April 20, 2009
Senate passes SB1569, but may not be able to override a veto

The Senate passed SB1569, the bill that accepts stimulus funding for unemployment insurance, by a 19-11 vote today. As Elise noted on Twitter, two Senators flipped to No for final passage; one other Senator was either absent or did not vote. We don't know who exactly the changed and missing voters were yet. For the record, the second reading vote went as follows:

Yeas: Averitt, Carona, Davis, Deuell, Duncan, Ellis, Eltife, Estes, Gallegos, Harris, Hinojosa, Lucio, Ogden, Shapiro, Shapleigh, Uresti, Van de Putte, Watson, Wentworth, West, Whitmire, Zaffirini.

Nays: Fraser, Hegar, Huffman, Jackson, Nelson, Nichols, Patrick, Seliger, Williams.

The same group voted to suspend the rules so the bill could be brought to the floor. As predicted, the entire Harris GOP contingent voted against. The final margin of 19-11 means the Senate would not vote to override a Governor Perry veto if it comes to that and no one flips back; even if the absentee voted Yes it would be insufficient. So if there's the be any stick to induce Perry to sign this thing, it'll have to be the Yvonne Davis amendment.

Speaking of the House, HB2623 by Rep. Joe Deshotel, which is listed as "similar" to SB1569, had its committee report sent to Calendars on Friday. Given that the "identical" HB3153 by Rep. Tan Parker is still in committee, I'd say that's the bill to watch in the lower chamber. There's still time to allow for a veto override attempt, if they don't get bogged down. Patricia Kilday Hart has more, and a statement by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte is beneath the fold.

UPDATE: Via Postcards, the answer is that Sens. Shapiro and Estes switched their votes between second and third readings, and Harris was absent.

UPDATE: The Statesman has more on the prospects in the House.

Although there are six weeks left in the session, lawmakers need to finish a bill within the next month to attempt a veto override. During that period, the governor must veto a bill within 10 days of its final passage or it becomes law.

Business and Industry Committee Chairman Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, said the House is "up against a wall" to get the bill to the governor.

"Every day now counts," said Deshotel, who will sponsor Eltife's bill in the House. "We can make it through if it doesn't stall somewhere."

It was unclear Monday which House committee will take up Eltife's bill and how long it will take to clear that committee and get to the floor for a vote. Then, assuming the governor vetoes the legislation, the hard work would begin in getting the support in both houses necessary to override a veto.

Given Perry's clear opposition and the jam-packed legislative schedule, Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, said it would be "irresponsible of us to waste the citizens' valuable time (taking up the measure) if the governor already says it is vetoed."

"Why should we kill other bills that might be able to help the citizens of Texas if we know that this is a nonproductive exercise of yelling at each other on the House floor?" said Christian, a leader of conservatives in the House.

Deshotel said the possibility of a veto should not deter the House because the policy issue is a critical one.

He also said the governor might not veto the bill if he sees that it has broad-based support from both Democrats and Republicans, including House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie.

"The governor can always change his mind. I want to get the bill to the governor," Deshotel said.

Especially if the budget provision that moves money from the Texas Enterprise Fund to the unemployment insurance trust survives the budget conference committee. I'm sure the Governor has a fallback position prepared just in case. Speaking of that provision, a statement from Rep. Armando Walle, who was the initial author of that amendment, has been added beneath the fold.

Senator Van de Putte Statement on the Passage of SB 1569 Unemployment Insurance Modernization

"I applaud the passage of SB 1569, which will modernize the unemployment insurance system and help more Texas families in need become eligible for benefits. We must help Texas families already devastated by this economic crisis and the 300,000 or so Texans expected to lose their jobs this year.

The passage of SB 1569 will eliminate barriers for part-time workers, a workforce often made up of women caring for their young children, by providing them access to benefits. This provision, along with others included in the legislation, will allow Texas to access upwards of $500 million in federal stimulus money targeted for this purpose.

I am proud to co-author this bill because I believe we need to govern based on the needs of Texas families. This money will help Texas families put food on the table, pay their mortgages, and keep their lights on.

This is a cause I have championed for several legislative sessions, and I couldn't be happier to watch it pass the Senate today.

I understand that others may see things differently, but the Texas Senate today voted to put Texas families first."

State Representative Armando Walle (D-Houston) passed three amendments to the appropriations bill during a 19-hour debate in the Texas House of Representatives that lasted from Friday, April 17 to Saturday, April 18. The Walle amendments will protect working families and small businesses during these tough economic times and provide more resources for needy students.

Partnering with Chairwoman Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas), Rep. Walle passed an amendment which will guarantee increased funding to the Texas Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Governor Rick Perry has opposed accepting $555 million in federal aid to assist laid off workers and prevent a tax hike on small businesses. The Davis/Walle amendment states that if the Governor does not accept the federal funds for unemployment benefits, then the assistance needed for workers and businesses will be paid for with $136 million out of his budget.

"This important measure will prevent a tax hike on small businesses while helping unemployed Texans get back on their feet," said Rep. Walle. "I was proud to stand with Chairwoman Davis in support of working Texas families."

Rep. Walle's education amendments will require the Texas Education Agency to study the high drop-out rates of students with limited English proficiency and methods to increase enrollment in the Child Nutrition Program, which provides free and reduced-price meals to students.

Over 15% of all Texas students are identified as limited English proficiency (LEP). Ninety-three percent of LEP students are Hispanic, and in the Houston Independent School District, the drop-out rate for Hispanics is 66%. "Properly educating and graduating LEP students is critical for Texas' prosperity and long-term economic stability," said Rep. Walle. "As the LEP population continues to grow, it is essential that these kids graduate high school, and that we do not let them fall between the cracks."

Across Texas, only 53% of children who receive free/reduced price lunches participate in the breakfast program. If participation increased to 60 percent, over 100,000 more low-income children would start the day with a healthy breakfast and the state would gain an additional $30 million in federal funds. "Ensuring that our most needy children receive a healthy meal is of the utmost importance," said Rep. Walle. "Children can not learn if they are hungry, and this amendment is a step towards getting more kids the nutrition they need and deserve."

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 20, 2009 to Budget ballyhoo

For what's it's worth, every Senator that is rumored to be on the conference committee of the budget also voted for the UI bill today.

That may be some comfort, there's a chance the Walle/Davis amendment could stay in during conference committee.

Looking at the budget conference committee math, 2 House Dems + Pitts + 5 Senators is more than enough to keep the amendment, especially since Pitts is all grumpy at the governor for the A&M thing.

Posted by: joe on April 21, 2009 12:00 AM
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