The Texas House budget debate today has been a little bit of an unexpected surprise. While there is still plenty to be furious about there has also been some pleasant surprises for House Democrats. An early effort by House Tea Party Members to curb government spending failed, and a quick vote to possibly expand Medicaid eligibility in Texas passed, and an overwhelming majority of House members voted for an amendment banning school vouchers in Texas.
Although the Medicaid eligibility amendment was later reconsidered and eventually withdrawn, House Republicans are also withdrawing, or really withholding amendments regarding women's health and anti-choice issues, in a surprising bipartisan detante in order to move the budget debate along. Of course, the BFD of the bunch is the passage of the amendment brought to the floor by Representative Abel Herrero of Robstown to end school vouchers in Texas.
A super-majority of House members — including 51 Republicans and the Chair of the House Public Education Committee — voted for the amendment banning vouchers. Every single story notes what a huge message this sends to Rick Perry, Senator Dan Patrick, and anyone else pushing voucher bills down the pipeline.
Herrero's amendment simply stated that the money from TEA cannot be used to invest in private institutions, essentially keeping public money for public education. While there was some heated debate it was short lived, and eventually Herrero defended his amendment by stating, “Members at some point we have to make a choice; if we are with our public schools, or not.”
Republican operatives are already beating the drums calling on primary retaliation, despite the fact that members were encouraged to vote their districts. The republican leadership did not put any pressure on the vote because of this primary issue, and as they say, “left it to the will of the House.”
Now the will of the House is clear. What isn't clear is if this most recent move will permanently stop the school vouchers movement in the Texas Legislature or not.