Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Craddick's Reaction to the Meltdown

Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) spoke with reporters this afternoon after the House melted down debating school finance. Craddick said the votes weren't there to pass House Bill 3, the property tax cut bill, last night and this afternoon. And once Scott Hochberg got his amendment on the school finance legislation, House Bill 2, "It [was] like a mushroom cloud," Craddick said. The Speaker said Hochberg's amendment succeeded because four Republicans were absent, though it should be noted that the amendment received 76 votes, which constitutes a majority of the House even if all members are present.

"I think the members are worn out," Craddick said. "They've taken this vote numerous times. The school superintendents and the school people have been real strong...It makes it hard on the [House] members." Indeed, one House Republican, explaining a vote against HB 2, said that no one from the district has called to support HB 2 or HB 3, while numerous school officials have phoned to urge a 'no' vote. After a regular session and two special sessions, that opposition seems to be taking a toll.

It seems highly unlikely that this special session can be saved. The speculation on the House floor this afternoon was that Craddick wanted to end the circus and tried to do so by offering up HB 3 for a vote when everyone knew it would fail. Since tax bills must start in the House, the Senate can't take up HB 3.

Why did Craddick do it? Capitol wags today said the maneuver gets Craddick out of a increasingly tumultuous special session in which the House is revolting against him, protects House Republicans from another vote to raise the sales tax, and sticks it to Gov. Rick Perry.

If this session collapses, as now seems quite likely, and the Lege adjourns, will Perry call another special session as he's promised on several occasions? The sessions are getting increasingly ugly.