DEWHURST AND CRADDICK LOOK AHEAD TO UPCOMING SPECIAL SESSION
When the first called session of the 79th Legislature ended Wednesday without agreement on reforming either Texas schools or the way they are financed, Governor Rick Perry immediately called the members back in to session to finish the job. The second called session also centers on public schools, but this time telecommunications deregulation, eminent domain and judicial pay raises are in the call from the very first day. Today, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick held a joint press conference to lay out the agenda for the upcoming session.
Both leaders said the two chambers are very close to reaching an agreement on a new tax plan that broadens the franchise tax to include more businesses, and lowers property taxes. Craddick characterized the differences between the chambers as largely "technical" and said he hoped they could be resolved in a few days. Dewhurst and Craddick both said that they had the votes to pass House Bill 2, the education reform bill, Wednesday night, but the bill was killed by a filibuster by Houston Senator John Whitmire, who said the legislation could "do better".
Dewhurst expressed disappointment that the Legislature was unable to reach a compromise on school and tax reform, forcing a second called session, but added that lawmakers have moved forward with legislation relating to these complex issues in the past weeks. "I think we've made great progress," he said. "I think this last session, we can be proud of the progress we've made and must build on this progress. Remember, school finance is one of the toughest things that we do and whether it takes four weeks or six weeks, the objective is to get it right."
Senate committees have already approved bills covered by the governor's call. The Education Committee approved SB 2, which comprises the Senate's plan to improve the state's education system by putting more money into class rooms, and increasing equity between school districts. The Business and Commerce Committee passed SB 6, which seeks to improve competition in Texas' telecommunications market through deregulation. A bill to increase judicial salaries, and another which limits the ability of cities to seize private property were approved by the State Affairs Committee.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, July 25, at 1:30 p.m.