Sunday, May 29, 2011

School finance bill may be passed in dead of night, without debate

The TexTrib provides the explanation:

The 2012-13 budget has been approved by both the House and the Senate, and now, with less than two days left in the legislative session, lawmakers have to pay for it by passing one more piece of legislation that raises $3.5 billion in "non-tax revenue" and revises school finance law to allow the state to reduce aid to public schools by $4 billion.

Without that legislation — SB 1811 — the budget doesn't balance and lawmakers will be forced to come back in a special session to deal with the issue. ...

If SB 1811 doesn't pass and the budget doesn't balance, lawmakers have to fix it before September 1, when the current budget ends and the new one is supposed to take effect. The budget, approved on Saturday along mostly partisan lines in both the House and the Senate, is $15.2 billion smaller than the current budget, doesn't require major new taxes and doesn't immediately require the state to use its Rainy Day Fund. Budget writers left $4.8 billion in Medicaid spending out of the budget in the hope that economic and program changes will make it unnecessary, but left money in the Rainy Day Fund to cover that spending if needed in 2013.

Without SB 1811, it doesn't balance.

At the time of this posting, Postcards is reporting that SB 1811 is scheduled to come before the House in about an hour, and the Senate some time after 9 p.m. Harvey Kronberg has the insight:

Should a school finance plan that was only revealed yesterday, has never had a hearing, has never had any questions asked about it or any public vetting be passed in the dead of night when members are exhausted? Do Republicans have any clearer understanding of what the bill does than do Democrats?

Sure, Democrats could chub the bill. Sure, Republicans could call the previous question.

But there is something larger at stake. This is the first school finance plan passed in modern times absent a court order. It could have profound consequences to real people. It could also end political careers. It deserves more than a ten minute question and answer period. ...

Republicans obviously have the cards to do whatever they want. If they want to pass a school finance plan under under those conditions and only ten minutes of questions, they also bear all the responsibility.

When those who went to the polls just seven months ago voted a straight Republican ticket, they created the atmosphere for this perfect storm. It's not hyperbole to say that what happened earlier this month in Tuscaloosa, AL and Joplin, MO doesn't really hold a candle to the damage this budget will wreak on the lives of Texans. Yes, there will be hundred of lives lost as a result of the financial decisions the Republican super-majorities are making. The only real difference is that the carnage in Texas will be in slow motion, and the tornado-ravaged cities are already on the road to recovery.

Texas won't recover for a generation. Or longer.

Update from HK:

May 29, 2011 7:32 PM

Special will be called for Tuesday, May 31

As Senate Democrats consider whether or not to filibuster the must pass SB 1811, reliable sources close to the Governor’s office tell QR that there will be direct and immediate consequences.

Should SB 1811 go down, Governor Rick Perry will call what is expected to be a very quick special session to convene this coming Tuesday, May 31. In addition to SB 1811, the Governor will add “sanctuary cities and other matters related to immigration on to the call.”

With no blocker bill, passage of legislation in the Senate requires only 16 votes.

Follow the Trib's liveblog.

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