June 03, 2005
Why you can safely ignore the special session talk

You're going to continue to hear Governor Perry rattle his saber about calling the Lege back for a special session on school finance. Actually, from what I've seen, Perry will continue to push the notion that the Lege will quickly come crawling back to him and beg for another session to be called.

"When we see the commit- ment of the Legislature to come together on this," Perry said, "then there is a very good chance that we'll be back here and swiftly address it."

Otherwise, he said, legislators "should make plans for a long and uncomfortable summer when they go home" to face constituents and tell them that they did not approve education reform or a swap of billions of dollars in state taxes for cuts in local school property taxes.

As Governor, Rick Perry can call a special session any time he wants, whether the Lege likes it or not. Obviously, he doesn't want to call a second doomed-to-failure session on school finance. He needs a deal to be brokered first, which is why he's putting pressure on the Lege, specifically on the House, to come back to the bargaining table and make something happen. Once it does, he'll call everyone back, the reforms will pass, everyone will throw rose petals at him, KBH will stay in Washington where she belongs, and we'll all live happily ever after.

Or not. As Chris Elam rightly points out, there's been no indication from Tom Craddick that he sees any progress in the negotiations. Craddick is also fully aware that the state Supreme Court will begin hearing the appeal of Judge Dietz's original ruling on July 6. Craddick has said all along that he would prefer to hear what the courts ultimately say before taking any action; it's hard to believe he'll change his mind when that last word from the judiciary is so imminent.

PerryVsWorld thinks that the Governor may be trying to pressure Craddick specifically. I can't imagine what leverage Perry thinks he has on Craddick. We already know that of Perry, Dewhurst, and Craddick, only the latter knows for sure that he'll be back in the same office in 2007, and now Craddick is even more secure in his spot:

The second-term speaker held a reception for House members through the midnight hour Monday, raising what he said were enough pledges from colleagues to assure his re-election as speaker of the 150-member body in the 2007 session.

Of course, those pledges would mean little if the Republicans lost control of the House next year, but as optimistic as I am about Democrats making more gains, even my wildest dreams don't stretch as far as 14 seats. You could target a few specific Craddick loyalists, more to make a point than anything else, I suppose, but the most likely outcome of that is a split GOP caucus and the return of Pete Laney as a compromise choice for speaker. Surely Rick Perry isn't that Machiavellian. In short, I don't think that's gonna work.

All this is to say that barring an unlikely change in Tom Craddick's rhetoric, don't count on any more sessions until after the Supremes have spoken. What you're hearing from the Governor is blame-shifting, nothing more.

Finally, on a tangential note, now would be an excellent time for the Democrats, who as Andrew D noted had a pretty decent session all in all, to start talking again about their alternate proposals for school finance reform and property tax relief. How many of you, like the commenter in that BOR post, never knew or had forgotten that there was a Democratic alternative? Listen up, Democrats: Get out there and talk about this. Tell your constituents about it, in email and snail mail and at any community event you can attend. Start submitting op-eds to your hometown newspapers touting your alternative. The point to emphasize, whether through delicate inference or crude sledgehammering, is that Democrats know what their answer is, and if Democrats were in charge we'd have solved this problem to everyone's benefit by now. Do it now, because you never know when it'll be too late.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 03, 2005 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack