The Senate Stands at Ease
AUSTIN - The Texas Senate continued to stand at ease today, July 30, 2003, as eleven Senators chose not to attend the second called session of the 78th Texas Legislature for the third day in a row.
The current special session was called by Governor Rick Perry to address the question of congressional redistricting, along with other issues. The eleven senators, all Democrats, chose not to attend because under the rules that govern this particular session, they do not have enough votes to stop a bill concerned with redistricting from coming to the floor of the Senate.
At a press conference immediately after session today, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said that despite the Democrats absence, that he was still speaking with them, encouraging them to come back to Austin. Dewhurst emphasized that while there may be intense disagreements over issues that "we will do everything we can to make the Senate a unique body, where we come together and we respect each other."
Despite the impasse over redistricting, Dewhurst said the Senate was moving forward on other major issue of the 78th interim, school finance reform. The Lieutenant Governor announced the Senate members of the Joint Select Committee on School Finance to study the issue before an expected special session either in the fall or spring of 2004. Those members are senators Florence Shapiro of Plano, who will be the Senate Chair, along with Steve Ogden of Bryan, Tell Bivins of Lubbock, Todd Staples of Palestine, Eddie Lucio of Brownsville and Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio. Senator Shapiro, also at today's press conference, said she was hopeful that working groups could begin studying the problem of school finance reform as early as next week.
Also announced today were the Senate members of the Legislative Oversight Committee on Higher Education. Named to this committee were senators Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Kip Averitt of Waco, Kyle Janek of Lake Jackson, Royce West of Dallas, and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo.
Shapiro also said that this was an excellent opportunity to examine not only how Texas schools were funded, but how schools spend their money as well. She announced that the way schools educate our children would also be examined, saying "one of the things that we believe, and that the Lieutenant Governor is encouraging, is to look for effective ways to improve achievement, to reduce the number of dropouts, very important for Texas, to provide the greatest possible opportunity for success for every student in the state of Texas."
The Senate currently stands at ease, pending the establishment of a quorum. The next meeting is set for Thursday at 10:00 A.M.