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House kills HB2

Stunning.

The Texas House, after rancorous debate and major changes to a multibillion-dollar school funding bill, voted down the measure Tuesday.

Although the move appeared to spell trouble for the special legislative session called by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, another school spending bill remained pending in the Senate.

The 79-62 vote against the Republican-backed House bill came after the House approved a Democrat’s plan to provide an additional $3.8 billion over two years to schools, including money for a teacher pay raise and more bilingual education funding.

That was substantially more money than the Republican measure included. Democrats and some Republicans joined to approve the amendment by Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Kent Grusendorf of Arlington, soon led the charge to vote against the overall bill.

An accompanying property tax reduction bill was still being debated in the House.

Right now, the blogs have the most coverage. See Aaron Pena, two from PinkDome, and two from BOR. To say the least, things are a bit confused right about now. I’ll update this later when there’s some newspaper coverage. Check those three sites for more immediacy.

UPDATE: As promised, here’s more AP coverage:

“This was the governor’s plan. We worked on it, massaged it as much as we could. To be quite frank, we didn’t get there,” said Rep. Jim Keffer, a Republican from Eastland who sponsored the tax bill but urged fellow House members to vote against it.

They followed his lead with a bipartisan 124-8 vote.

Perry said he wouldn’t give up and would keep pushing lawmakers to find a solution in the remaining 24 days of the special session.

Well, that’s a little better than a hundred and twenty-six to nothing.

The 79-62 vote against the Republican-backed education spending bill came after the House approved a Democrat’s plan to provide an additional $3.8 billion over two years to schools, including money for a teacher pay raise and more bilingual education funding.

That was substantially more money than the Republican measure included. Democrats and some Republicans joined to approve the amendment by Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston.

His plan also would have given an extra school property tax break to homeowners through a larger homestead exemption.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Kent Grusendorf of Arlington, later led the charge to quickly vote against the bill because it was so dramatically changed from its original form. Grusendorf said the more costly changes would have hurt Texas businesses and that the bill was doomed for failure.

Craddick agreed. Once Hochberg’s amendment was added to the bill, it didn’t balance financially, he said. But Hochberg disputed that and said his proposal was designed to fit with the amount of money available in Grusendorf’s bill.

Craddick described the fast-moving series of events Tuesday as being “kind of like a mushroom-type effect” as both bills were defeated.

Democratic Rep. Rene Oliveira of Brownsville had urged against a swift vote on the tax bill, saying it could potentially wreck the special session if it were voted down.

“I think you’re commanding the Titanic right now with that approach,” Oliveira told Keffer.

Afterward, passage of a school finance bill in this session began looking less likely.

“The stars are going to have to be aligned for that and right now, they’re not aligned,” Grusendorf said.

I understand that the Democratic Senators are blocking a vote on the Senate version of HB2 now. This may be the end, but I doubt it. Perry won’t give up that easily. He can’t afford to.

I love this quote:

Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, the powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee, bucked Republican leadership and voted for the Democratic-sponsored changes.

Pitts said that Hochberg’s amendment had problems but that at least it allowed for debate on a school finance measure that his constituents despised.

“I have had over 1,000 e-mails and calls telling me not to vote for this bill,” Pitts said during a recess after the vote. “They didn’t like what I call the Highland Park provisions (that could allow property-wealthy districts to keep more money), the school starting date and the elections in November. People in my district wanted me to vote for their children.”

What a concept.

More blog coverage: In the Pink, Common Sense, BOR, Rio Grande Valley Politics, and on a tangential subject, Latinos for Texas.

UPDATE: And Houtopia and Greg.

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5 Comments

  1. ttyler5 says:

    These votes were all about posturing for the upcoming election cycle, the House pulled these votes knowing that they are in for another session.

    It will give them a chance to say they voted for higher ( and completely undeserved) teacher pay raises, as well as tell the voters they also voted for tax cuts ( later ).

    It is nothing different from John Whitmire’s posturing with his silly “filibuster” in the senate, where he declared himself a hero for filibustering an-already dead bill during the last hours of an already-dead session.

    These guys are legends in their minds, and very good at playing the for-the-record vote game for the next election.

  2. RN says:

    HB3 failed also. So what does that mean? Sine die? They can debat the Senate version of HB2 still i suppose but doesn’t the property tax bill have to originate in the House?

  3. ttyler5 says:

    RN, I believe the strategy, in this case, will be that they will refile the bills for the new special session, and that there have been so many previous hearings held on similar legislation, they will fast-track the bills through the committees in the new special session and try to get to the joint committee table as quickly as possible.

  4. PDiddie says:

    Lotsa losers in this aftermath, beginning with Governor Mofo’n Goodhair, but one winner appears to be Rep. Scott Hochberg, whose amendment got bipartisan support and smashed Speaker Craddick’s hammerlock on his own caucus.

    I almost wish Hochberg would run for Lt. Governor, but I’m afraid we’d lose an outstanding legislator (since it’s still too much to hope for that Texas could elect a Democrat with a New York accent).

  5. ttyler5 says:

    Yes, PDiddie, Hochberg has certainly been shining in this session, but now he has got to pull back and lead the dems to help get a substantial property tax cut passed.

    If the tax cut fails to pass, the property taxpayers won’t be blaming Rick Perry; and Craddick, Grusendorf and Dewhurst are invincible, in re-election terms.

    Hochberg, on the other hand, as well as Jim Dunnam, are certainly not, especially Hochberg, and especially on this issue.

    If the tax cuts fail to pass, the blame will fall on the democrats, as well as on the handful of GOP legs who have been voting against the property tax cuts.

    Taxpayer retaliation at the polls will be massive, and Hochberg and Dunnam as well as a number of other vulnerable dems won’t survive such a general election.

    Hochberg has scored some points and made players out of a beleaguered and vastly out-numbered minority which began the legislative year with little hope of being able to influence events.

    But now he has to help get the tax cut through, or he will be leading the dem party into a massacre in November — call it “death by taxpayers revolt.”