The deadline for passing House bills on second reading was midnight Friday last week, which means that tons of bills are technically dead, as they can no longer be brought to the House floor for a vote. However, bills can still be attached to other bills that are eligible for consideration as amendments, so nothing can be ruled out at this stage.
“As long as the budget is alive, any fiscal measure is still alive,” said Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, chairman of the influential House Calendars Committee, which determines which bills go to the House floor for debate.
“I think gambling is still alive because it’s a revenue measure and, as the budget process is alive, so is any revenue measure.”
A watered-down gambling bill to allow slot machines at racetracks and Native American reservations moved out of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee last week
“There’s not enough interest on the House floor — at the moment,” said Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, the committee chairman who moved the gambling bill.
Support for the gambling bill could build later — perhaps in a summer special session, he said, as members look for more non-tax revenue. The limited gambling bill could raise about $3 billion, he said.
You knew gambling would come up in this conversation, right? There are still big disagreements about how much money the Lege will actually spend this session, and how cuts to public education will be distributed, and these issues are not close to being resolved.
The House and Senate each has passed its own budget plan, with the Senate spending $4 billion more state dollars than the House in order to mitigate proposed spending cuts to education, nursing homes and other priorities.
The two sides now have little time to hammer out a compromise , and they’re struggling to reach common ground. The Senate thinks the House cuts are too deep, and the House thinks the Senate is unrealistic about how much money is available.
“It’s going to be real tough to get to a compromise,” one high-level legislative staffer said Friday, speaking on the condition of anonymity as to not further disrupt the negotiations.
Senate finance chief Steve Ogden said on Friday that a special legislative session on the budget is “pretty likely.”
Anything can happen, but I’d put my money on a special session. The question is whether another thirty days would be enough to resolve the disagreement, since what that really means is who capitulates. There, I’d be putting my money on the Senate finally giving in to the fanatics in the House. At which point we’ll have the budget the Republicans have been dreaming about for years. What happens after that is up to us.