Liveblog: Make-or-Break Day for the Texas State Budget

State Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, with a copy of the Texas House Practice rule book as he listens to debate on SB1811, the fiscal matters bill, on May 29, 2011.
State Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, with a copy of the Texas House Practice rule book as he listens to debate on SB1811, the fiscal matters bill, on May 29, 2011.

Scroll to the bottom for the latest updates. 

The 2012-13 budget has been approved by both the House and the Senate and with less than two days left in the legislative session, lawmakers set out to pay for it by passing one more piece of legislation that raises $3.5 billion in "non-tax revenue" and revises school finance law to allow the state to reduce aid to public schools by $4 billion.

Without that legislation — SB 1811 — the budget doesn't balance and lawmakers will be forced to come back in a special session to deal with the issue. In the House, Democrats fiercely debated the measure before it passed; in the Senate, it was killed by a filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. Before the debate, aides to the governor said that if the measure failed, he would call them back for a special session on Tuesday — the day after the regular session ends.

Lawmakers were likely coming back anyway, since the House and the Senate and Gov. Rick Perry couldn't reconcile their differences over reforms to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. The governor doesn't have to call them back for that, but he has said he will.

Whether they do it now (it's still possible to suspend rules and bring it back) or in a special session, lawmakers have to pass the last fiscal bill to make the next budget work. It contains plenty to argue over. The legislation includes a hybrid school finance plan that spells out how local school districts will fare when the state cuts $4 billion from what it had planned to send them over the next two school years. Lawmakers got those printouts yesterday (we've got them available online in sortable form in our updated school finance app), and have been poring over them to see how their own local districts come out; those results will help them decide whether to support or oppose the plan.

 

And it contains $3.5 billion in "non-tax revenue" — deferred payments, accelerated tax collections and accounting tricks — that allows lawmakers to cover spending without tapping the Rainy Day Fund or raising taxes. A proposed speedup of state franchise tax collections — that's the main tax paid by Texas businesses — was taken out of the bill after lawmakers raised objections.

The school formulas cut state funding for districts by like amounts in the first year — its called proration and was the House proposal — and in the second year reduces the allotments that were granted to districts in past school finance remedies to keep the districts from losing money. Now that money is short, lawmakers have decided they can't afford those so-called "hold harmless" deals.

Until Saturday, this was considered the make-or-break legislation of the session. With it passed, lawmakers could go home until the next regular session in 2013. Without it, they'd have to have a special session this summer. But now that the TWIA deal has unraveled, Perry has promised a special session anyway. And he could easily add congressional redistricting to that mix — he's already said he'd call lawmakers back to Austin if there's enough agreement on congressional maps to make a special session short and sweet.

Those are optional; Perry's under no legal obligation to call lawmakers back on either issue.

In the case of the budget, he won't have a choice. If SB 1811 doesn't pass and the budget doesn't balance, lawmakers have to fix it before September 1, when the current budget ends and the new one is supposed to take effect. The budget, approved on Saturday along mostly partisan lines in both the House and the Senate, is $15.2 billion smaller than the current budget, doesn't require major new taxes and doesn't immediately require the state to use its Rainy Day Fund. Budget writers left $4.8 billion in Medicaid spending out of the budget in the hope that economic and program changes will make it unnecessary, but left money in the Rainy Day Fund to cover that spending if needed in 2013.

Without SB 1811, it doesn't balance.

 

Liveblog

by Emily Ramshaw
The House just voted to suspend the rules to take up SB 1811. They voted 100-50, with the speaker voting for, just barely giving it the two-thirds needed to make it to the floor. Close one!
by Emily Ramshaw
House Dems arguing with the speaker over whether they can ask for a verification of the vote to suspend the rules.
by Emily Ramshaw
Simpson was the lone Republican to vote against suspending the rules.
by Emily Ramshaw
The House will verify the vote, Straus says.
by Ross Ramsey
Democratic senators talking strategy this afternoon on SB 1811 (photo by Bob Daemmrich)

