Here is a sample of bills that will die tonight if the impasse is not resolved. * The electric co-op reform bill * Eminent domain * Averitt’s clean air bill * TDI sunset * Enabling legislation for $5 billion in highway construction bonds * Informed consent for abortion * Solar energy incentive program * Windstorm insurance (Hurricane season begins Monday) * Dewhurst’s overhaul of health care (SB 6, 7, 8 ) * Unemployment insurance * Flores’ enabling act creating a homestead exemption for disabled veterans * Criminal asset forfeiture reform (to prevent the abuses that took place in Tenaha) * Constitutional authorization for bonds for water projects and the state water plan * Watson’s renewable energy bill * Voter I.D. There has been a great deal of discussion about whether each party is acting according to the rules. The answer is yes. The Senate Republicans acted within the rules when they set Voter I.D. by special order. The House Democrats are acting within the rules to slow-play the local calendar. The rules are neutral. They are there for anyone to use. Or to misuse. The issue is the effect of how the rules are being used. What the Senate Republicans did, and what the House Democrats are doing, is to abuse the process. That is wrong. It was wrong when the Republicans did it in the Senate, and it is wrong when the Democrats are doing it in the House. The process–and by that I refer to the machinery for civil debate, which includes not only what happens inside the Capitol, but involves people all over Texas who work for two years to make Texas a better place–is all that stands between the Legislature and chaos. What we have now is chaos. What the Democrats did was ingenious. They used the rules to turn the Local and Consent Calendar into a blocker bill, and they are holding it hostage to kill Voter I.D. This gives them the leverage to dictate what amounts to a ransom note to Republicans: If the Republicans want to see their bills alive again, they must agree to suspend the rules to allow bills to be debated in the order that the Democrats want them to be debated — in particular, putting TDI Sunset ahead of Voter ID. This is a deal the Republicans cannot accept: allowing the Democrats to serve, in effect, as the Calendars committee. The precedent is terrible. There is nothing to stop a willful group of legislators from doing this in any future session. One Democrat for whom I have great respect blames Republicans for refusing to compromise on Voter I.D. What the Democrats fail to see, and what they have failed to see from the beginning, is that they have no leverage to force a compromise. They pulled a power play when they don’t have any power. They don’t have the governor’s office, they don’t have the light gov, and they don’t have the speaker. The Republicans don’t have to compromise on Voter I.D. They can just wait for a special session. The inevitable result is that all the Democrats will accomplish is to lose all the good work they accomplished–they ran circles around the Republicans all session when it came to crafting legislation–and Voter I.D. will become law anyway. Their best shot was to allow Voter I.D. to come to a vote and try to defeat it. Now they have nothing.
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Weekly dispatches from the middle of the road of Texas politics.
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