Spe­cial ses­sion looms if deals not made in 70 days

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS -

In 1990, a Demo­cratic mem­ber of the U.S. House named Al Swift was quoted in D.C.-area me­dia re­ports as say­ing “Repub­li­cans are the op­po­si­tion, but the Se­nate is the en­emy.”

That line re­mains a shrewd ob­ser­va­tion to­day.

Though par­ti­san­ship is a con­sid­er­able fac­tor in any leg­isla­tive body, noth­ing unites a leg­isla­tive body like the dis­dain it has for its coun­ter­part.

There are about 70 days left in the 2017 bi­en­nial leg­isla­tive ses­sion. To­mor­row, we will be at the ex­act mid­point of the 140-day leg­is­la­ture. Let’s take stock of where Gov. Greg Ab­bott’s four emer­gency items stand:

Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices re­form: It has passed both the House and the Se­nate. ar­gue would cripple many re­gional uni­ver­si­ties and re­duce fund­ing for some fa­cil­i­ties.

School choice: The Ed­u­ca­tion Sav­ings Ac­count bill, SB 3, au­thored by Se­nate Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee Chair­man Larry Tay­lor, R-Friendswood, was heard in com­mit­tee last Thurs­day. I ex­pect that it will pass the Se­nate, although House Ed­u­ca­tion chair­man Dan Hu­berty, R-Hous­ton, has said he does not be­lieve it has the sup­port to pass the House.

School fi­nance: On March 6, Hu­berty un­veiled a $1.6 bil­lion plan as a “first step” to fix the state’s school fund­ing sys­tem. The Texas Tri­bune re­ported that the bill “would boost per-stu­dent fund­ing for nearly ev­ery pub­lic and char­ter school in the state while re­duc­ing the amount of money wealth­ier school dis­tricts are re­quired to give up to buoy poorer ones.”

Ride-hail­ing: Last week the House and Se­nate held com­mit­tee hear­ings on bills that would over­rule city or­di­nances reg­u­lat­ing ride-hail­ing.

Texas Pri­vacy Act: The Se­nate passed SB 6, which re­quires all Tex­ans to use the bath­room of their bi­o­log­i­cal sex in gov­ern­ment build­ings, uni­ver­si­ties and schools. House lead­ers have ex­pressed se­ri­ous con­cerns about the leg­is­la­tion and its po­ten­tial ef­fect on the state’s econ­omy.

Pay­check pro­tec­tion: Se­nate State Af­fairs chair­woman Joan Huff­man, R-Hous­ton, and state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Hous­ton, both have bills to re­quire la­bor unions in Texas to col­lect their own dues in­stead of the state col­lect­ing for them.

In the end, the House will hold back Se­nate bills and the Se­nate will hold back House bills — and both sides will need to cut a deal to avoid a spe­cial ses­sion.

The gov­er­nor has been crys­tal clear on his four emer­gency items. At least pub­licly, he has been less clear on the re­main­ing hot but­ton is­sues.

What gets done? What is left un­done? Will there be a spe­cial ses­sion? How does this play in pri­mary and gen­eral elec­tions next year? Stay tuned.

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