Today is the pivotal moment of the session—a vote on HB 11, the funding bill for the water plan. The vote was preceded this afternoon by a meeting of the House Republican caucus, at which Rick Perry was in attendance. Afterward, he told reporters that the prudent thing to do was to use to the Rainy Day Fund to pay for the water plan. The bill, he said, “was far from perfect, but this is one way to address the most important problem facing our state.”
I am told that at this point, the Republicans have around 80 votes—not enough to pass the bill on third reading because using money from the RDF requires a vote of 2/3s of the members present (second reading requires only a simple majority). This is also the last point in the session when the Democrats will have any leverage. The moment the gavel falls to certify the final passage of HB 11, the Democrats will lose whatever power they have.
Sylvester Turner has been in heavy negotiations with Republicans. One plan he was supporting was to go with a 2 + 2 + 2 bill: $2 billion each for water, transportation, and education. But Republicans have pushed forward with water alone right now. In the meantime, Jim Pitts is concerned about a “nuclear bomb”—that is, attempts by Republicans to fund the water plan with general revenue, which would implode not only HB 11 but the budget. This is not an R vs. D issue; Democrats care about water too. But remember that all of this is occurring while the budget is in conference committee. As Pitts said, “If we pass HB 11 today [using GR], then you had better bring your scissors tomorrow.”
AP Photo | Tony Gutierrez