Sunday, May 29, 2005

Ugly Ball

There is not a lot of trust between the Senate and the House as the final hours of the regular session wind down. Both sides feel bruised by the negotiations over school finance (if you can call them that). For a number of senators and their staff members, matters were made worse by what just happened over House Bill 2329. The bill authorized tuition revenue bonds for the universities in the state that are growing the fastest. After a tough discussion in conference, conferees from the two chambers worked out an acceptable deal.

Yesterday Higher Ed Chairwoman Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) came by the Senate with five signatures from the House conferees. She wanted the Senate conferees to sign off. Three of the Senators on the conference committee reviewed the bill report and signed.

This morning, a House staffer came over to the Senate with the official, finalized bill. It was different than the one the Senators had signed. Money for Valley schools and for schools in Dallas Democratic Sen. Royce West's district had evaporated. "We lost hundreds of millions of dollars in six hours," said one Senate staffer. "We might as well have been in Vegas."

Morrison insists it was just "an unfortunate mistake" and not an attempt to put one over on the Senate. She now must get 100 votes in the House to go out of bounds to accept the agreed upon version of the bill.