Gov. Rick Perry is being pressed to add issues ranging from children’s health care to voter identification to the agenda of the special session that begins Wednesday, but his answer is still no.
Perry, a Republican, made clear when he called the session last week that he wants lawmakers to take just a few days to complete must-do business left undone in the regular session, then be gone.
He hasn’t changed his mind, spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said Monday: “The governor has already announced what will be addressed during the special session and at this time doesn’t have any intentions to expand the call.”
“At this time” certainly leaves wiggle room for him. There have been plenty of other bills filed for the session in the event the Governor uses that wiggle room, including a CHIP expansion provision that already has majority support in the House. Unfortunately, what it doesn’t have is Perry’s support, so I wouldn’t hold my breath. As for voter ID, the best assurance we’ve got right now is this sentiment:
Rep. Betty Brown, R-Athens, said she has asked Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus for a commitment to address voter ID in the special session.
Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said he hasn’t – and won’t – ask Perry to add the issue: “I want to get in here and get it over with and get back home.”
Amen to that. House Speaker Joe Straus has a vision for how that will happen.
[Monday], three House bills [were] pre-filed that correspond to Gov. Rick Perry’s agenda: The Sunset scheduling bill for the transportation, insurance, racing and two smaller agencies; authorization of $2 billion in transportation bonds and creation of the Texas Transportation Revolving Fund, and extension of comprehensive development agreements to build roads.
On Wednesday, the Legislature will convene at 10 a.m. Those House bills will promptly be assigned to three House committees — Appropriations, State Affairs and Transportation— for the required public hearings.
On Thursday, the House is expected to have its first calendar for consideration. Committees are expected to have approved the bills the previous day, if everything goes on schedule.
On Friday, “if it is the will of the members to do so, we will conclude our business.”
According to the Straus memo, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, will author the transportation bond bill; state Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, chairman of the Sunset Advisory Bill, will carry the Sunset bill, and Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, will carry the so-called CDA bill.
To expedite the three-day express schedule, a special briefing for House members and their staffs will be held at 1:30 Tuesday in the Capitol Auditorium to answer questions about the bills.
The question is what happens if one item on the call doesn’t get swift approval?
arried a bill that would have extended by six years the legal authority for TxDOT and regional mobility authorities to sign what have usually been 50-year contracts with private companies to build and operate (and profit from) tollways on public land. Authority for such leases expires Sept. 1.
The general understanding was that the legislation’s final passage was dependent on approval of a separate bill by state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, that would put limits on such contracts. Both bills passed the House and Senate, either with their original bill numbers or as part of the main TxDOT bill that died late in the session.
The question is, will that linkage still be the case in the special session? Nichols said Monday that it had better be, or the toll road item could end up in the ditch.
“I feel very strongly about it, and so do many” other senators, Nichols said.
Carona said Monday that he could see eliminating at least some of what Nichols had in mind if a toll road lease extension were passed that applied to only a handful of projects for which officials have already decided who — TxDOT or local toll authorities — will be in charge of the projects. That list reportedly includes extending the Texas 130 tollway north from Georgetown to Hillsboro, building the new Interstate 69 from south of Refugio to the Rio Grande Valley and adding toll lanes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
However, even in those cases, Carona said, “you’d have to have at least put some protections in there.”
So, what would Perry do if something close to [Nichols' bill] were attached to the extension legislation in the special session? Some officials said that such an amendment could be determined to be outside the scope of Perry’s call. Nichols disagrees with that.
Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said Perry’s staff is talking with Nichols’ office to discuss his concerns.
Carona said, “One source in the governor’s office indicated that any bill that contained the Nichols language would be vetoed. Another said that’s not necessarily so.”