Texas House throws TxDOT a lifeline at "Sunset"
By APRIL CASTRO
The Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas House approved last-minute legislation Monday saving major state agencies from being wiped out, but inaction in the Senate threatened to derail the measure and possibly spark a special session this summer.
A midnight deadline loomed for the Senate to act.
Earlier Monday, the House adopted a last-minute "correcting amendment" allowing key state agencies, including the Texas Department of Transportation, to stay alive until the next regularly scheduled session in 2011.
But the House did not approve $2 billion in bond funding for transportation projects around the state. That prompted a furious response from state senators.
"Texans deserve to have these road projects built," said Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy.
The agencies are in danger of closing — or would have to be dealt with in a special session — unless the Senate approves the legislation passed earlier by the House.
Under Texas sunset law, the Legislature is required to regularly review and reauthorize state agencies. Along with the review, the Legislature must vote to continue operations or the agencies are abolished.
The House failed to meet a midnight Sunday deadline to pass a so-called "safety net" bill to postpone their "sunset" dates.
Some of this year's sunset bills did not make it through the 140-day legislative process.
House leaders were unable to wrangle two-thirds approval to suspend the rules and take up the catch-all sunset bill after the deadline. Critics argued that such a move would set a bad precedent for future lawmakers.
The stalemate sparked a morning of speculation about possible deals to entice critics and the threat of a special session. But, the issue was handled with a resolution, which only requires a simple majority to pass.
The move was criticized as a violation of House rules.
"This is an intentional attempt to circumvent the rules — using a resolution to do what can only be done by the passage of a bill itself," said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston.
Still, Straus overruled the objections and moved forward with the resolution, which was filed as an amendment to correct a bill that deals with state financial accounts.
The resolution, which still must be approved by the Senate, includes the Texas Department of Insurance, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Racing Commission.
The legislation is HCR291 and HB4583
Associated Press writer Jay Root contributed to this story
© 2009 The Associated Press: www.ap.org
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