The 85th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature adjourned for the last time on Monday afternoon. While lawmakers did agree on the state’s budget, there were still some major pieces of legislation left unaddressed.
Saturday, the both chambers consented to a compromise budget bill, presented by a conference committee made up of Senators and House members.
Rep. John Zerwas and Sen. Jane Nelson were the main budget-writers, and led the conference.
The $217 Billion budget relies on $1 Billion from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, commonly called the “Rainy Day Fund.”
The House had previously wanted to take $2.5 Billion while the Senate didn’t want to touch the fund at all.
In fact, in a video released on April 28, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who leads the Senate, said:
“The purpose of the [Rainy Day Fund] is to pay our bills when we have a recession. It also can be used for one-time expenses, paying down debt, or disaster relief,” said Patrick. “But one thing it should never be used for is ongoing expenses like adding personnel or programs just to fill in the operating gaps of an ongoing budget. That’s not its purpose.”
“If we do that, in a few years, the Rainy Day Fund could be totally depleted and we wouldn’t have the resources needed for tough times that may be ahead.”
So when the Senate passed its version of the budget, it made up for the shortfall by using an accounting trick that Straus had called “cooking the books.” Rep. Giovanni Capriglione even filed a resolution to condemn the trick as illegal.
In the end, both chambers caved on their tough stance.
The Senate accepted the use of Rainy Day funds, and the House accepted diverting another billion dollars in expenses through the Senate’s accounting trick.
There were 14 votes against the budget in the House. This year, they were all Democrats. Last session, there were 33 votes against, and one of them was a Republican. The vote was as follows:
HOUSE: Record Vote on Compromise language for SB 1, State Budget (Passed)
Yeas — Mr. Speaker(C); Alonzo; Alvarado; Anderson, C.; Anderson, R.; Are´valo; Ashby; Bailes; Bell; Bernal; Biedermann; Blanco; Bohac; Bonnen, D.; Bonnen, G.; Burkett; Burns; Burrows; Button; Cain; Canales; Capriglione; Clardy; Coleman; Collier; Cook; Cortez; Cosper; Craddick; Cyrier; Dale; Darby; Davis, S.; Dean; Deshotel; Elkins; Faircloth; Fallon; Farrar; Flynn; Frank; Frullo; Geren; Gervin-Hawkins; Giddings; Goldman; Gonzales; Gonza´lez; Gooden; Guerra; Hefner; Hernandez; Herrero; Hinojosa; Holland; Howard; Huberty; Hunter; Isaac; Israel; Johnson, J.; Kacal; Keough; King, K.; King, P.; King, T.; Klick; Koop; Krause; Kuempel; Lambert; Landgraf; Lang; Larson; Laubenberg; Leach; Longoria; Lozano; Lucio; Martinez; Metcalf; Meyer; Miller; Moody; Morrison; Murphy; Murr; Neave; Neva´rez; Oliveira; Oliverson; Ortega; Paddie; Parker; Paul; Perez; Phelan; Phillips; Pickett; Price; Raney; Raymond; Rinaldi; Roberts; Rodriguez, J.; Romero; Rose; Sanford; Schaefer; Schofield; Schubert; Shaheen; Sheffield; Shine; Simmons; Smithee; Springer; Stephenson; Stickland; Stucky; Swanson; Thompson, E.; Thompson, S.; Tinderholt; Uresti; VanDeaver; Villalba; Vo; White; Wilson; Workman; Wray; Wu; Zedler; Zerwas.
Nays — Allen; Anchia; Davis, Y.; Dutton; Guillen; Gutierrez; Johnson, E.; Minjarez; Mun˜oz; Reynolds; Rodriguez, E.; Thierry; Turner; Walle.
Absent — Dukes.
SENATE: Record Vote on Compromise language for SB 1, State Budget (Passed)
Journal not posted at the time of this publishing. We will update soon.
After passing the budget, there was little real work for lawmakers to do over the weekend, besides pat themselves on the back and make some final procedural approvals on compromise legislation.
But there were still moments of drama, such as when Speaker Joe Straus and LG Patrick held dueling press conferences Friday evening.
Straus took to the cameras to complain publicly about Patrick’s insistence on passing SB 6, the bathroom bill. He informed reporters the House was done working on the issue. The House had previously passed a measure which Patrick deemed a do-nothing bill. It allowed transgender students to use single-use restrooms in public schools. Watch the Straus Press Conference >here<
The Senate’s bill was much stronger and stemmed from cities like Houston, Austin, and others around the country pushing ordinances that required private businesses to accommodate for transgender patrons by providing gender neutral restrooms.
SB 6 would have prohibited cities in Texas from adopting such ordinances, and would have required students in public schools to use the restrooms designated for their biological sex.
When Straus declared the House’s stance on the issue, Patrick responded with his own presser, saying he would hold important “sunset” legislation in the Senate and let it die if Straus did not act. Watch the Patrick Press Conference >here<
Patrick knew that if the state agency sunset legislation died, Governor Greg Abbott was more likely to call a special session, and force lawmakers back to work for up to 30 more days. Of course, in a special session, the clock would be reset, and Patrick would theoretically more time to get his priority legislation passed.
The other Senate priority was property tax reform (SB 2). Again, the House had passed a weaker version that Patrick called out in his presser as insufficient. This could be another issue in the presumed special session.
Abbott told reporters Monday that he would make his decision on a special session later in the week.
Monday also saw passions flare as protesters against SB 4 flooded the Capitol. SB 4 – now law – requires all cities and counties in Texas to cooperate with federal immigration officers. Its known as the crackdown on so-called “Sanctuary Cities.”
The crowds filled the House gallery with banners, and hurled shouts and chants down on lawmakers on the floor. Watch the video of the chaos >here<
Many of the protesters claimed openly to be illegal immigrants.
Man protesters were carrying signs made by the AFL-CIO union, as you can see below.
At one point, Rep. Matt Rinaldi said he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement on those protesters. Several Democrats surrounded Rinaldi, and at least one – Rep. Poncho Nevarez – allegedly assaulted him and threatened to attack him the parking lot.
Rinaldi responded that if Nevarez attempted to do so, he (Rinaldi) would shoot him.
Rinaldi is now under the protection of the Department of Public Safety.
You can watch a video of the incident by clicking >here<
So it was a legislative session filled with fireworks that ended with yet another bang.
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