Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Senate's Battle Cry: It's Not Our Fault!

Once more the Senate launched itself into debate on a school finance bill this afternoon. OK, maybe "launched" isn't quite the word. It was more like senators grudgingly accepted that they had to debate and pass a bill so Lite Gov. David Dewhurst could claim that the Senate did its part on school finance. House Speaker Tom Craddick seemingly bailed on the special session late last week. But there the Senate was today debating a school finance bill that everyone on the Senate floor knew would go nowhere in the House. So today's debate was all simply a grand exercise in trying to avoid blame.

No matter. Plano Republican Florence "Sisyphus" Shapiro dutifully rose on the Senate floor to start pushing another school finance boulder up the hill. We've lost count of how many times she's done this in the past two years. This bill, known as Senate Bill 8, is a stripped-down version of her previous education proposals. A string of Democrats rose to ask her questions about it--the same questions they'd asked her many times before. No one really had their hearts in it. A few senators reclined in their black leather chairs and stared into space as the debate droned on. Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) had the look of someone in the waiting room before dental surgery.

On the key vote, the Senate passed SB 8 by a 20-9 vote. The whole debate--including plowing through more than 20 amendments--lasted less than three hours, which is lightening speed in the verbose Senate. With the school finance performance out of the way, Dewhurst and Co. promptly moved on to debating the SBC-friendly telecom bill.