Not a Wuss
Fri March 30, 2007 12:40 am

"Here to the Bitter End" posted a comment to the blog saying that I was a wuss for going to bed. Except that I didn't. I've been trying to find out whether the Rs are going to try to move to reconsider the vote by which the Noriega teacher pay raise passed. They have 24 hours to move to reconsider, but I don't think many folks are going to be around for most of those 24 hours. I've been told that they are not going to try to turn the vote around ... I just heard Kolkhorst move to reconsider, but it was one of her own amendments, which she then withdrew ... anyway, the Rs were concerned that the Strama amendment would be even harder to defeat.

The Rs lost the vote on the Noriega amendment, but I don't think it was winnable. Almost all Democrats and a sizeable chunk of Republicans are in tune with the education community on issues like pay raises, which means that they don't see incentive raises as "real" raises. I sort of see things that way myself. I'd rather have a fixed raise than have Evan tell me he'll give me a bonus for stories that win awards. I'd rather not have my income dependent upon stupid writing contest judges. I don't think that incentive pay is bad; I just don't think it's a substitute for real raises. For all that the Legislature has had to deal with education issues over the past three years, the House has never had a debate on merit pay/incentive pay/excellence pay, or whatever you want to call it. It voted on the conference committee report, up or down, last year.

What is going on now is not democracy's finest moment: an orgy of pork, one little amendment after another. Mercifully, Chisum is just accepting them right and left--even Burnam amendments. No doubt they will have the lifespan of a mosquito once they get to conference committee. Craddick is on automatic pilot, rolling along like it's a local calendar. Still, I'd say he's come through the day pretty well, after getting ruffled early in the day over Democrats' complaints that they should be able to revise amendments that had been improperly drafted. He lost the veterans commission vote (see earlier post), and lost the teachers salary vote, and had to deal with a Heflin amendment prohbiting the expenditure of any tax dollars on school vouchers. He didn't make a big deal of the latter and let it go through. He tested the water on reconsidering the teacher pay raise and wisely left it alone.

The only excitement left is the vote to pass HB 1 to third reading. The Democrats would like to vote against the bill, but it may be too good for some of them to vote against. For once, the Ds didn't have to fight against cuts in Health and Human Services; indeed, they even got help from Republicans like Fred Hill in fending off efforts by Linda Harper-Brown to knock 16,000 children of LEGAL immigrants off the CHIP rolls. The vote against her proposal was 136 to 5. She tried to withdraw her amendment, but the House shouted VOTE VOTE and administered the rebuke.

We have just hit amendment #298. Members stopped saying anything other than, "It's acceptable to the author" long ago. 1:42 a.m. The end is in sight. Anybody who makes a long speech for or against tonight (Garnet, are you listening?) will not be popular.

Two more amendments, then speak for or against.

Chisum to close: I know the hour is late.

Coleman (as predicted): I understand conference committee. Let me say this first of all. I think this was a very good process tonight and the way people work with folks on amendments. The working with is not the reason why I'm standing up here. There are items that have to do with public policy, and that is why I'm standing up here. The one thing that has happened in the last four years, when you look at the item, is that everything is based on 2001 levels. We took two steps backward and now, today, we're taking one step forward, not two. We're still not spending enough on textbooks. We had a long discussion on Texas grants, but since 2003, 2,848 fewer students will be served by the Texas grants program. There were 529,000 kids enrolled in CHIP and now there are 325,000 kids enrolled in CHIP. The best way to cut a service is to keep everything the same and then see the world pass you by. In 2003, 10 billion dollars went away, and 10 billion dollars has not come back. I'm more hopeful than I ever have been. It's a reluctant no vote, but not because of a lack of intent by the people who have worked hard. A lot of progress has been made, and I can't vote for this bill, but I give an attaboy to the process.

Dunnam ON the bill: I want to vote for this bill. I haven't voted for a bill since 2001. But the thing that disturbs me is not in the room. That denied us the opportunity to really talk about the priorities of the state. Eight billion dollars was kept out of the room. Eight billion dollars we could have used to really fund Texas grants. Eight billion dollars would have allowed us to decide whether fully funding the CHIP program is the will of this house. I think that the realization that this House would have fully funded CHIP is why that eight billion dollars stayed outside this room. It may have allowed us to pay down the state debt, do something to shore up the teacher retirement system. If we had had that 8 billion dollars, we would have done that. Although I would like to vote for a budget for the state of Texas, I'm not sure I can vote for this one.

Chisum is thanking Guillen, his members, his staff...

I think Dunnam should vote for the bill. You can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This is so much better than what has gone before that he should vote for it. Maybe he feels that he can't, as the leader of the opposition.

Gallego: all of us we be remiss if we didn't say thank you for working with us on amendments, for actually talking to us.

I do think that Gallego put his finger on it: Chisum really did treat the Democrats as legitimate members of the House with legitimate concerns.

Craddick: Warren, you've done a great job, and all of us want to thank you very much.

The clerk will ring the bell.

Chisum: I move passage.

113 ayes, 16 nays, House Bill 1 passes to engrossment.

Now the supplemental appropriation bill. $716.9 million to pay our bills. Emergency appropriations has Texas Southern repairs, and other things.

Eiland and Taylor have an amendment to cover $13M spent by UTMB in Galveston to evacuate from Hurricane Rita. Chisum opposes. Sorry, Warren, I'm in the tank on this one, since I'm B.O.I. (That's "Born on the Island." At UTMB.) I move passage. Motion to table fails, amendment accepted. This one passes 144-0.

Chisum moves that the House stand adjourned until 3 a.m. That's in 2 minutes.

Mr. Burka has a substitute motion to adjourn immediately. Carried.

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