The quintessential controlled chaos that is known as the Texas Legislature became a little less controlled and a lot more chaotic this week, and things are surely to reach a tipping point between the two any day now.
This past week you had two different chambers controlled and operated by the same Republican Party tackling not only different policies and priorities but in some cases completely opposite viewpoints about the same issue.
The full Senate finally passed out Dan Patrick’s tax cuts, meanwhile House Budget writers are sending a $209.8 billion dollar budget to the House floor to be debated on Tuesday. The House Budget notably has left money on the table for tax cuts meanwhile the Senate budget actually spends more because it cuts property taxes and the franchise tax.
However Senator Nelson in one of those moments where I wonder what kind of budget writer she is stated that she didn’t intend for the tax cuts in the budget to count toward spending.
Senate Finance Chair Nelson: “It was always my intention that the tax relief provided in SJR1 would not be counted as spending.” #txlege
— EricaGrieder (@EricaGrieder) March 25, 2015
Hmm…. does this mean I can give myself a tax cut if I just charge my property taxes to my Visa? Score!
The House also managed to pass Rep. Tom Craddick’s bill that bans texting while driving statewide on Wednesday for a second time. Both chambers sent the bill to the Governor’s desk last session but the measure was vetoed by Governor good hair. Thursday the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics heard Rep. Phil King’s bill that permanently rezones and restructures the Travis County Public Integrity Unit to operate under the Texas Rangers. As you may know the Public Integrity Unity is the reason why Rick Perry is currently under indictment, so no need to worry this Integrity Unit is in clear need of reform and Rep. Phil King is on the job.
But all that fun aside, perhaps the most intriguing thing to come from the two chambers this week were the two vastly different approaches to public education. On Wednesday Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, chair of the House Public Education Committee announced a proposal to fully fund public education. This is a fascinating step in the right direction seeing as Texas’ current method of funding public education isunconstitutional. This has lead to an ineptitude of leadership from Republicans on the issue who might even claim to hate judicial activism but won’t make policy themselves until a court tells them to. Hopefully this ineptitude stops with Rep. Aycock.
But in a classic example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, the Senate Education committee the very next day heard three different bills that all deal with some form of school voucher programs. Senator Donna Campbell notably called the public school system a “monstrosity,” and Lt. Gov Dan Patrick even stopped by to show his support of the pro-voucher proposals with selfies.
Hmmm… so instead of giving our public schools a chance to succeed by adequately or even at least constitutionally funding them, Senator Campbell and her partner in crime Dan Patrick want to give money to businesses that fund their campaigns in the form of school vouchers. So while the House has a plan for Texas public school children, the Senate has selfies.
This obviously cues up a big fight in conference committees between the House and the Senate for the budget and for any public education spending bills. Let’s hope the logic of the House prevails.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, Chair of House Public Education who said the #txlege this week should not wait on the courts to decide what is right for Texas school children (from theTexas Tribune):
“We had to ask the fundamental question: Do we want to do what’s right for the state of Texas and the children of Texas, or do we want to sit around and try to play lawyer and outguess the courts?” Aycock told reporters at a Capitol news conference.