HB 1 Conference Committee - It’s Going To Get Messy

Posted in 80th Legislature, The Budget at 3:42 pm by wcnews

When reading over the several posts on the upcoming budget Conference Committee -
Budget Heads to Conference and Time for the real sausagemaking to begin - one thing came to mind. The Senate and NOT the House has become the chamber of the Legislature that pushes through the “right-wing” agenda.

In the House, CHIP was treated better, teachers got a pay raise and vouchers were defeated. But both of the posts above link to statements made by by Rep. Garnet Coleman about what would eventually happen:

Despite those overwhelming rejections, Craddick’s allies still tried to persuade members to reverse their votes. They apparently forgot that the political makeup of the House had shifted in November, leaving them short of the preliminary support needed to bring the amendments back for reconsideration. “That shows a change in the membership but not a change in the speaker and how the speaker operates,” said Houston Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Democratic leader and outspoken critic of how Republicans have stiffed public schools and social-services programs since winning control of the House.”

It was way too easy,” Coleman said of his own amendments that passed with little debate – calling for shoring up the hobbled Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program with more funding and fewer roadblocks. “The leadership did a good job of appearing moderate to get through a bad budget,” he said, “because they’ve been defeated by looking too far to the right and being draconian and evil.” The budget process now moves to the Senate and then on to conference committee for final negotiations. The amendments “will be stripped off in conference,” Coleman predicted. “Then they’ll bring the conference report back and dare people to vote against the budget.”

The five committee members from the House have been named (Chisum, Gattis, Guillen, Kolkorst, and Turner) - 3 R’s, 2 D’s. Now that Dewhurst has decided to send only five from the Senate - we’re waiting - the Senate’s will be 3 R’s, 2 D’s also. That means this will be a Republican budget compromise and Rep. Turner’s last chance to make his pro-Craddick stance defensible.

But back to my earlier point about the Senate, while it’s a less reactionary body it’s also, because of redistricting, much less accountable to the voters. What’s meant by that is that Republican Senators can vote for vouchers, against CHIP, and against a teacher pay raise, and it’s doubtful that any of them will lose their seat. Now Dave and a few Senators that may have aspirations for higher office can vote right correct against those issues - just make sure it’s not a tie so the Lt. Gov doesn’t have to go on the record - and still allow those issues to go forward. Is there an incumbent GOP Senator that could lose their seat in the next election cycle because of their vote on these issues? (Doubtful but definitely something for Democrats and Parent PAC to start looking into.) There certainly are some Republicans in the House whose seats will be vulnerable after votes on those issues.

As Rep. Coleman said the gains made in the House on the budget, that weren’t made in the Senate, will now be taken off in the conference committee. The Republican legislative leadership will once again put their membership in a tight spot - failing to protect their members from defeat - by making them take vote in a way where they will be forced to put their political life in jeopardy - making them choose between ideology over what’s right.

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