Perry's Veto Axe Comes Down

Democrats and Republicans of all stripes and experience hit

Rick Perry: Out with the veto red pen
Rick Perry: Out with the veto red pen (Photo by Richard Whittaker)

Just before he took off for the weekend, Gov. Rick Perry delivered his final 'screw you' of the 83rd Regular session, issuing a grand total of 28 vetoes of bills passed. He was an equal opportunity bill killer, hitting Democrats, Republicans and even the Tea Party fringe equally.

The most headline-grabbing burst of red ink was his decision to cut $7.5 million in funding in Senate Bill 1 (the state budget) for the Public Integrity Unit. That's the only office in Texas charged with investigating lawmakers. In his veto statement, Perry praised the unit, but still gutted its funding in his attempts to get Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to quit.

In his veto statement, he displayed an intriguing lack of understanding of the purpose of an independent investigator, writing, "This unit is in no other way held accountable to state taxpayers, except through the State budgetary process." Er, isn't that the point? That it is not subject to the whims of his office or, as has been less-than-subtly pushed by some Republicans, the heavily politicized office of Attorney General Greg Abbott? There have already been rumblings that slashing these funds could derail the ongoing investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, one of Perry's most prized and controversial pet projects.

However, that's not the only place he unilaterally cut spending. Some of the changes to SB1 are housekeeping issues, striking out riders that depended on other bills that did not pass. Others, such as striking out $1.5 million for aquifer research by the Houston Area Research Council, seem more arbitrary. The supplemental appropriations in House Bill 1025 also underwent selective line item veto, including $5.25 million in higher education construction cash (arguably now a much bigger issue since lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on Tuition Revenue Bonds.)

Democrats and, well, anyone that believes in equality, are particularly furious that Perry decided to veto HB 950, aka the state version of the Federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. It cracked down on employers that discriminated against female employees, and extended the time for filing a wage discrimination grievance. In a statement, bill sponsor Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, wrote, "Texas families all across our state – whether they are supported by single mothers or by working mothers and fathers – deserve to be paid fairly for the work they do. By vetoing the equal pay for equal work bill, Governor Perry shows a callous disregard for wages required to support Texas families."

Perry continues to play a fascinating game when it comes to public education. After threatening to veto the accountability and graduation reforms in HB 5 and then blinking, he has risked the ire of two major education blocks. First, suburban parents by crossing out out HB 2824, which allowed the 20 districts in the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium to cut the number of exams taken in grades three through eight. Second, educators and policy wonks who backed HB 2836, which would require the state to prove the value of STAAR tests and the State Board of Education.

However, one of the most institutionally significant vetoes may be SB 219, the Ethics Commission Sunset Bill. Unlike most agencies, Ethics is a constitutional entity and so cannot be closed just because its Sunset Bill fails. However, Perry did clip the wings of this reform measure, because he was annoyed that Railroad Commissioners would have to resign before running for another office.

On the numbers:
– Out of the 28 bills vetoed, 15 were Republican-authored and Republican sponsored; 10 were by Democrats; And the remaining three were bipartisan measures.
– The biggest single loser seems to have been Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, who faced the veto on three bills (two as author, one as senate sponsor.)
– Austin lawmakers lost two bills, both via Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo (yup, courtesy of the stupidity of gerrymandering, Laredo and South-East Austin are in the same senate district.) She and Rep Mark Strama, D-Austin, worked together on that rarest of things: A tax bill that passed with bipartisan support. SB 1606 would have clarified the law so that, if an taxing entity attaches a tax lien, it could be enforced on property in all jurisdictions, not just that of the entity. Zaffirini also sponsored HB 535, the "buy American" bill authored by Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, and inexplicably vetoed by Perry.

Here are the full list of House and Senate bills vetoed:

Senate Bills

SB 1: General Appropriations Bill. Author Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands; Sponsor Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie.

SB 15: Relating to the governance of public institutions of higher education in this state. Author Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo: Sponsor Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas.

SB 17: Relating to the training in school safety of certain educators of a school district or an open-enrollment charter school authorized to carry a concealed handgun on school premises. Author Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston; Sponsor Rep. Fletcher, R-Cypress.

