LegeLand: Mind Your Fingers and Your Vetoes

Bills lose life and limb on Perry's desk

With the legislative special session winding down, Gov. Rick Perry has revealed his body count of vetoed bills from the regular session. His office released the full report on Perry's final decisions on June 17. As expected throughout the session, the GOP's divisive agenda and slow-moving calendar meant that fewer bills than normal made their way to final passage. Lawmakers sent 1,509 bills to the governor's desk to be signed: That's down from the 1,706 approved by lawmakers in 2009 or the 1,726 that made their way to final passage in 2007.

Yet not everything goes on the statute books with the governor's John Hancock attached. Of the 1,509 bills passed, 27 did not receive the governor's signature, meaning they became laws without his formal approval. However, strike the 24 bills that he took the effort to veto. In a session that was marked by rancorous partisanship, Perry was willing to veto Republican, Democratic, and bipartisan bills from both chambers, and the reasons for their demise were varied. Explaining why he killed Senate Bill 167 by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, which would have expunged the criminal records of Texans exonerated by DNA evidence, Perry said that there were "technical citation problems" in the text. Taking a more political bent, he trashed former Republican Speaker Tom Craddick's ban on texting while driving in House Bill 242 because it was "a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults."

House Bill 990, authored by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and sponsored by Sen. Kirk Watson, also met its end on Perry's chopping block. "If the governor is going to veto one of my bills, I'm glad it's this one," said Rodriguez, who was also a sponsor on West's bill. The measure amended language about establishing a tax increment financing district in Travis County for affordable housing. As a favor to the Travis County Commis­sioners Court, Rodriguez offered to amend the legislation he authored in 2005 to clarify the court's role. Even without it, Rodriguez said, "If they're committed to affordable housing in central East Austin, I've given them all the tools that they need." He disagreed with Perry's claim that his district did not need extra financing authority because it is "not in a blighted area." Rodriguez said, "I'll have an open invitation for the governor to walk with me in East Austin and say that affordable housing isn't necessary."

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Rick Perry, Tom Craddick, Eddie Rodriguez, Kirk Watson, Legislature

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