Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"The longer the Legislature is in special session, the harder it is for Perry to control the message."

State Senate holds special session during holiday weekend



By: Harvey Kronberg
News 8 Austin
Copyright 2009

COMMENTARY-- Well, the circus is back in town this week, but if you blink, you will miss it.

The special session was all but guaranteed when Senate Republicans rejected a House maneuver extending the life of the soon-to-expire Texas Department of Transportation.

In a last-day Hail Mary pass, House Speaker Joe Straus uncharacteristically gamed House Rules by permitting the TxDOT, reauthorizing language into something called a “correcting resolution.”

Correcting resolutions mostly happen on the last day of the session. They are supposed to be non-substantive and fix only typos, grammatical errors and confusing language in legislation. But, after the anti-voter ID filibuster, any semblance of scheduling went out the window.

When the dust settled, the only vehicle available to keep TxDOT alive past Sept. 1 was through the dubious mechanism of the correcting resolution. From a rules purist’s point of view, it was Straus’ worst call of the session. The only good news is that three-fourths of the House went along with the maneuver.

The House adjourned sine die a few hours later, handing the Senate a “take it or leave it” proposition. Angry Republican senators complained that the House maneuver was insufficient because it left a couple of billion dollars of road bonds up in the air.

Absent specific legislative authorization, road construction on a dozen or so major projects would simply stop. Roads would not be built and lots of jobs would be lost.

Reasonable people can question whether the senators were right, but when they rejected the resolution, they guaranteed the special session.

Frankly, this is the last thing Gov. Rick Perry wanted or needed. He’s been legally prohibited from fundraising during the regular session. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was not. She will likely show substantially more in contributions when the reports are published in a couple of weeks.

The longer the Legislature is in special session, the harder it is for Perry to control the message. Every constituency wants something. The right wants Voter ID, the left wants CHIP expansion and everyone but a few lobbyists wants insurance reform.

So why start on July 1? The governor’s theory is with a three-day session during a long holiday weekend, news coverage will be light and vacationing voters won’t be paying attention.

If the session doesn’t blow up, Perry says he will be at taxpayer tea parties on the Fourth of July and the 2010 gubernatorial campaign will begin in earnest on July 5.

© 2009 News 8 Austin: www.news8austin.com

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