Week of Jan. 11-17, 2016

Governor proposes slate of amendments to U.S. Constitution
AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Jan. 8 unveiled his “Texas Plan,” a document promoting the passage of nine constitutional amendments “to rein in the federal government and restore the balance of power between the States and the United States,” he said.
The amendments Abbott is proposing include:
- Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one state.
- Require Congress to balance its budget;
- Prohibit administrative agencies, and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them, from creating federal law;
- Prohibit administrative agencies, and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them, from preempting state law.
- Allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision;
- Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law;
- Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the federal government to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution;
- Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds; and
- Allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override a federal law or regulation.
Manny Garcia, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, said Abbott’s proposals would “tear apart the Constitution and take America back to an equivalent of the Articles of Confederation.”
Garcia added: “America added 292,000 new jobs in December. But under Abbott, Texas fell to sixth in job creation, remains the uninsured capitol of the nation, wages and incomes remain far too low for hardworking families, our neighborhood schools are still underfunded, and college education is slipping out of reach.     
“Texas families deserve serious solutions, not Tea Party nonsense,” Garcia said.
Gun plan draws reactions
In a Jan. 7 White House address, President Obama said he would take executive action to reduce gun violence in America, primarily by keeping guns “out of the wrong hands through background checks.”
Gov. Abbott reacted, saying, “Despite the president’s latest attempt to undermine our liberty, Texas will take every action to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also reacted, saying, “I stand ready to fight back against any overreach that will deny or infringe on (gun owners’) rights.” 
Sales tax revenue drops
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Jan. 6 announced that sales tax revenue for the state in December was $2.33 billion, down 1.1 percent compared to December 2014.
“As with the previous two months, December sales tax revenue was down largely due to spending reductions in oil and gas-related sectors,” Hegar said. “This was expected, given ongoing weakness in oil and natural gas prices. Remittances from other sectors, such as construction and information, continued to grow.”
Also, Hegar said, the Office of the Comptroller is sending cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $617.2 million in local sales tax allocations for January, 0.1 percent less than in January 2015. The allocations are based on sales made in November by businesses that report tax monthly.
‘Don’t Mess’ turns 30
The Texas Department of Transportation on Jan. 3 announced the “Don’t Mess With Texas” anti-litter campaign had reached its 30th anniversary.
For more than 30 years, according to the announcement, the iconic Don’t Mess With Texas campaign has reminded people to put litter in a trash can instead of tossing it out of their vehicles.
“Researchers estimate that nearly a half a billion (435 million) pieces of visible litter pile up along state-maintained highways annually. Small bits of trash can add up to one big litter problem, especially when napkins, wrappers and cigarette butts make up 70 percent of all litter found along Texas roads. In 2014 alone, the state spent $35 million in highway cleanup costs,” TxDOT said.
New TEA chief takes office
Mike Morath on Jan. 4 was administered the oath of office to become the new Texas commissioner of education. 
Morath, who succeeds Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams, was appointed to the position by Gov. Abbott on Dec. 14. The appointment is subject to Senate confirmation during the next legislative session in 2017.
“I am committed to ensuring that our education system provides all the children of Texas the opportunity to be successful in life,” Morath said.