Perry's Pride: Not So Special Tally
Perry always declares victory, even when he loses
When the House called sine die on June 29 to wrap up the first called special session of the 82nd Legislature, Gov. Rick Perry said he was "proud" of what he, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Speaker Joe Straus, and lawmakers had achieved. But when Perry initially called for the special session on May 30, he did so with particular legislation in mind. He added to that list over the course of the session with several more proclamations, but how much of his agenda did he really achieve?
1) School finance: This was the big unfinished business from the regular session. Finally, to the satisfaction of apparently no one, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1, accompanied by school finance "reforms"; SB 2, releasing the actual funds for public education; SB 6, replacing the textbook allotment and the technology allotment with a combined instructional materials allotment; and SB 8, which grants schools districts a slew of new powers to unilaterally renegotiate teacher contracts. Texas AFT President Linda Bridges said that package "will roll Texas back toward the bad old days of arbitrary local personnel decisions based on cronyism."
2) Health care cost containment: SB 7 became an omnibus health care bill, restructuring Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program payments, while allowing Texas to receive its federal health care funding as a block grant via an interstate health compact.
3) Congressional redistricting: Lawmakers passed their version of the congressional redistricting map on June 20. It was one of the easiest parts of the session: After all, as House Redistricting Committee Chair Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, conceded in one hearing, this map will inevitably end up being challenged in court. So there was little impetus to achieve real representation.
4) The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association: TWIA is the insurer of last resort for 14 coastal counties, so everyone involved wanted to reform the problem-plagued agency. House Bill 3 increases the agency's solvency by giving it extra bond authority but, in classic tort reform style, reduces the right of customers to sue.
5) The Secure Communities Program (the issuance of driver's licenses and personal identification certificates and the abolishment of sanctuary cities): Just as it failed as an emergency item in the regular session, Perry's push to force law enforcement to inquire about immigration status failed when SB 9 died in the House State Affairs Committee. However, under a clause added to SB 1, Texans must now prove they are U.S. citizens or legal residents to renew their driver's licenses.
6) Pat-down measures: "Legislation relating to prosecution and punishment for the offense of official oppression of persons seeking access to public buildings and transportation." Much to the particular chagrin of tea partiers and Alex Jones devotees, the House and Senate failed to agree on the differing anti-Transportation Security Administration measures in HB 41 and SB 29. However, Perry tried to declare victory by claiming that the failed bill "initiate[d] a public discussion and some changes in airport security procedures."