An Inside Look at the Final Days of the Special Session

The following was posted in the Quorum Report.  It was reprinted with permission. It was written on June 22, 2011.

LAST MINUTE ADDITION OF GROPING BILL TO THE CALL FUELS FRUSTRATION IN THE HOUSE

Too much time, too few votes

Here’s what we think we know.

We are finally seeing a return of bipartisanship in the Texas House as both Democrats and Republicans drift away making quorums ever more elusive.  Key veterans are either gone or increasingly irritated at being held captive while waiting to vote.

The only must pass bills of the session are SB1, SB2 and TWIA.  Negotiations on the first two are moving forward and will likely produce conference committee reports at the end of the week.  The Senate passed its bill this afternoon and the conference begins in earnest.

Maybe its just the frustration with hurry up and wait.

But with Perry’s eleventh hour addition of the groping bill to the call, more and more Republicans feel insulted and are privately complaining that they are tired of being used as props for the Governor’s national campaign.  The groping bill is up on Friday and some are talking about simply not showing up although there are two other public schools related bills on the calendar that have already been postponed several times.

On a practical level, the veto period has passed and the Governor’s ability to punish this cycle is gone.

Even putting sanctuary cities on the call is getting some Republican pushback.  The House voted on it during the regular session.  Everyone that needs a record has a record vote on the issue.  Dragging the same corpse around for more impassioned rhetoric to play for national cameras is not winning the Governor any friends on either side of the House aisle.

One close observer of the Texas House told QR the House Republicans were divided into four camps:  the libertarian wing who were uncomfortable with pieces of the bill, those who worried that the bill was poisoning relations with their Hispanic communities, those who thought it was not good government and those who remain passionate on the issue regardless of the time consumed or the bridges burned.

What’s different is that some Republicans in the House are now talking payback.  For instance, requiring the Governor’s office to disclose the costs of his security detail while travelling – something the Governor’s office has long opposed.

Another thread is forcing ownership of the sanctuary cities issue on the Governor while he is playing in the national arena.  One new idea making the rounds would require an annual status report from the Governor on sanctuary cities in Texas.

Texas politicos are long accustomed to low Hispanic turnout in the Lone Star State and generally see no electoral payback for sanctuary cities.  But Latinos did vote in substantial numbers for President Obama in other states in 2008.  There will be no penalty in the GOP presidential primary for Perry’s forcing passage of sanctuary cities by putting it on the call but it would be one of life’s great ironies if he became the latest version of Pete Wilson bygalvanizing Hispanic vote in a general election for what most Republicans say is a gratuitous shell of an issue.

(As an aside, Perry will be speaking at the National Association of Latino Elected Officials meeting in San Antonio tomorrow.)

One final simmering fire is brewing among some House Republicans – exasperation with the self-appointed scorekeepers of conservatism.  We will see how durable Michael Quinn Sullivan’s report card proves to be but hanging up SB7 because of an argument over abortion between two pro-life groups threatening to score the vote has eyes rolling all over the Capitol.  Especially since pro-life groups were overwhelmingly successful during he regular session.

There is nothing really essential to operating the State in SB 7 that does not appear somewhere else, but Republicans would like to tell their primary voters they passed a bill authorizing state compacts even if Congress does refuse to grant the states permission.

While this may be little more than chest beating resulting from too much time in the sun, it does represent deep frustration over what is increasingly perceived as an abuse of lawmakers’ time.

By Harvey Kronberg

Reprinted with permission of the Quorum Report

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About Jennifer Bergland

Director of Government Relations at the Texas Computer Education Association
This entry was posted in Legislature, Special Session and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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