How the Water Bill Dried Up

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It was a wild night in the House yesterday as Democrats and Republicans battled over their respective priorities: water, for Republicans and education, for Democrats. The leadership could not get the votes for taking money out of the Rainy Day Fund for water—even though Perry came out for doing so in a mid-day GOP caucus. The reality of the House is that many members, particularly those in the last two classes, still fear their own constituency (and enforcers like MQS) more than Perry or Straus.

Democrats seemed to suffer a collective memory loss during the debate. They forgot they are the minority party and argued strenuously that education should be a higher priority than water. Harold Dutton, for example, had an amendment to an amendment to set this in stone: any money taken from non-dedicated general revenue would not come from education. Dutton’s amendment went down. Stripped of their moral argument, Democrats resorted to the more familiar tactics of of carpet-bombing the chamber with parliamentary inquiries and points of order. They are very good at this, as was proven when a Sylvester Turner point of order had to be sustained by the parliamentarian. “And there were lots more where that came from,” Rafael Anchia chortled to me as members began to file out of the chamber.

I thought that the rules had been revised to limit the use of parliamentary devices, but apparently not. And perhaps they shouldn’t be. The minority has few armaments to take into battle, and parliamentary maneuvers are among the scant assets available to them. Yvonne Davis was particularly sharp in her turn at the microphone. The Republicans had stumbled, they had run up against a hard deadline that falls on the 118th day of the session, and the Democrats caught them speeding in the rules zone.

Still, my sympathies in this brouhaha lie totally with the Republicans. Straus and Pitts have bent over backward to restore the education cuts. They didn’t restore all of them, but they came pretty close. Now, when the leadership wants to enact its top priority, all they hear from the Democrats is that their priority is more important than the leadership’s. It reminds me of a saying that I heard in the tumultuous first year of the Craddick speakership: “The Republicans haven’t learned how to be the majority, and the Democrats haven’t learned how to be the minority.”

AP Photo | Jae C. Hong

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