In a last-minute legislative meltdown, the Texas Senate adjourned Monday night without passing key measures to avert a shutdown of the Texas Department of Transportation and other state agencies, raising the specter of a special session this summer.
The sticking point was $2 billion in transportation bond funding that the House failed to pass before gaveling out the 2009 regular session a few hours before the Senate.
Angry Republican senators said it was preferable to quit and let Gov. Rick Perry call the Legislature back into a 30-day special session to continue the agencies and pass the bonds. Several Democrats argued against the move, saying it was dangerous to begin the shutdown process of major agencies.
Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, blamed the House for the 11th-hour unraveling of the session — saying the chamber acted irresponsibly by adjourning sine die — the Latin phrase used to describe the final day of the session.
“The House had the ability to act,” he said. “They went sine die after destroying the bulk of four and a half months of work that passed through this body.”
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said it was foolish to allow tension between the two chambers to derail the session. Both the transportation agency and the Texas Department of Insurance would face a shutdown by September 2010 unless Perry calls the Legislature back into session to reauthorize their existence.
“I don’t think the people of the state of Texas care if the Legislature is doing a ping-pong across the rotunda of blame, of ‘no you did it, no you did it’ “ she said. “I’m afraid that we are shirking our responsibility.”
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst made it clear senators wanted the transportation bonds passed.
“We’re all upset about it,” Dewhurst said. “That came as a little bit of a surprise.”
The only opinion that matters at this point is Rick Perry’s, and as of this posting he hasn’t said anything publicly yet. If he calls the Lege back, he can get them to take another crack at passing voter ID. But
he can’t raise money while the Lege is in session, which one presumes might matter to him, and it’s not clear what he might want the Lege to achieve with some of this stuff, most notably the TDI. Like I say, hell if I know. BOR has more.
UPDATE: My bad, he can raise money during a special. But so far, at least, he’s not sounding like he wants to call one.
Said Perry spokesperson Allison Castle: “Tonight’s action in the Senate will not impact the business of state agencies. These agencies will continue to conduct business as usual and serve the people of Texas. This has been a successful legislative session and there is still important business to take care of during the next 20 days of evaluating legislation that has passed this session.”
I hope he stays true to that.