by Emily Ramshaw
Jay Root has the following update from the Senate, where there's talk of a filibuster:
Jeremy Warren, a spokesman for Sen. Rodney Ellis, confirmed that the Houston Democrat had put a pair of tennis shoes in his bag and placed it near his desk in the event that he decides to talk the school finance bill to death.
Warren also said that Ellis had spoken with former Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin about filibuster rules in preparation for a possible talkathon.
Sen. Eddie Lucio, emerging from a meeting with fellow Democrats, said senators were trying to determine whether it was better to take a deal now or shoot for something better in a special session.
He said he had heard talk of a possible filibuster but said it did not come up in the meeting.
by Emily Ramshaw
After verification, the vote is 100-48 to bring the bill up early. Now Dutton has raised a point of order.
by Emily Ramshaw
Sen. Rodney Ellis has confirmed to the Texas Tribune that he is considering a possible filibuster of the school finance bill. "That's a very personal decision that I'm thinking about, praying over it," Ellis said. The Houston democrat said he was discussing a possible filibuster with other democrats. "I'm trying to see if the group, if they think it makes sense."
by Emily Ramshaw
House passes out-of-bounds resolution for school finance in SB 1811. 92-51 Now Pitts is laying it out.
by Emily Ramshaw
Pitts: "Passage of SB 1811 is necessary for the comptroller to certify the budget we passed yesterday."
by Emily Ramshaw
Pitts: SB 1811 does not include a franchise tax speedup. This bill does not alter the sales tax holiday.
by Morgan Smith
Reaching the school finance portion of SB1811 explanation. Eissler's on the mic.
by Morgan Smith
SB 1811 makes an across-the-board cut for districts in the first year of the biennium, and a sliding scale of reductions that target wealthier districts in the second year. It commits to eliminating target revenue by 2018-- but there are three sessions between then and now.
by Morgan Smith
Hochberg, the Education committee vice-chair at the back mic now, ready to take Eissler, his chairman to task.

Hochberg: Has this proposal — or anything like it — had ever been discussed in committee?

Eissler: No.

Hochberg: How long did he spend preparing this proposal? "Would 5 minutes be appropriate?"

Eissler: Not quite.
by Morgan Smith
This settle-up part is significant. Under current law, the state is required to reimburse districts if it comes up short in funding at the end of the biennium. Hochberg's saying that SB 1811 permanently eliminates that requirement.
by Morgan Smith
Eissler concedes that's what his plan does — but says the Legislature will still be able to address any shortcomings during the appropriations process.
by Morgan Smith
Hochberg says the across-the-board cuts in the first year make the poorest schools take the brunt of the reduction — forcing them to eliminate programs and staff — only to have to rehire them in the second year when the cuts aren't as bad.
by Morgan Smith
Democrats lining up at the back mic to grill Eissler. Villarreal says that the Senate plan went much further toward addressing the equity problems in the current system. Eissler brings up the original House budget, which underfunded $9.8 billion instead of $4 billion — and he says that in 2006 when it reduced property taxes, the state made a promise to wealthy districts. The plan in SB 1811 is a compromise between that promise and equity concerns.
by Morgan Smith
Uhoh. Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer at the back mic with a parliamentary inquiry.
by Emily Ramshaw
State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, questions House sponsor Jim Pitts from the back microphone during debate on SB1811.

by Morgan Smith
And after that prelude, here's the point of order.
by Morgan Smith
And after a very suspenseful delivery from the parliamentarian, we learn that the point of order is overruled.
by Morgan Smith
Rep. Harold Dutton says that there appear to be many "taxes" in the bill. He's asking if there is a tax equity statement. A confused Eissler says, "I'm here on the public ed stuff."
by Emily Ramshaw
More from Jay Root in the Senate:
Democratic senators held a meeting to discuss the school finance bill but did not settle on any coordinated strategy, several said.
"We're keeping an open mind. All options are on the table,'' said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, leader of the Senate Democrats, said the decision about whether to filibuster would be left up to each senator. But she said she did not believe Democrats would get a better deal on school funding in a special session.
"I really don't," she said.
by Morgan Smith
Turner wants to know if any school superintendents or parents testified on the SB 1811 proposal. Eissler says he's heard from many of them — though not in committee — and that they did testify in committee on the Senate's plan.


by Julián Aguilar
One of the provisions included in HR 2723 is the same that drew serious concerns from a coalition of immigrants’ rights activists Saturday. Language in the resolution would allow a the Public Safety Commission to “study procedures and requirements necessary or advisable to ensure the security, validity, and efficiency of driver's licenses and personal identification certificates.”

The commission will then have the power to implement the changes it recommends, which some say would allow the Texas DPS to establish new rules. That could mean DPS may deny driver’s licenses to any one for any reason, some fear.

Another line in the bill that raised more than a few eyebrows is: “Notwithstanding any other law, the commission by rule may specify the term of a driver's license or personal identification certificate issued under this chapter.”

“Radical lawmakers failed in their attempts to target immigrants seeking driver's licenses so they are now content to go after all Texas,” the group, Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance, said in a statement.

