Texas Legislature Still Has Work To Do

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Now that the dust has settled on one of the most contentious and controversial bills to ever pass through the Texas Legislature, what's left standing is the the third and final item that now lame-duck Governor Perry put on the Special Session call earlier this month.

With the passage of Senate Bill 2, the juvenile justice bill that makes Texas compliant with the Supreme Court's Miller decision ensuring that the state doesn't kill the minors it prosecutes, and HB 2 the notorious abortion bill, transportation funding is the only thing left to pass this special session. There is no clear roadmap as to how this will happen though.

There is some serious doubt about whether HJR 2 the transportation amendment, and HB 16, the enabling legislation, will pass on Thursday. After eight hours of debate yesterday on HJR 2, the House voted to pass the measure, but it only received 92 votes, which is enough for the bill to pass onto 3rd reading but not enough to put it on the ballot. A House Joint Resolution, which amends the constitution, needs a 2/3 majority to pass and in the House that's 100 votes.  

Read more about the problems transportation funding faces below the jump.  The House is meeting again this Thursday at 2pm to pass the two bills onto third reading. The leadership will have to find 8 more votes until then. If that does not happen, perhaps they could attempt to pass SJR 1, the Senate's version of of the Transportation bill that has already passed through the full Senate. The House, instead of passing SJR 1 when it got to House Appropriations created their own solution to the transportation funding issue, hence HJR 2 and HB 16.

Instead of only taking money from the Rainy Day Fund, like SJR 1 does, HJR 2 does that and creates a new avenue of funding from the motor vehicle sales tax, to directly fund roads and construction. HJR 2 and HB 16 will be sent to the Senate if they pass the House on Thursday. It is not clear that there is a large political will to get any of these passed, since the Senate has already “done their part” so to speak, in terms of moving legislation. Moreover it's not clear which version is going to be acceptable to the Governor.  

Yesterday during the House floor debate Representative Sylvester Turner offered up an important amendment noting that this resolution should not go into effect if and only if the motor fuel tax fraud investigation efforts have been fully funded. This is insanely important for the obvious reason that there should not be fraud in a measure that the legislature is about to pass, and moreover the amendment is in direct aftermath of Perry's veto of of funding from the Public Integrity Unit. Currently the future of investigatory agency is uncertain because Perry line item vetoed the funding for the PUI in the budget.

One thing is clear: Rs do not agree and do not have a consensus about the funding of transportation, so they will need democratic votes to get it passed. We will see how amenable Ds will be after the abortion bills.  

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About Author

Chaille Jolink

Chaille Jolink was born and raised in Austin, Texas and has more than a decade of experience working in Texas politics. Her interest began when she was a Senate Messenger in 2003, and she's since worked for several different legislators and candidates. She started reporting in 2007 for GalleryWatch.com, and has been a contributor to several different publications. Chaille is a graduate of the University of Texas and enjoys fashion, baseball, and playing any team sport. Chaille tweets @ChailleMcCann.

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