Lost in all the controversy over the Senate’s decision to adjourn Sine Die was the death of Sen. Judith Zaffirini’s SB 42. The bill addresses whether “proportionality” should be used in determining state contribution to community college retirement plans. It’s the sort of issue that makes your eyes glaze over, but is immensely important to community colleges. Zaffiniri fought Sens. Steve Ogden and Bob Duncan, who felt Zaffirini’s bill would inject a cost-driver into the state budget. Lots of important bills died, but I draw attention to this one because of a conversation I personally witnessed late in the afternoon of June 1.
I was speaking on the floor to Zaffirini about SB 42. She had collected 24 Senate signatures and had informed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst several days earlier she was ready to pass the bill. Despite repeated entreaties, Zaffirini was unable to get Dewhurst to recognize her on the bill. As we were talking, Dewhurst left the podium and and joined our conversation. I wasn’t taking notes but it went something like this:
Dewhurst: “Senator, I am going to recognize you on SB 42.”
Zaffirini: “Oh, good!”
Dewhurst: ”I was always going to to recognize you on it….” His tone was one of friendly rebuke that Zaffirini would doubt his intentions. It was an odd statement, given that Zaffiirini had been nagging Dewhurst for days to be recognized, and clearly had run into a brick wall.
It gets weirder.
Fast forward a few hours to the Dewhurst-Zaffirini exchange before Sine Die. Before Dewhurst recognized Sen. Troy Fraser for his motion to Sine Die Zaffirini asks if she will be recognized on SB 42. “The intention is to go through these bills unless the body moves differently,” Dewhurst responds. Zaffirini then states she would like to be recognized on SB 42 at the appropriate time.
Then he recognizes Fraser for his Sine Die motion.
Zaffirini asks: “Does that mean I will not be recognized on SB 42?”
Dewhurst, exasperated: “I answered your question earlier. I said you would be recognized subject to the will of the body.” Then he adds, “I told you earlier, before we gaveled in…”
This makes no sense to me, because, given Zaffirini had 24 signatures for her bill, it would seem the will of the body was to pass SB 42.
However you feel about the Senate’s reaction to the House Concurrent Resolution – or even community college retirement funding – you’ve got to wonder why Dewhurst didn’t recognize Zaffirini before Fraser in light of his promise to her that afternoon.