July 18, 2005
Round Two, coming right up?

As I write this, there's still no deal - in fact, QR now says that the earlier reports of a deal on HB2 were premature - and Governor Perry is making noises about keeping everyone in Austin for another 30 days.

Gov. Rick Perry said today he'll immediately call lawmakers back into another special session starting Thursday if a filibuster kills any school finance tax bill the House and Senate can agree on.

The looming end of the session makes success more likely for Democratic senators contemplating a filibuster, in which legislation can be killed by a senator who stands and talks until the legislative clock runs out.

It was unclear early today if lawmakers could even get that far, with House and Senate negotiators still huddling on House Bill 3, a proposal to raise billions in state taxes — partly through a sales tax increase and closing of escape hatches in the current franchise tax.

Word this morning of a deal on House Bill 2, proposed school finance legislation, apparently was premature.

Lawmakers also said they'd heard there were 87 or more votes against the tax bill among the 149 House members. But they said they would keep working.

Perry, who met with lawmakers on HB3 behind closed doors, said, it's “up to the senators” to pass a measure in time to avoid a filibuster.

“I would not want to be the senator who filibustered a bill that is a good bill that has the support of the House and the Senate for no other reason than, I guess, to make a point,” Perry said after meeting with the negotiators.

“But what that individual needs to also keep in mind is that we're going to be back on Thursday, so they could explain to their constituents and the people of the state of Texas why we're having another special session just so that they could make a point that, quite frankly, didn't make any difference,” Perry said.

“I think the clear message to someone who wants to filibuster is if both of these houses have the votes to pass a bill, that to filibuster something in a special session is a good ticket back here the next morning,” he said.

Asked what he'd do if there weren't the votes to pass the measure with or without a filibuster, Perry said, “You're playing too many what ifs, now.”

Calling everyone back after a filibuster kills brokered agreements is one thing, since the Governor is sure to win that kind of war of attrition. Calling them back after there's no agreement due to the same intractable philosophical differences is another entirely. There's no upside for Perry in that scenario.

As for what "that individual" (read: Sen. Eliot Shapleigh) could say to his constituents after killing off this session, well, he could start by reading them Scott Hochberg's newsletter. Or he could say something like this:

The school funding bill, HB2, that House and Senate negotiators came close to approving would have pushed property poor school districts with large populations of low-income students “three giant steps backward,” said Paul Colbert, a school finance expert and former Houston state representative.

The San Antonio School District actually stood to lose about $5 million compared to what it gets today if HB2 had passed, Colbert said.

Or he could note that even some Republicans think no deal is better than a bad deal.

Prospects for education reform floundered Sunday, and state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, says he’s ready to go home.

“If we can not achieve equity for our districts, we should stop the process and go home,” Eltife said today. “No deal is better than a bad one.”

Eltife said neither conference committee — the one on education reform in HB 2 and on property tax reform in HB 3 — has yet come to agreement.

The special session called in June by Gov. Rick Perry ends Wednesday.

“I am very concerned about House Bill 2,” Eltife said. “I want to make sure the Senate holds firm and does not give up 98 percent equity and the $3,000 pay raise for our teachers.”

“Those of us representing rural school districts must hold firm because we can not afford for our school districts to go backward,” he concluded.

I think the real question is, what is Rick Perry going to say after yet another failure on his watch to adequately fund the schools and reform how we pay for them?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 18, 2005 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack