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13 Days Remain in Texas Special Session on School Finance

Austin, TX – There are a maximum of 13 days left in the Fourth Called Session of the 78th Legislature - by law it can only last 30 days and those 30 days are up May 19 - and midway through the session, there is no solid school finance bill in sight.

Earlier this week, the Texas House sent a stripped down, shell of a bill to the Senate after a "do-over" vote. The bill failed passage, but two hours and much arm-twisting later, was brought back up by a parliamentary maneuver and passed out of the House. But that body's efforts to pass enabling legislation, HJR 1, failed miserably.

Then comes Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano), who files SB 1 - a school finance bill the Senate passed during the last legislative session that the House thumbed its nose at. Today on the Senate floor, that bill was referred to the Senate Committee of the Whole, including all 31 members of the Senate.

That gives the entire Senate a chance to debate the bill, not just a select few members of a committee.

Senators let the members of the House know they were ready to take on the responsibility. On the Senate floor Thursday, Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin) asked Dewhurst if the House and Senate are not supposed to "be on the same team?"

"I believe that's correct," responded the lieutenant governor. "It's my belief that we are trying to get to the same place."

How they get there and how long it takes are now the two most pressing questions.

Later in the day at an impromptu press conference, Dewhurst noted with tongue planted firmly in cheek, that in the Senate, "We debate our bills."

His reference was to the House using political maneuvers and the powers of the Speaker to cut debate short on HB 1 in that body earlier in the week.

The Senate late this evening posted a meeting of the Committee of the Whole for 1 p.m. Monday. The Senate, which is scheduled to go into session at that same hour, will dissolve into the Committee of the Whole to take up HB 1, SB 1 and SJR 1.

Shapiro said today that just because she filed the same public school finance bill that the Senate passed last session does not mean that will be the final product. "That will not be the bill that passes," she said.

Gov. Rick Perry this afternoon warned legislators that with 13 days left in the Fourth Called Session he will continue to call special sessions if necessary. "As I have said before, I will keep calling lawmakers back, until we have found the right mix of revenue options to improve our schools, eliminate Robin Hood, maintain equity, cut property taxes and preserve Texas' strong job creation climate," he said.

"As governor, I believe it is my responsibility to be an active participant in this debate, offer constructive solutions, and partner with strong leaders like Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Speaker Craddick to do what is best for our schoolchildren and taxpayers."