The Texas Tribune posted an eye-opening article earlier today, part of their amazing regular series “Bidness As Usual,” regarding an end of session party that the House Committee on Calendars, one of the most powerful committees in the Legislature, had last Sunday night. The party was held at III Forks Steakhouse and apparently it was a big bash.
It is very common for committees in the Legislature to have end of session parties and invite staff and friends of the committee. What is not probably too common is the final tab the party racked up, which was $18,584.55, with a 20% tip of $3656.48 added, the total tab was $22,241.03.
Now according to the receipt 121 people had dinner, which is also a considerable amount of people for the 15 member committee, and at $95.00 bucks a pop it totals to half of the entire tab. The other half, around 7,000 was spent on booze, including three $135 bottles of Cabernet, an explicative ton of liquor, some more wine, and one lonely bud light.
According to the article, the tab was split 65 ways, each person paying roughly about $400. However, as tradition, no one from the committee paid, it was all paid for by lobbyists. This is all perfectly legal, and relatively common, but still it gives one pause when as much money to buy a car or a starting salary, is spent in one night on a party celebrating some of the most powerful leaders in the Legislature, making some of the most important decisions in this state.
The Legislature is currently still in session right now, after working to up to midnight last night, the deadline to pass Senate Bills on the House Floor. The Democrats were successful at killing SB 11, which required drug testing for TANF applicants. TANF is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and is generally treated as an emergency entitlement. No word on if the House has reached a deal on SJR 1, the bill ensuring a budget deal is resolved regarding water funding . Currently the Senate is taking up HB 1025 which is the supplemental appropriations bill.
If the Legislature cannot negotiate a deal between these two bills, a special session is almost imminent. The last day of session is Monday, May 27th.