likely experience someharvest delays. The good news though, is that despite the rain, they appear tohave largely avoided the potentially disastrous effects of Emily's hurricaneforce winds as well.

      Withharvest getting underway in the Rio Grande Valley and fields further north onthe verge of harvest activity, the South Texas crop is at significant risk fromstorms like Emily.

      Closerto home, the 2005 cotton crop continues to make tremendous strides across theHigh Plains. Irrigated and dryland crops are progressing at a rapid pace as amajority of the area has actively blooming cotton and producers are working tokeep things moving in the right direction.

      Inthe absence of much rainfall over the past few weeks, irrigated crops are beingwatered and dryland crops are quickly utilizing any underground moisture thatis available. Dryland crops are doing well so far, but growers say they willneed a rain soon if they are going to keep their crops on track.

      Timelyrains over the next few weeks will benefit both irrigated and dryland growersequally. For irrigated producers a timely rain would give them a chance topossibly turn off a few wells and save money.

      Onthe dryland side of the High Plains crop, things continue to look good and atimely rain in late July or early August would certainly increase the odds ofproducers locking in a pretty good dryland season across the area.

      Todate, 2005 abandonment remains below the long-term average and, assuming normalweather for the remainder of the year, could come close to mirroring theabandonment experience of 2004 when the area lost just over 10 percent of itsacreage.

      Long-termabandonment averages close to 20 percent for the High Plains region or nearly700,000 acres each year.