Thursday, July 20, 2017

#TXLEGE: Abbott tosses Democrats a crumb to prevent quorum bust....


"In measure, by sending it away,
You contended with it.
He removes it by His rough wind
In the day of the east wind."
Isaiah 27:8

Governor Abbott has officially expanded the call...with a curve ball:
Texas legislators could end up passing bills to reform the state's school finance system and help out retired teachers this special session.

After the Senate voted early Thursday morning to pass a bill keeping several key state agencies alive, Gov. Greg Abbott immediately expanded the special session agenda by adding 19 items — and dramatically expanded the focus of two education-related priorities he had announced last month.

When Abbott announced his call for the special session in June, he said he would ask legislators to increase teacher pay by $1,000, and to establish a commission to recommend improvements to the beleaguered school finance system. The expanded call Thursday would allow legislators to pass bills improving a state-run health care plan for retired teachers and making major reforms to the school finance system, including the extension of a state aid program that would help mostly small, rural school districts.
Translation: Busting quorum is no longer a politically viable action for the Democrats.  If they were to bust quorum with school finance and TRS-care on the call, their base in the socialized education industrial complex would (justifiably) go bonkers.  Abbott knows this.

As to the substance of the issue...it's too early to tell.  In terms of broad philosophical alignment, we're favorably inclined to where the Lt. Governor and Larry Taylor want to go.  But on big, complicated, topics like school finance and TRS-care the devil will always be in the details.  Personally, we had planned on using the special session to move the philosophical discussion in the right direction while sweating those details closer to next session.  But the Governor's action changes that calculation.  Those details now matter a lot more.  We'll leave it at this: assuming, for the sake of discussion, that the house and senate are able to reach an agreement among themselves (*)...we want any 'compromise' bill that emerges from that process to be posted for at least 72 hours before it is voted upon in either chamber so that people (ie. this author) have a chance to read it.

Bottom Line: Theoretically, if a lot of conditions are met, we'd be willing to pass major school finance and TRS-care bills during the current special session.  But abstract theory and practical application are not the same thing.  And we will caution all interested parties that, if we can beat Warren Buffett, we can kill a school finance bill.

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* -- Note: That's an AWFULLY big assumption.  We suspect that the philosophical divide between the two chambers is too wide to bridge given the current roster of each.  Thus we don't think there will be any major changes to school finance prior to both the primary and general elections in 2018 (but we could be wrong).

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