The End of the 84th: Sine Die Weekend at the Texas Capitol

Will there be a special session?

By Rhonda FanningJune 4, 2015 7:15 am

Well folks, Monday was the last day of the 140-day biennial Texas legislative season. It’s what people inside the pink dome call “sine die,” a latin term that translates directly to “without day.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott will mark the day with a ceremonial bill signing. The bill he has chosen is one that legalizes a non-psychoactive form of cannabis oil for epilepsy patients. Joining the Texas Standard to talk about the weekend’s big events at the capital is Jonathan Tilove, Chief political writer for the Austin American-Statesman.

What’s the significance of choosing this bill for the last day?

“I didn’t realize it was invested with such meaning that he was signing it today…. It is an odd signal, it’s the least marijuana legalization of any of the laws that were brought before the session. So this was the narrowest and people had to swear up and down that this was not a slippery slope toward something bigger. I think it’s something that shows that he can distinguish that he has compassion. That he’s not an idealogue on this.”

What about the late development of the campus carry bill making past the House and Senate? Not everybody who wanted it is happy – why?

“This very much depends on who you talk to and listen to. According to Senator Birdwell, it’s a triumph, and the campuses really have to be very narrow in how they limit campus carry. According to Trey Martinez-Fisher, who wrote the language as part of the conference committee allowing the exceptions, the exceptions are wide open and can include classrooms. [It is] yet to be determined exactly how much campus carry there will be. But the idea that you come out of this with a compromise is what this is all about.”

On the tax cuts:

“We got the tax cuts, we got 25 percent reduction in the franchise tax, we got some property tax relief. It’s the kind of thing that, for most Texans, it’s a night out on the town. That’s about the impact. It’s not gonna be felt deep and wide.”

What was anticipated to happen this session that you were surprised didn’t come to pass?

“What didn’t happen was after the Novemeber election, particularly with the election of Dan Patrick, along with Greg Abbott… there was a sense that this was gonna be the Tea Party hay-day. That they had finally come into their own and would get what they wanted… and they got some of what they wanted but they didn’t get a lot,” Tilove says. “The House performed its role of being a check on the Senate, and I think Governor Abbott was silently happy about that. He would rather not deal with a lot of these difficult and controversial issues that divide Republicans, as well as the general electorate.”

On a potential special session:

“We could only hope, because obviously for reporters, those are the richest mines because they are specific and lead to all kinds of drama. But I don’t think anybody has any interest in it, aside from some reporters.”