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May 31, 2005

The "Do Nothing" Legislature

By Byron LaMasters

It's certainly ironic that in the first session following an election where Republicans achieved complete power with majorities in Congress, the state Senate, the State House, and a lock on all Texas Constitutional offices - they are unable to accomplish much of anything. Newspapers across the state report...

The Austin American Statesman:

One hundred forty days ago, Texas lawmakers came to Austin promising to find a fair and legal way to pay for public education and to lower school property taxes.

During the next five months, they passed a two-year state budget that's more than 10 percent larger than the current budget. They garnered national attention by trying to ban sexy cheerleading in high schools. And they sent 1,370 bills to Gov. Rick Perry, including overhauls of the state's workers' compensation and Child Protective Services systems. [...]

As lawmakers left town late Monday, the question of how to pay for public schools and ease the burden on property owners remained unanswered. And that inaction by the Republican-controlled Legislature may well be the enduring legacy of the 79th Legislature.

The failure of a school finance plan is the failure of one party, and one party alone. We can thank Tom Craddick for that.

Craddick this month kept Democrats off the conference committees that negotiated school finance reform. And, earlier in the session, House Democrats, with a lone Republican, tried to bypass a committee vote and force a vote by the full House to further limit corporate money in elections. GOP groups are accused of misusing corporate dollars in 2002.

But House Republicans — even those who had co-sponsored the measure — shot it down, saying Democrats needed to respect the usual legislative process. (That process killed it in committee a few days later.)

The Dallas Morning News:

Texas lawmakers closed out a disappointing regular session and headed home Monday, touting a few notable accomplishments but leaving their No. 1 priority – the funding of public schools – in the dust. [...]

"I can't tell you how angry I am," said Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas. "My constituents were expecting school finance reform, property tax reform and Robin Hood reform – and we couldn't deliver on any of it."

It didn't help that the leaders of the two chambers – Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick – were sharply at odds over their respective plans and who's to blame. [...]

The session will be judged by the major issues not addressed, said Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco, the House Democratic leader.

"We came in with a landmark opportunity to fix our schools, and that was not accomplished," he said. "The major pieces of policy that we should have taken care of were not taken care of."

The San Antonio Express-News covers the GOP spin:

"This has been a very successful session," Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said. "We've had a lot of important legislation pass."

Dewhurst said "we're not giving up" on school finance, adding that he'd talked with House Speaker Tom Craddick on Monday despite their differences on the issue.

Craddick, who also judged the session a success, agreed that he and Dewhurst "said we're going to try to work together and see if we can find some kind of resolution" on school finance. [...]

Even before the session ended, Perry was touting lawmakers' work trying to reach agreement on schools and noting other legislative accomplishments.

"I don't know how big the mountain's got to be before we say, 'Heck of a session.' But we're real close to it," Perry said in the session's closing days as he announced agreement on workers' compensation and noted restrictions on asbestos lawsuits.

What a load of crap. Sen. Wentworth, for one, isn't buying it:

Even before the session ended, Perry was touting lawmakers' work trying to reach agreement on schools and noting other legislative accomplishments.

"I don't know how big the mountain's got to be before we say, 'Heck of a session.' But we're real close to it," Perry said in the session's closing days as he announced agreement on workers' compensation and noted restrictions on asbestos lawsuits.

And finally, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

One hundred and forty days of raucous politics came to an end Monday, the last day of a Texas legislative session that will probably be remembered as much for what failed as what passed.

Lying in the recycle bin were thousands of pages of what might have been: a new school finance system, a property tax cut, legalized slot machines, an overhaul of ethics laws, private school vouchers and the Willie Nelson Highway. [...]

"It's all over but the explaining," said Ross Ramsey, editor of the political newsletter Texas Weekly. "On the biggest issue of the session, they're going home empty-handed."

Tarrant County Republican Chair clarifies the priorities of of the "conservative movement":

Perry is wasting no time getting the message to conservative Republican voters that he has delivered. The governor has scheduled an event next weekend at Calvary Cathedral in Fort Worth, where he plans to sign legislation requiring minor girls to have written parental consent before they can get an abortion. He'll also sign a constitutional amendment -- it's just a formality, because only the voters can make it law -- designed to place an existing ban on gay marriage in the state constitution.

Voters will decide on the prohibition in November.

According to a letter sent by Perry's campaign, and forwarded by e-mail to supporters, Perry officials "want to completely fill this location with pro-family Christian friends who can celebrate with us" and might film the event for TV advertising later.

Pat Carlson, chairwoman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, said that if Hutchison runs against Perry, "it's very possible" that footage from the event would be used.

Carlson called the recently concluded meeting "not the best session, but not a bad session" and said that conservatives cared more about the abortion issue than changing the state's school finance system.

"School finance wasn't necessarily a priority of the conservative movement," Carlson said.

Ok, I think I get it. Gays = NO! Abortion = NO! KIDS, uhmmm = NO WAY! At least someone is honest about the priorities of the "conservative movement". As long as the gays and abortionists are stopped, who cares about the kids?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at May 31, 2005 11:06 AM | TrackBack

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