In a surprise ending to the second-to-last day of the legislative session, the House failed to pass the so-called sunset safety net bill, HB1959, before the midnight deadline tonight for the chamber to approve bills.
The bill would allow agencies like the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of Insurance and others that were supposed to be sunset this year to continue even though lawmakers failed to pass legislation renewing the agencies.
State Rep. David Liebowitz, D-San Antonio, first tagged the bill and then asked questions about the bill right up until the midnight deadline.
But it’s not like Texas can go without a state transportation agency. So without some sort of legislation to keep it going for the next two years, Gov. Rick Perry would likely have to call lawmakers back to get the job done in a special legislative session.
House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said he would work tonight to find some way to revive the bill Monday, the final day of the 140-day legislative session.
“We’ve got one more day,” Straus said.
Apparently, this was a deliberate decision to allow some other bills that had been lost in the last-minute stampede to get a second chance, though there were also some objections to the substance of the bill.
Several members said a group of Democrats decided to go through with the bold maneuver as a way to force other issues to get a vote tomorrow, most notably pushing for an expansion of the Childrens Health Insurance Program (even though Perry has already vowed to veto that measure).
Since the deadline was midnight tonight, members can only take up any bills Monday if 2/3s of the House agree to do so. It’s unclear whether the votes are there.
When asked if he was surprised by how the day ended, Straus said, “Nothing surprises me. What’s a little chaos before we go home.”
A vote came up for members to consider not adjourning and pushing back the deadline. The vote failed 86 to 56.
At this point, who knows what’s going to happen? All I can say is I sure hope HB1959, at least, gets a vote. One of the bills that this tactic was meant for was SB2080, which had become the vehicle to save the CHIP expansion provision. It passed the Senate unanimously last night but didn’t come to the House floor in time for a vote. I gather there’s optimism about the possibility of taking one last crack at these things today, and given how the entire session has gone, I’m loath to make predictions about one bill or another’s demise. I’m not even sure if I should be applauding or cringing. Elise and Floor Pass have more.