“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Friday, July 08, 2005

Pulling Your Lege

Sorry for the gap in reporting. Been meaning to get something out since the start of the special session.

What has basically happened over the past few weeks, for those of you who have been entranced by summer reading or hiding under a rock, is that your state government has failed once again at its most important responsibility, providing for the education of our children. House and Senate did finally pass bills for both appropriations and taxation for public education, though they were very different bills. Without going into much detail, the House bill was easily the less favorable bill. It provided teacher pay raises only based upon "merit" (an easily manipulated term of art), and a much more regressive tax structure. The chambers eventually compromised on a bill that was more based upon the Senate version (I'd give it a C-minus. grading on a curve), but Governor Mo' Fo' figured that wasn't regressive enough to satisfy the squirrel-food vote he will need in next year's Republican primary, and vetoed it.

Thus the need for the special session, known under the pink dome as the "79th legislature called session 1." Perry then unveiled his own plan, a sort of watered-down House version, and attempted a small-scale version of a Bush roadshow to promote it. Good thing for Gov. Getondowntheroad that he didn't opt for the whole-Bush version, because it worked just about as well. Lt. Gov. David Dewdropinn immediately criticized the plan for its failure to provide enough funds to meet anticipated expenses, as did Comptroller Carole Foghorn Leghorn, who announced her own candidacy for governor. House speaker Tom Crad-dick, ever eager to out-rubber-room the governor, said the plan didn't go far enough. Both houses proceeded to ignore the Perry plan, and both have recently passed bills very similar to the ones they passed during the regular session. The House version was passed much more narrowly, however, than was the Senate plan, suggesting that the Senate formula is again likely to have more impact on the final product.

A spectacular example of the arrogance of power now on the loose in Austin, especially in the regressive-dominated House, was recently revealed on the vote over HB3. HB3 is the tax plan needed to fund the school appropriations detailed in HB2. Unable to keep all his Republicans in line (the bill appeared to go down at first, and eventually passed by a single vote, with less than an absolute majority in favor), the speaker did what he knows best. He manipulated the vote, including putting the squeeze on Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) to vote yes, although he was formally committed to vote 'present' by House rules. Pitts had formally agreed (click here and scroll to the bottom of the article to view the signed document) to "pair" his vote with that of Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) who would have voted no, but wanted to be with her family on a trip to France. The bill is political dynamite, mainly because it raises the state sales tax 1%, to 7.25%, the highest rate in the country. The Austin-American Statesman today editorialized in complete opposition to this bill, which clearly does little to improve education, but gives wealthy landowners a tax break at the expense of everyone else.

Meanwhile, I'm pretty sure it was KFDA that last night interviewed AISD school superintendent Rod Schroeder. He opined that this was the first year in his memory that the possibility had even been discussed that school might not start on time, due to the legislative stalemate (sorry I couldn't find a link today on any local tv news site, and the Globe-Republican -- what, are you kidding me?). Is everybody ready for "79th legislature called session 2?"