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NPT Capitol: Special session on the way?

This afternoon is do-or-sine-die for the Texas Legislature. Much remains to be done – that’s always true of any session – but in this session, one thing really really does need to be done – if a special session to be avoided.

Last night, the clock struck midnight before HB 1959 passed the House – David Leibowitz, D-San Antonio, chubbed the bill to death. HB 1959 deals is what is called a “sunset safety net bill.”* To cut a long story short, a plethora of government agencies, including TxDoT will simply cease to exist if HB 1959 does not pass. But in order for it to pass today, the House must suspend it’s rules, which requires a two-thirds vote (100 members.)

If that doesn’t happen, Perry will have to call special session to re-enable those agencies.

Here’s the deal though: Leibowitz, may have gift wrapped Perry the chance to call a special session. And Perry can call a session on whatever he likes – multiple subjects – let’s say for example, HB 1959 and Voter ID…

One Democratic state Rep told me that a fair few Democrats were furious with Leibowitz going rogue last night. (Many Dems were upset that Republicans had chubbed through the preceding bill in order to leave too little time to discuss SB 2080 CHIP expansion. Leibowitz is not a fan of HB 1959 because it lets the Texas Department of Insurance of the hook for two more years.)

So what will happen today?

The deal currently being brokered by both parties’ top brass this afternoon would involve suspending the rules to take up both HB 1959 and SB 2080. (Both have already passed the Senate.) But that would require 100 votes that might not be there. The question is, are their 50 Republicans who want a special session? Would they be willing to swallow a vote on CHIP to avoid one? Are the Dems bluffing? They REALLY dont want a special session because Perry can throw Voter ID into the mix, CHIP or no CHIP.

So how many votes are out their for a rule suspension? My guess: not many more than 80ish bar some last minute arm twisting from the House leadership (something they’ve not done all session.) That leadership team, the backbone of which is the Anyone-But-Craddick Republicans have the most to lose out of HB 1959 not passing – their first term in charge and they manage to cull a basketful of state agencies by accident.

That ironically, puts them in the same place they were in at the start of the session – in cahoots with the Dems and under the suspicious eye of the Republican faithful.

Or is there another way to fiddle things so HB 1959 passes? We’ll keep you posted…

–Ben Wright

*The sunset process works like this: each state government agency has a limited life span and simply goes out of existence if further enabling legislation is not passed. Agencies up for “sunset” are vetted by the Sunset advisory commission. Legislative recommendations are made, some of which are rolled into the statute along with the enabling legislation. The sunset safety net bill is there to ensure that if an agency’s sunset bill dies (Like the TxDoT sunset bill) there is a back-up – that simply enables the agency to go on as it did before – the agency comes up for sunset the next session or the one thereafter usually. But what happens when the back up dies? We’ll see this afternoon!

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Written by newspapertreeelpaso

June 1, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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