With the legislative session set to end on May 29, time is running out to pass a state budget, and resolve the avalanche of other bills that are still moving between chambers of the Legislature. And then there are the governor’s priority items, some of which are still stuck, because lawmakers can’t agree how to pay for them.
Mike Ward, Austin bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle, says the sheer number of bills moving between chambers of the Legislature at this late date in the session is extraordinary.
“The Senate, since May 1st, has been given more than 600 House bills. And they’ve received 500 House bills in the past five days, which is a huge amount compared to previous sessions,” Ward says.
Ward says that compressing a large number of bills into a short timeframe means that many won’t pass, because various legislative deadlines occur before the bills can be acted on.
“When a lot of bills start dying, people start getting cranky,” Ward says.
Most urgently, if a state budget is not passed by the end of the session, a special session would be required.
The budget isn’t the only reason a special session might be on the horizon.
“It’s not unusual for people to start talking about the possibility of special session, but this year, there’s more key issues that have to be resolved that are still open and contentious than there have been in previous sessions,” Ward says.
Ward says the Senate and House budget proposals are only about $400-$600 million apart. Ths issue is how the two chambers want to fund the budget.
“The Senate wanted to do an accounting trick with some transportation money,” Ward says. “The House had a sort of accounting trick with some school money. And the House wanted to use the Rainy Day Fund and the Senate said ‘no’.”
Ward says Governor Abbott’s call for additional money for pre-K education has not gained momentum in either chamber. He says neither the Senate or the House funded the program at the level requested by the Governor. Abbott is likely to hold firm on his request, Ward says.
Senate Bill 2, a property tax reform bill championed by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor is stuck in the House Ways and Mean Committee. Ward says the Senate, where the bill was initiated and passed, was not happy.
“This is getting ready to become a do or die issue for a number of members of the Senate,” Ward says. “They want it to pass. The Governor wants it to pass.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.