Received via a non-profit arts organization:
No April Fools Joke Here --
House Approves Amendment to Gut TCA
Earlier today, the Texas House of Representatives - in an unusual bi-partisan vote - made what Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, referred to as a Sophie's Choice, and stripped the Texas Commission on the Arts of its lifeblood by zeroing out the appropriated $3.5 million in General Revenue. It did so by passing an amendment to HB 1, drafted by Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, by a vote of 67 Yeas and 61 Nays, with 17 Representatives choosing to vote, Present. Rep. Simpson's amendment moved the funds from the TCA to be added to the already appropriated $580 million for the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS).
Despite his protestations to the contrary, the small amount of money involved could lead one to think that the TCA was the target of the amendment rather a sincere desire to bolster the DADS appropriation. In addition, the political undercurrent seems obvious as, no doubt, many of the 17 voting Present were more willing to sacrifice the arts agency and its good work - rather than be seen as casting a vote against the elderly and disabled.
Several Representatives, chiefly John Otto, R-Dayton, and other Republicans attempted to make the case that the small amount of dollars involved would be nothing but a "drop in the bucket" to DADS while it completely gutted another agency and gave up $2 million in matching federal funds (actually funding from the also-threatened NEA).
Fortunately, TCA funding - though reduced by 50% - remains in the Senate budget bill. This fight is not over and TFA will continue to advocate and lobby for the Senate budget bill. We can, therefore, hope that cooler and smarter heads will prevail in the reconciliation of the two bills in Conference Committee.
Once the vote is certified by the House Clerk, TFA will forward the voting record to you - and we will urge you to thank those voting Yea and question the thinking of those either voting NO or not voting.
Yours in the arts,