Special session of legislature called as result of filibuster

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Warren Chisum and Diane Patrick exchange playful remarks before the special legislative session opened Wednesday morning. A slow start has given representatives a chance to thoroughly prepare for the session.

Photo Credit: Andrew Torrey | Daily Texan Staff

Gov. Rick Perry and Texas legislators started working overtime during a special session Perry called Tuesday.

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, filibustered the school finance bill at the end of the 82nd regular legislative session, which reduces K-12 public school funding by $4 billion. Because balancing the budget is mandatory for the state legislature, Davis blocked the legislative session from finishing.

For her nearly 80-minute filibuster, the senator read letters from her constituents who opposed cutting public school funding and encouraged lawmakers to use the Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget instead.

“The school funding bill was not fully developed and laid out by the end of the regular session,” Davis said. “The [House of Representatives] had never seen a school finance bill come to the floor, and the Senate was engaged in the legislation but not fully aware of the bill’s impact either.”

Davis said there are three solutions to balancing the budget that do not leave schools without adequate funding, including using the $9 billion Rainy Day Fund, closing corporate tax loopholes and using the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Fund.

“The message is getting spread and over the weekend and next Monday education officials and activists are going to hold rallies and make their voices heard,” Davis said.

Perry and many Republican legislators said they were disappointed to undergo a special session, and they are spending extra dollars and taking up more of people’s time than is necessary.

“A lot of this work could have been finalized on Monday, yet a member of the Senate decided that they wanted to make a statement,” Perry said in a press conference.

Sherri Greenberg, a former Texas state representative and current UT lecturer, said the original budget was disappointing, and the special session will allow both branches of Congress to reflect on the issue.

“I don’t foresee the situation to change much during the special session because many [politicians] have already made up their minds, so we will still have a $4 billion cut in education,” Greenberg said.

Lauren Pierce, UT’s College Republicans president, said many members of her organization are hoping Congress votes for the original budget Perry introduced and are actively getting involved by applying to work as interns for the special session.

“Davis filibustered the legislation because she wanted to personally gain name recognition among the [Senate and state],” Pierce said.

The Senate Finance Committee plans to address the budget in a hearing Thursday, and Perry could add other legislation to the agenda that could keep legislators busy for the full 30-day extension.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has proposed nine separate issues to be addressed during this special session in addition to the school finance bill, including a controversial ban on immigrant “sanctuary cities,” and an anti-groping bill that would make it a state crime for security guards to “intrusively grope” the people they screen.

Perry said a balanced budget that does not raise taxes is essential, and he hopes to move along the special session rapidly.

“I urge lawmakers to work quickly to complete the important work Texans expect us to finish,” Perry said in a press release.