As the Lege descended into chaos yesterday it was impossible not to be notice the absence of leadership that exists in our state. As the special session Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry called drew to a close, where the Governor (California dreamin’)? Again he’s off galavanting around the country. And it’s as if Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus don’t even talk anymore, as the Senate adjourned “Sine Die” without waiting for the House to get all it’s ducks-in-a-row, as is customary. The reason that custom exists is to protect against something like this, which causes “feelings” to get hurt.
The Senate has adjourned Sine Die, leaving the burden of the TSA “anti-groping” bill in the House’s lap. That leaves the House with one very unlikely option: Putting the wheels in motion to fast-track the Senate’s version of the bill.
The Senate has put the House in a “take it or leave it” position, said Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas. Branch said both the governor and House Speaker Joe Straus asked the Senate not to adjourn, and also to pass the House’s non-binding resolution in the event a full bill couldn’t get passed.
The Senate’s move was “not very respectful,” Branch said. “This is a bicameral system of government that takes two chambers to pass law… We’ve had time tonight and tomorrow to finish the peoples’ business. Apparently they were in a hurry to get out of town.”
What that did was force the hand of the GOP Texas House on one of the biggest non-issues of the special session. The issue Speaker Straus called a stunt on Friday, Texas bill on TSA pat-downs facing final showdown today.
After surviving a progression of near-death experiences, a controversial bill to ban intrusive searches by federal airport security officers faces a final showdown today, the last day of the special session.
House members will consider the bill in what is make-or-break time for Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, and Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston. The two conservative Republicans have waged a vigorous effort to push the measure into law and concede that today’s vote is their last opportunity.
Simpson can pass the bill with a simple majority of the 150-member House but he needs a four-fifths vote — 120 members — to suspend the rules and bring the measure up for consideration on the final day. He cleared one hurdle Tuesday when the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee voted 7-1 to advance the bill to the House floor.
House Speaker Joe Straus earlier denounced the bill as a “publicity stunt” but dropped his resistance to the measure after the House gave preliminary approval to a bill substantially retooled by Simpson. The measure that will be up for a vote today is Patrick’s Senate-passed measure, which he described as “significantly stronger” than the House bill.
Watching the debate it was Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman [Updated w/Coleman’s statement] that pointed out Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s mistake of making this a political issue, which it wasn’t previously, by making this statement.
With the passage of SB 29, the Texas Legislature is not only telling the TSA to change their policies ? we’re telling the Obama Administration we will not be intimidated and we will vigorously defend our Constitutional rights.”
Dewhurst’s attempt at placating the tea party, by making that partisan political statement, will likely make it impossible to get the needed Democratic support to pass the bill. Which is a non-issue because if it was passed it would not change a thing.
Now on to the legislation that had to pass yesterday to keep Gov. Perry from calling another special session. No, not TWIA, which everyone thought would be the problem, it wound up sailing through both chambers without issue. Turns out the problem was with the bill that really had to pass to balance the budget, SB 1, the bill that cuts $4 billion plus from public education.
We may never know why this actually happened, it could be the House wing-nuts were sending a message to Straus, but the initial vote on SB 1 made it look as those Straus, and his team, just assumed it would pass and didn’t even count votes before the vote was taken. Which is taught on the first day of Legislative Leadership 101 – never take a vote unless you already know the outcome. House votes down school finance and revenue raising bill.
The Texas House, in a surprise turn of events late Tuesday afternoon, tentatively voted down a must-pass bill that distributes the pain of school-funding cuts and uses accounting tricks to help balance the two-year state budget.
The 79-64 vote against the bill saw 32 House Republicans, including a few key members of Speaker Joe Straus’ leadership team, defect. They cast a “nay” vote that, unless reconsidered and reversed, could force the Legislature into another special session. The Senate adjourned for good earlier in the afternoon.
House Republicans immediately went into a caucus to try to sort out the mess.
Among the “nays” were State Affairs Committee chief Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, who complained bitterly in a floor speech that the bill cravenly caved to Gov. Rick Perry’s desire to protect the Department of Information Resources and also placed on financially strapped rural counties an unfunded mandate that they audit court fee collections. [Emphasis added]
Other Straus allies who opposed the bill were Redistricting Committee head Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton ; Ways and Means leader Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville; and Sunset Advisory Commission Vice Chairman Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton.
The excuse given was that a right wing think tank had concerns about the bill, and then those concerns were allayed during a GOP caucus meeting, after which a re-vote of the bill was taken and it passed, GOP caucus enacts school cuts.
The special legislative session nearly collapsed into disarray Tuesday when the Senate went home early and the House initially killed a must-pass school finance bill.
But after first rejecting legislation imposing a $4 billion cut on public schools, House Republican leaders immediately called a caucus meeting and persuaded 16 colleagues to change their votes, salvaging the final hours of the special session, which ends today.
After voting against the bill, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, asked for another vote, explaining to his colleagues that misunderstandings over the bill had been cleared up.
“Our understanding of the bill has changed,” King explained.
House Democratic leader Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, joked that a few of her GOP colleagues suffered broken kneecaps after a 79-64 vote against the must-pass Senate Bill 1 miraculously turned into an 80-57 vote for it.
Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, said he initially voted against SB 1 because “we did not fix the school formula funding.
“I have been hearing from my school districts and decided I wanted to call attention to that fact,” he said. “I asked the Speaker if he would appoint an interim committee to study school formula funding and he said yes. So I said I’ll change my vote. If we get to draw attention to the problem and elevate awareness, I think I’ve accomplished my goal.”
Other members said they also took into account concerns raised by the conservative Eagle Forum, which urged a “no” vote on SB 1 because they feared it included language that would broaden charter schools’ access to public school construction dollars.
In particular, they voiced concern about Harmony charter schools because they were founded by a Turkish-Muslim group. They changed their vote after the Texas House General Investigating Committee agreed to look into the issue, lawmakers said.
Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, said she voted against the bill because it failed to fix inequities in school funding.
“Cy-Fair is one of my larger school districts and I’ve been telling them for the last three sessions that I’ve been here that we were going to address the inequities in school funding,” she said. “This bill doesn’t do it.”
The Texas Eagle Forum is an off-shoot of the wing-nut ’60’s movement conservative Phyllis Schlafly, that apparently holds more power over GOP members of the Texas House then Speaker Straus does.
It’s clear from these decisions that whether it’s Perry, Dewhurst, of Straus their biggest concern is a fringe vocal minority that show up to vote on a regular basis in the GOP primaries – protection for their next election. They care more about them then they do about the majority of Texans and their families. This is what happens when fools rule.