Tonight’s the night for something to happen if it’s going to, because legislatively speaking there is no tomorrow.
The 2012-13 state budget agreed to by House and Senate negotiators provides school districts $4 billion less than what they are owed under current law. Three proposals for how to spread that pain among school districts were floating around, each with varying impacts on the districts and the state.
There was little certainty going into the scheduled late-night debate about what the House would consider when Senate Bill 1581 finally came to the floor. Nearly 70 proposed amendments had been filed for the bill.
Shortly after 10 p.m., the bill was toppled on a procedural error and never came up for debate.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, said earlier Monday that a consensus had not yet developed around any of the three proposals, and he postponed action until Monday night to allow talks to continue.
Without House action, the remaining option is for the conference committee members who are negotiating another budget-related measure, Senate Bill 1811, to figure out a plan.
If no change is made, schools would be funded according to current law, and the state would run out of money for public education in early 2013.
At which point the Lege would be forced to use Rainy Day funds to make up the balance. Why they’re not simply doing that now remains a mystery. What will be the excuses to not use it in 2013, one wonders? Or will they simply re-adopt the strategy of this session and push more expenses into the next biennium for the subsequent Lege to deal with?
Credit goes to Rep. Yvonne Davis of Dallas for the point of order that halted SB1581. Last night’s events were good news in another way.
SB 1581 was also a prospective life raft for a number of other thorny education measures — like Eissler’s proposal to lift the class size limit and Rep. Sid Miller’s school voucher program. Eissler said he was investigating the possibility of attaching HB 400, his mandate relief package, to a bill — possibly SB 1811 — in conference committee.
As always, nothing is truly dead until sine die, and there is always the possibility of a special session if things are truly screwed up enough. But the more paths that get foreclosed, the harder it is for this stuff to happen, and at this point that’s all you can hope for. Texas Politics has more.