Sine Not Dead Yet

House leaves but Senate struggling with their final decision

Sens. Hinojosa (l) and Ogden with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: No Parties, but plenty of surprises
Sens. Hinojosa (l) and Ogden with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: No Parties, but plenty of surprises (Photo by Richard Whittaker)

Did anyone realize that the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate were in different time zones? Because it was sine die two hours ago in the House, and the Senate keeps breaking off into caucus meetings to fix the unfixable.

The problem comes in two halves. Firstly, the $2 billion in Prop. 12 bonds that the House never bothered to authorize before gaveling out. Secondly, the last major item of business: passing HCR 291.

It was a basically a safety net resolution to save the safety net bill that saved the Sunset requirements for Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Department of Insurance. The problem is that it sets a terrifically troubling precedent by allowing major statutes to be altered at the 11th hour by a resolution. The potential impact on future legislation is little short of monumental. Similarly, there are concerns that it could have severe consequences about the role of the Legislative Budget Board, and gives them too much power over the spending of federal stimulus dollars.

The HCR was what got Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, calling the issue about "the integrity of the House … When you violate the rules, the bite is always the same."

That echoed a similar comment from Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, who called it "a precedent that will come back to bite us."

Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, was equally furious. "We ought to be insulted that you call this a technical correction," she said. Ultimately, it passed 111-29, but there was a lot of nose-holding, and several of the more considered and thoughtful members of the House, incuding Reps. Scott Hochberg and Carl Isett, said no.

That the House walked, leaving these two surprises on his doorstep, was a little shocking for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. "I thought we were going to be coordinated between both chambers, so this is a little bit of a surprise," he said, adding that members didn't want to go home without getting all the enabling legislation for all the appropriated cash set up.

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81st Legislature, Texas House of Representatives, Sunset Advisory Commission, HCR 291

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