SB 219: Relating to ethics of public servants, including the functions and duties of the Texas Ethics Commission; the regulation of political contributions, political advertising, lobbying, and conduct of public servants; and the reporting of political contributions and expenditures and personal financial information; providing civil and criminal penalties. Author Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston; Sponsor Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton.

SB 227: Relating to the dispensing of aesthetic pharmaceuticals by physicians and therapeutic optometrists; imposing fees. Author Williams; Sponsor: Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simmonton.

SB 346: Relating to reporting requirements of certain persons who do not meet the definition of political committee. Author Seliger; Sponsor Rep. Charlie Geren, R-River Oaks

SB 429: Relating to the dismissal or nonsuit of a suit to terminate the parent-child relationship filed by the Department of Family and Protective Services. Author Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; Sponsor Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo.

SB 504: Relating to the requirement that certain schoolchildren be screened for abnormal spinal curvature. Author Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville; Sponsor Rep. Susan King, R-Abilene.

SB 722: Relating to eligibility to serve as an interpreter in an election. Author Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Dallas, sponsor Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas.

SB 889: Relating to the physician assistant board. Author Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio; sponsor Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Murphy.

SB 1234: Relating to the prevention of truancy and the offense of failure to attend school. Author Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston; Sponsor Rep Four Price, R-Amarillo.

SB 1606: Relating to ad valorem tax liens on personal property. Author Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; Sponsor Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin.

House Bills

HB 217: Relating to the types of beverages that may be sold to students on public school campuses. Author Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston; Sponsor Uresti.

HB 535: Relating to the preference given by state agencies to goods offered by bidders in this state or manufactured, produced, or grown in this state or in the United States. Author Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas; Sponsor Zaffirini.

HB 950: Relating to unlawful employment practices regarding discrimination in payment of compensation. Author Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston; Sponsor Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth

HB 1025: Relating to making supplemental appropriations and reductions in appropriations and giving direction and adjustment authority regarding appropriations. Author Pitts; Sponsor Williams.

HB 1090: Relating to the creation of Texas Task Force 1 Type 3 Rio Grande Valley and authorizing the creation of a Texas Task Force 2 by certain municipalities. Author: Rep. Mando Martinez, D-Weslaco; Sponsor Sen. Chuy Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

HB 1160: Relating to the transfer of a certificate of convenience and necessity in certain municipalities. Author Geren; Sponsor Nelson.

HB 1511: Relating to the rates of sales and use taxes imposed by municipalities; authorizing an increase or decrease in the rate of those taxes. Author Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio; Sponsor Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler.

HB 1982 Relating to the enterprise zone program. Author Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston; Sponsor Hinojosa

HB 1790: Relating to certain procedures for defendants who successfully complete a period of state jail felony community supervision. Author Rep. Oscar Longoria, D-Mission; Sponsor Hinojosa.

HB 2138: Relating to the board of directors of the Near Northside Management District and to the district's boundaries and territory. Author Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston; Sponsor Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

HB 2590: Relating to the foreclosure sale of property subject to an oil or gas lease. Author Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Granbury; Sponsor Eltife.

HB 2824: Relating to the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium. Author Rep. Bennett Ratliff, R-Carrollton; Sponsor Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney.

HB 2836: Relating to the essential knowledge and skills of the required public school curriculum and to certain state-adopted or state-developed assessment instruments for public school students. Author Ratliff; Sponsor Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston.

HB 3063: Relating to defense base development authorities. Author Rep. Jose Menéndez, D-San Antonio; Sponsor Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

HB 3085: Relating to the regulation of automotive wrecking and salvage yards in certain counties; increasing the civil penalty. Author Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston; Sponsor Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Palito Blanco

HB 3509: Relating to endangered species habitat conservation and to the creation of a board to oversee and guide the state's coordinated response to federal actions regarding endangered species. Author Bonnen; Sponsor Seliger.

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83rd Legislature, Rick Perry, Veto, Mark Strama, Judith Zaffirini, Rosemary Lehmberg, Public Integrity Unit, Travis County District Attorney, State Budget, Supplemental Appropriations, Buy American Bill, Lily Ledbetter Act, Fair Pay

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