Worst. Session. Ever.
With three days left, legislature hurtling to the abyss
By Richard Whittaker,
9:49AM, Fri. May 27, 2011
"Well the liberal media now has its sound bites–82nd Leg. most racist and sexist Leg. in history! This whole thing is disgusting! #txlege"
Hey, don't blame us. We didn't say it. That was Rep. Jose Aliseda, R-Beeville. But after yesterday's explosion of porn, infighting and collapsed deals, it may be the best car crash session ever.
Quick recap of what happened.
First up, the House and Senate were still in the throes of debate over school finance, and it seems that the Senate has rejected the House counter-counter-proposal to their counter-proposal on the all-important Senate Bill 1811. That makes a school finance special session all the more likely, which would make a budget special session more likely. What few people had noticed was that the long-overdue post-Katrina Texas Windstorm Insurance Association reform was also failing. Same reason as school finance (House and Senate cannot agree) but now Quorum Report is reporting that Gov. Rick Perry will call a special session to fix that as well.
However, even major to-ing and fro-ing on big bills will mean nothing if the budget cannot pass. Enter Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, who wrote a budget inquiry to Comptroller Susan Combs. It is Combs who must certify the budget if and when it is passed (basically she must find the holes in it): If she cannot do that, then it has to go back to the House. Coleman saved her some time by pointing out the big hole everyone knows about: "Will you certify $4.8 billion in Medicaid expenses if they are not paid for with revenue Texas can identify in its budget?"
It puts Combs (who is in a legal bind after accidentally leaking private data for millions of state employees and retirees) face-to-face with Hobson's Choice. Either she admits that the legislature is already planning to spend what is left of the Rainy Day Fund to fill that hole (meaning that all the claims from Perry et al that it will still be full in 2013 are nonsense) or she has to admit that the hole is there, that there are no plans in the submitted budget to cover it, and so this is an unbalanced and therefore unconstitutional budget.
These are all significant and inflammatory issues, but it may be the interpersonal politics that are getting the most heated.
A flier from tort reform mavens Texas Civil Justice League depicting a woman suckling a baby hitting the floor was what set off the powder keg. Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, was furious about what she saw as yet another low-grade attack on women by lobbyists (this time in an attack ad on a health insurance bill by Thompson.) She made an furious personal privilege speech (see the full video below), where she roared that "we have not earned this kind of disrespect."
She found unexpected support from none other than Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball. "Do you think that has this become standard operating procedure by some because of what goes on in this house, with the way some of the men have treated some of the women, with pornography on the floor of this House?" asked Riddle.
Cue the sound of 150 legislator necks getting whiplash. Porn on the floor? Wuh?
That was what had caused Aliseda's Tweet (or, as he calls them, "Toots".) Oh, and he had been having such a good day prior to that, joining the rest of the Hispanic Republican Conference of Texas in giving unannounced presidential candidate Perry their endorsement. They argued that he would be the best candidate on border affairs (a bit of a shift from when Hispanic Republicans tried to sell then-governor George W. Bush as the best candidate because he would push through immigration reform.)
Not to be outdown on the right-wing aspirations, Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, used Paul Burka's blog to float the rumor that he well be running for Kay Bailey Hutchison's US Senate. Not just that, but that he will make the announcement on Laura Ingraham's show today (Ingraham who is the right's darling after Ed Schultz called her a slut.) That morning drive-time treat just came on the air a few minutes ago as Patrick formally announced his exploratory committee. By the way, and coincidentally, Ingraham is carried in Houston on KSEV, which is also owned by none other than Patrick through his firm Patrick Broadcasting LP.
Now this comes after days of chest-beating between himself and the other big presumed US Senate candidate, Sen. David Dewhurst. Could explain why Patrick tried to claim the other day that he was protecting teacher jobs (a claim that made many reporters choke on their Wheaties.) However, the odds of him picking up any education votes are minimal, so the question now is how tight he is with professional blowhard Alex Jones. After all, Jones and his crew turned up at the Legislature the other day to yell about traitors and treason just as Patrick's anti-TSA groping bill got pulled.
Imagine it: The Perry/Patrick ticket. A man who does not understand the Supremacy Clause running for US Senate, and a governor that wanted to secede from the union running for president. And Dewhurst still has three days before sine die gets called on Monday to mess with both of them.
Here's Thompson's speech in full: