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TX Lt. Gov. Dewhurst 'disappointed' in Craddick statement

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

What were we saying about turning out the lights - this party may be over?

It appears Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst may have his hand on the light switch.

After House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) this afternoon called continuing the Second Called Session a waste of "time and money" because no consensus on a public school reform or taxpayer relief bill was in sight and urged that the legislature adjourn sine die, Dewhurst expressed his disappointment.

He noted that the Senate Education Committee only minutes before Craddick released his statement, passed out Sen. Florence Shapiro's (R-Plano) SB 8, yet another Senate crack at public school reform legislation. Dewhurst called it a "good bill" that would have reformed the state's public schools, increased teacher salaries, paid for already purchased textbooks and provide for teacher benefits.

The lieutenant governor said he is disappointed in Craddick's statement that the Legislature should sine die, continue to work toward an agreement, confer with the Texas Education Agency regarding what reforms could be carried out by the agency without the legislature changing the law, and wait until after the Supreme Court rules in the fall to meet again. Dewhurst said he also is disappointed by the "apparent unwillingness of the House to continue considering school reform."

As a result of the Speaker's statement, Dewhurst said he will now meet with Gov. Rick Perry and members of the Senate to discuss all available options.

Craddick also proposed that if the special session ends, then a budget execution (which cannot be done while the legislature is in session) can be performed to pay for textbooks for schools which will be starting within the next couple of weeks.

"I remain willing and ready to sign a letter with Governor Perry and Speaker Craddick to pay for textbooks either by appropriation this session or by budget execution authority which would allow publishers to ship textbooks immediately," said Dewhurst.

At least one other member of the House agreed with Craddick. Speaker Pro Tem Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) said that in spite of months of work on public school finance and property tax relief, "It has become clear that we are at an impasse. The members of the House are exhausted. It is important for the members to return home to their families in preparation for the school year set to begin in two weeks."

Turner said he agrees with Craddick that the special session should end. "We should wait for the Supreme Court ruling on school finance before making any further attempts to legislate on this matter."