HARVEY KRONBERG : How to blow up a Session

A special thank you to Harvey for his permission to reprint this piece which rather neatly summarizes the disastrous Legislative Session


Senate adjourns without appointing budget conferees

Apparently the inmates are running the asylum and they are being bullied by a half million or so hard right Republican primary voters in a state of twenty five million.

Yesterday, with the Senate capitulation, it looked like the budget was all but done and the only possible special session might be over congressional redistricting.

Since then Perry has decided “loser pays” is an emergency item the House must take up in its final five days of hearing bills on second reading. Dewhurst has told Associated Press that he is abandoning the 2/3s role which he may or may not realize undermines his own power going forward. Meanwhile, the House is tied up in knots over points of order on such silliness as sanctuary cities as the clock keeps ticking.

To date, the Governor has failed to identify a single sanctuary city in Texas.

Here is where we are as the must pass HB400 melted down tonight on what appears to be a fatal point of order. (HB400 is the school district bill that allows flexibility in hiring, firing and compliance with mandates and is reportedly worth billions in the budget)

The Governor has bollixed up the process with a bunch of inflammatory “emergency” items that play to a national narrative that have nothing to do with the functioning of state government.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, also running for something else, told Associated Press that as early as last fall he planned to subvert the 2/3s rule on the assumption that Democrats would “lock down” against a budget that they believed cut too deep.

Dewhurst neglected to mention in his interview that Democrats as well as Republicans had been relying on his private assurances since last fall that the Senate budget would access around $6 billion of the rainy day fund.

Dewhurst cut the legs out of both sides when, at a presser ten days ago, he feigned ignorance that the Senate Finance Committee was …. actually planning to use money from the rainy day fund. Until he cut the legs out from under his senators, it appeared that Finance Chair Steve Ogden was close to the necessary 21 votes to bring up the budget.

Dewhurst had both Republican and Democratic votes until he conveniently forgot that he had privately committed to his senators that he would go to the mat over using the rainy day funds. Democrats Chuy Hinojosa and Royce West and maybe a couple of others were prepared to vote for the budget until the lynchpin of rainy day funds that Dewhurst had promised was yanked out from under them.

The truth is politics are politics and Dewhurst’s bobbing and abandonment of the 2/3s rule are a sideshow played for primary voters.

What is unimaginable is that he did not appoint a budget conference committee before the Senate adjourned today.

Deadlines are looming at the end of next week. By abandoning the field today, the conference committee loses three or four critical days, cutting much need negotiating time in half.

Meanwhile, the only fair broker in the process is in a box. Speaker Joe Straus’ entire platform is to run a fair process. Some of his parliamentary rulings have been on the edge, but as best we can tell, none have really crossed the line.

Unable to move votes by persuasion, Democrats can only use process. Straus’ only promise to Democrats and Republicans was to assure a fair process.

Will he keep that promise?

The House recessed tonight without the chair ruling on what appears to be a solid point of order killing a must pass bill worth billions in the budget.

At this stage, Democrats are disinvested in the process.

After redistricting, those half million voters will be even more powerful. Perry wants to the lead them and Dewhurst is apparently afraid of them.

Meanwhile, nearly 25 million Texans are held hostage and a return performance by the Legislature in July is more likely than ever.

The Associated Press interview with David Dewhurst can be found here.

Copyright 2011 – Quorum Report

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