Last night the appropriations conference committee stripped out the anti-vouchers amendment that Joe Heflin added on the House floor. Near the end of the afternoon session today, Jim Dunnam raised the issue in a parliamentary inquiry, pointing out the overwhelming vote (128-9) that the rider received. Lois Kolkhorst, who chaired the Article III subcommittee in the House, said that the rider was eliminated after it was determined that there was no need for it, that there were no more bills that could serve as vehicles for a vouchers program.
Yes, but … Dunnam said that voucher adherents believe that statutory authority exists for the education commissioner to establish a vouchers program by rule. He doesn’t agree, he added, but he didn’t believe that the governor could fast-track ten coal plants that affect his district, or require the HPV vaccine, but he did. Kolkhorst said that if Dunnam had something he could show her that was a real threat, she would go to the conference committee and ask that the rider be restored. Dunnam’s response was, “What’s the harm of putting it in?”
Here is the language of the rider, which is resting in intensive care:
It is the intent of the Legislature that none of the funds appropriated above [to TEA] may be spend to pay for a public education vouchers program or a public education vouchers pilot program if the program uses state tax dollars to pay for tuition vouchers for children in any grade between grade 1 through grade 12 to attend a private school.
Dunnam told me later that there is talk of the State Board of Education or TEA attempting to establish some kind of vouchers program by rule. It occurred to me during the fight over Perry’s executive orders that if he was allowed to govern through such orders, there would be nothing to stop him from implementing a vouchers program–except this rider. That raises another question: Does the governor have the authority to veto riders to the appropriations bill? Does anybody know?