Friday, August 19, 2005

Finishing with a Whimper

The second special session finally and mercifully petered out this morning when the House adjourned sine die (indefinitely), followed soon after by the Senate. Many lawmakers weren't even around the past few days. The final hours of this session didn't resemble lawmaking so much as the dull waning moments of a blowout football game--the stands emptied and even the players looking bored. You may wonder why this couldn't have ended three days ago, or last week, or, for that matter, three weeks ago? After all it's been three weeks since the session took a tumble off the Ugly Tree when the House revolted against the Speaker. It became clear then that the House couldn't pass a property tax cut bill. That effectively ended the special session. But Gov. Rick Perry and Lite Gov. David Dewhurst insisted on pushing ahead (in part, we suspect, so they could pass the SBC/telecom bill). Relations between the House and Senate got so bad that neither chamber wanted to adjourn until the final day of the session for fear of incurring blame for the failure. Instead they pathetically waited until the session expired, wasting tens of thousands in taxpayer funds in the process. Whatever happened to fiscal conservatism?

Here's a further accounting of the two special sessions (with apologies to MasterCard's ad agency):

Days in session: 60

Added cost to taxpayers: More than $3 million

Bills passed: 5, by our count (wind power, TEA budget part II, eminent domain, judicial pay raise, and telecom).

B-movie analogies circulating the Capitol: 2, "Groundhog Day" and "Weekend at Bernie's"

Filibusters: 2

Lame radio spots: 2, one series each by the governor and the speaker

Number of times Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick snapped at each other: N/A (we may have to contract with IBM to calculate this.)

School finance bills passed: 0

Making the state's leadership look incompetent: Priceless

So there you have it. What's next? Well, the Texas Supreme Court will rule on the school finance lawsuit, presumably this fall. After that, it's anyone's guess. There will be yet another special session, perhaps this fall or, as increasingly rumored, after next spring's primary elections. Will the dynamics change? Will Perry, Dewhurst and Craddick learn how to govern? By then, will the leadership be able to muscle any education groups or reluctant Republicans into supporting its reforms? Will those reforms benefit all Texans instead of just the richest 10 percent? Stay tuned.

All we can tell you at this moment is that our legislative blog is coming to a close for now (hey, we've got a magazine to put out, don't you know?). We hope you've enjoyed it. And when the Lege returns, so shall our blog.