Taxpayers delivered a strong message, urging fiscal restraint and responsible budgeting. But some lawmakers decided to ignore the call and are forcing the state into a special session that could cost taxpayers a million dollars or more. Or a lot more.
While the state budget was passed out of the Texas House and Senate on Saturday, a critical “funding” bill that included some school finance reforms died after the calendar deadline expired Sunday night. State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) filibustered the bill, SB 1811. (It had passed the House earlier in the evening.)
Her filibuster is not as impressive as it sounds, since the Senate didn’t take it up until fairly late in the evening. She really just gave a long talk and run down the clock.
A special session will need to be called by the governor, as provided in the state constitution. The governor sets the call of the session, meaning lawmakers can only address what he defines.
It can start as early as Tuesday, or as late as the end of the summer. Since the budget passed, all that is needed in a special is that financing portion that died in the Senate.
Obviously, Democrats like Sen. Davis hope they can force the Legislature to either dip into the Rainy Day Fund, or agree to new revenues. Both seem unlikely, but then, so did a special session just a few days ago.
A special session costs a million dollars or more to hold, with staff time and other costs. That’s money being spent that the taxpayers don’t have because Sen. Davis and her colleagues refused to finish the work they were sent to Austin to do.
But a special session could be even more costly, in terms of taxes and spending, if conservatives don’t hold the line.
On the other side of the Capitol, House Democrats managed to kill the Health Care Compact and other reform legislation by running out the clock. (The HCC legislation, attached to SB 8, had already completed it’s run through the Senate.)
Hopefully Gov. Rick Perry will take the opportunity the liberal-created train-wreck provides to call not only a session with strict budget-writing instructions, but also an opportunity for reforms like the HCC, spending limits and others to get a second chance at legislative life.