Waiting for the Vetoes
Let’s wait another week, until the 17th, the deadline for vetoing bills.
Even the usual “well informed sources” haven’t heard much. There is a lot of speculation that Perry will come close to breaking his own record of 83 vetoes, as a way of making the point that lawmakers should not dismiss him as a lame duck.
The two kinds of bills that bear the most watching are those that spend money and those that raise money. One story is that the axe will fall within Article 2, the section of the budget that funds health and human services. In Article 3 (education), Perry has previously indicated his opposition to “special items” in higher education. You’ll recall that the House requested some $160 million in special items late in the budget process, which the opposition to Tom Craddick believed was pure speaker politics. A senator showed me the list, and it looked to me as if the universities who benefitted the most were those who were already Craddick supporters. The Senate went along, but many of them wound up in Article 9, where they can be vetoed, as opposed to Article 3, where higher ed appropriations appear as a lump sum and cannot be vetoed without making a special session necessary. The biggest beneficiary of these late special items was Texas A&M, Perry’s alma mater, and it will be interesting to see whether A&M’s pet projects are spared while those of other universities get popped.
On the revenue-raising side, the Quorum Report has previously raised the red flag about a possible veto of the clean-up of the business tax. A veto would kill the increase in the small business deduction from $300,000 to $600,000, which is why I think Perry will sign the bill (unless he is looking for an excuse to have a special session).
One bill that everyone will be watching is Tommy Williams’ transportation bill that started life as a local bill and grew up to become the vehicle for the giant compromise on the moratorium on privatization of highways. Lawmakers in the negotiations say that the governor gave his word that he would sign the bill. I’m sure that Perry would love to veto the bill and take transportation policy back to current law. Here’s why he will think twice about doing so: Tx-DOT is scheduled to go through Sunset during this interim. Lois Kolkhorst is on the Sunset panel. If Perry vetoes Williams’ bill, Tx-DOT will be under siege from June 17 to sine die for the 81st Legislature.
One other category of endangered bills could be those passed by lawmakers Perry has it in for. Some possible candidates: Gary Elkins, who proposed a constitutional amendment providing for the Legislature to meet in special session for three days immediately after the veto period expires for the sole purpose of overriding vetoes; Senator Glenn Hegar has proposed an amendment Hegar’s constitutional amendment requiring gubernatorial appointees to state boards and commissions to immediately leave office when their term expires, until they are reappointed by the governor. (This would end Perry’s penchant for allowing controversial appointees whose terms have expired to hold onto their positions, sometimes for several years, without facing a confirmation vote. And the Senate could, by a two-thirds vote, revoke an appointment.) He might want to target the House Democrats who were active in the insurgency against Craddick, but, good luck finding any. Most of them didn’t get to pass many bills, or tacked their legislation onto the bills of friendly colleagues.
I have no inside information … well, maybe a little, but it’s old … about how many bills Perry might veto, but I’ll take the “under” on his previous record of 83. I’d put this session’s over/under number in the low fifties.