Debates, blame games ensue after legislative special session

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The Texas House adjourned Wednesday after a 170 day long session.

Photo Credit: Allen Otto | Daily Texan Staff

Wednesday marked the close of the 82nd legislative special session rife with political posturing, finger pointing and headline-grabbing, values-based bills. In the process, senators and representatives passed a few bills that will impact all Texans.

During the special session, lawmakers passed budget bills, a controversial congressional redistricting map, health care policies and a reform of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. Bills such as the sanctuary cities bill and a Transportation Security Administration anti-groping bill failed, despite Gov. Rick Perry designating them both must-pass legislation.

It took 170 days for lawmakers to get their jobs done. The Senate adjourned Tuesday after passing the budget, and the House’s last act Wednesday was failing to pass the anti-groping bill.

On the second to last day, House members also struggled to pass the general appropriates bill, nearly causing them to enter a second special session.

Protesters chanted “If congress won’t do their job, we’ll have to do it ourselves.”

A blame game among representatives, senators and leadership began soon after the session was over as they tried to explain why they struggled during special session.

“The defeat of the [TSA bill] can only be laid at the feet of this state’s leadership,” said Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview.
He said the House not coming to work on time kept them from doing their jobs effectively.

Some Senators blamed the House for being stubborn on bills that could have been worked out and passed into law.
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said the House and Speaker Joe Straus let bills die, and the House was not willing to negotiate on key pieces of legislation.

“The house turned things into a take-it-or-leave-it deal,” Patrick said. “People should expect better out of their legislators. We have a constitutional duty to show up, and the House did not do that.”

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said the Senate passed everything it was supposed to, and he was proud of how well the senators dealt with business during the special session, but some representatives from the House claimed that it was the Senate’s fault the House did not receive bills back in a timely manner.

Blame did not only come from both chambers, but also from Gov. Rick Perry, who said Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, was at fault for not allowing the must-pass sanctuary cities amendment into his bill.

“Duncan ultimately refused to allow language related to the ban of sanctuary cities into the final version of Senate Bill 1,” Perry said in a press release.

Duncan and fellow Republicans fired back at the governor and said it was inappropriate to include the sanctuary cities amendment in the budget legislation.

Representatives also blamed Perry for not personally being at the special session most of the time, claiming if he was, things would have moved along more smoothly.

The blame game between chambers and leadership didn’t stop work from being done, and most Republican legislators expressed satisfaction with the work they accomplished.

Dewhurst said this was the largest shortfall state legislators ever had to deal with and was glad to see that the Rainy Day Fund was saved. They were able to balance the budget without raising taxes, and that they cut spending by over 8 percent.

School boards and officials protested on the side of Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, early on during the special session in an attempt to prevent the $4 billion in cuts from public school funding that passed.

During the session, Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, added a provision to the cuts which would allow the 83rd legislature to devise a new funding formula. In the version that failed during the regular session, the cuts to public schools would have been permanent.

“The provision added in the House is going to sunset the new funding formula for schools, and we will then hopefully reestablish the current funding for our schools,” Davis said.

Printed on 06/30/2011 as: Lawmakers chose to blame others for process not moving smoothly