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Texas Senate delays taking up school reform, telecom bills

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

Same song, second verse...

After watching the House dispose of its calendar in a little over an hour this morning, all eyes were on the Senate - where the public school reform bill (SB2) was expected to come up for debate.

As minutes began to pass after the time the Senate was scheduled to gavel in, there was whispering once again that there were not enough votes to suspend the rules to bring the bill up.

Asked by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst what her intentions were regarding SB 2, bill author Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) announced that she would not bring SB 2 to the Senate floor today. Instead, she said, she will work with other members of the Senate to get the bill "as close to the conference committee report" as will make the Senate comfortable.

Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) was quick to question Shapiro if doing that would not be a way of "compromising down."

"The conference committee made a lot of changes I think many of you are comfortable with," responded Shapiro, adding, "There are some things this floor doesn't like." However, she said in the next 24 hours, she hopes to eliminate as many of those issues the Senate does not want in the bill. She said her goal is to make the bill as close as possible to what left the conference committee during the First Called Session, so the conference committee in the Second Called Session will have that much less with which to deal.

"If it's anything close to what the conference committee report (in the First Called Session) reflected, it will not have my vote," pledged Lucio, noting the superintendents in his senatorial district have warned him that the bill will not help their school districts in any way.

Shapiro said she hoped Lucio would share such concerns with her. "Bring that information to the meetings," she said, "so we can look at how we can meet those concerns."

"Anything less than what we voted out the first time around, anything less than what we need for facilities, equity and teacher pay raises - I will have to be a 'no' vote," said Lucio.

Shapiro asked Lucio to give her time to work through the major issues, "And then decide."

"I will work with you, but I will work for those kids who are waiting for me to do the right thing."

Shapiro said she hopes to bring the bill up on the Senate floor either Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.

The House also expected the Senate to take up the telecom bill (SB 5) today, and Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) even postponed hearing the House companion bill (HB 13) today on the House floor. He told the House members he expected the bill to come over from the Senate today, and even set an afternoon hearing of his Regulated Industries Committee for 5 p.m. to hear the Senate bill once it came over.

It's not coming over. The Senate took up no bills, took no action...called roll, prayed, excused absences, referred bills, adjourned.

Same song, second verse...could be better, but it sure seems to get worse...and worse...and worse.

So how long might THIS special session last? As one political insider put it, "Dewhurst's birthday is August 18. I'm betting the party will be in the chamber."