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Dewhurst, Craddick Optimistic of Speedy Resolution For School Reform, Tax Relief

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

Laying the blame for the death of HB 2 squarely at the feet of Senate Dean John Whitmire (D-Houston), Lt. Governor David Dewhurst today said, however, that progress has been made and it is time to move forward.

Whitmire filibustered for more than two hours Wednesday night to kill HB 2, the public school reform bill, prompting Gov. Rick Perry to call a Second Called Session that began today.

Dewhurst, joined at a press conference by House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland), said he was pleased with the progress over the last 20 days, noting that "but for one senator" who the lieutenant governor said admitted that he had not even read the bill and then filibustered, perhaps the bill could have passed.

"We've got the opportunity to build on the progress of the last 20 days," said Dewhurst, noting he is "optimistic." He described both HB 2 and HB 3, the property tax relief bill, as "good bills."

Craddick agreed, saying HB 2 as it came out of the conference committee was "something we can be very proud of." He said the House and Senate are coordinating their schedules to move the bills forward.

HB 2 as reported out of conference includes some major changes that Craddick described as "really positive." He said the two sides got "very close" in their negotiations on HB 3.

The Speaker said the Senate will take up the school reform bill on Monday while the House takes up the tax bill. "I think we can get it done quickly," he predicted.

Noting the Senate passed its school plan, SB 2, out of committee this morning, Dewhurst said the bill would likely be taken up on the floor Monday. He noted that the judicial pay raise legislation and the telecom bill also were voted out of committee in the Senate today and are on a fast track for discussion on the floor.

Craddick said he expects the House to vote on some bills Monday. "We're very committed on our side to get this done and over with."

Asked why the House never took the bill up on the last day of the First Called Session, Craddick said that although he had the votes to pass it, there was no reason to take up the bill while there was talk of a filibuster in the Senate. He said the House next week will vote out the bill "exactly as it came out of the conference committee."

Saying he was "very disappointed" that HB 2 died in the waning hours of the First Called Session, Dewhurst said the conferees "worked really hard to come up with a good bill on education reform" and had made "great progress."

There were hundreds of issues on both bills that had to be addressed and both the lieutenant governor and the Speaker agreed that whittling down the massive number of issues was a Herculean task. With only or two discrepancies unresolved, Dewhurst said, "I consider that a victory."

The legislature is "getting it done" and made "tremendous progress," said the lieutenant governor. Although it has taken time, he said he is confident that the people of Texas so badly want an improvement in the state's school finance system that they don't care if it takes several weeks to get there.