Other opponents of the measure say it could adversely affect voter turnout. The new rules could lead to fewer eligible Texans receiving driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs, which are now necessary to cast a ballot.

The language is the same as HR 2685, by state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, who tried to attach it to a bill concerning hardship licenses.
by Emily Ramshaw
Democratic senators gather around State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, as they plot strategy on SB1811.




by Morgan Smith
Martinez Fischer up at the back mic for one last try with his point of order.
by Ross Ramsey
If SB 1811 doesn't pass, the budget doesn't balance, and the comptroller can't certify a budget that's out of balance. The options would be to call a special session right away to pass 1811 this week, before the comptroller does her math, or to come back some time later to redo the whole budget and SB 1811, too. That argues in favor of a special session on fiscal matters right away.
by Morgan Smith
Whether Martinez Fischer succeeds in reviving his point of order or not, the forty minutes of layout Republicans allowed for SB 1811 is up — which means House debate on school finance is over for the session.
by Morgan Smith
With Martinez Fischer's overruled, here's another one from Rep. Walle.
by Morgan Smith
That one's overruled. And here's another parliamentary inquiry.
by Morgan Smith
After this, lawmakers will have 45 minutes to speak for and against SB 1811.
by Emily Ramshaw
In Senate, Sen. Wendy Davis gives a "no comment" to questions over whether she's planning to filibuster.
by Morgan Smith
That point of order dies. Time for the speechifying. Olivera, who has chaired the public education committee in the past, tells members "you are voting for a tax increase today" because local school districts will have to make up the difference in property taxes.
by Emily Ramshaw
Davis tells reporter Jay Root that during the Democrats’ meeting “we were talking about a really bad deal for school districts, a really bad funding plan.”
by Morgan Smith
"We are going backwards in time so that all the gains we've made in public education will be challenged, and I don't know why," he says — even though we are cutting $4 billion, we have the Rainy Day Fund.
by Morgan Smith
This is familiar. Olivera going through the differences schools get per kid in each of the senate districts to emphasize the inequity of the target revenue system. Sen. Robert Duncan did the same thing during debate on SB22 in the Senate.
by Morgan Smith
For instance, Olivera says, San Antonio has a $7000 gap between highest and lowest per student funding. Duncan's district has an $8000 gap. He's skeptical of Eissler's assurance that future legislatures will take care of target revenue: "There seems to be a lot of people that want to keep this inequity going in our great state. And that's not fair."
by Emily Ramshaw
More from Jay Root:
Perry spokesman Mark Miner said that the governor would call a special session next Tuesday if the school finance deal falls apart tonight. He said any issue, which could include the sanctuary cities legislation, would be fair game.
"There are fiscal issues that need to get resolved this evening," Miner said. "If they don't get resolved this evening, the governor is prepared to call a special session for next Tuesday. And when that special session is called, anything that hasn't been resolved is on the table."
by Morgan Smith
"This will be the first school finance plan passed in modern times without a court order, and I suspect the next one will require a court order," he concludes. Democrats making a big push for a special session to take more time to consider the plan and have public hearings on its effects on school districts. If the deal falls apart tonight, Gov. Perry has already said he will call a special session on Tuesday, where any issue — including sanctuary cities legislation — will be game.
by Morgan Smith
House school finance guru Hochberg back up, giving an impassioned speech against SB 1811. "We no longer owe districts anything under this bill," he says.
by Morgan Smith
"We never brought a school finance bill to the floor this session," Hochberg says, "Then all of a sudden this House proposal shows up and it's the House proposal. Nobody in here gave the conference committee the authority to create that proposal...That's not the way the House should work."
by Emily Ramshaw
State Rep. Sylvester Turner (c) raises questions on SB1811 as colleagues State Rep. Armando Walle (l), D-Houston, State Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, and State Rep. Mark Strama (r), D-Austin, listen.


by Morgan Smith
Huberty, a former school board member, is the first Republican up to speak for the bill. He says the plan is one that makes decisions that are good for the whole public education system, not just particular districts.
by Emily Ramshaw
Huberty: People understand we need to make reductions along the way... We need a program that gives us a little bit more time to get there (to an equity system).
by Emily Ramshaw
Republican Rep. Simpson says lawmakers have not had enough time on school finance: "Make sure you know what is in this very large bill."
by Emily Ramshaw
Berman says Utah is spending "2,000 less per student" and those students are still going to school.
by Emily Ramshaw
Rep. Leo Berman says we're giving $100 million to "illegal aliens" that could be going to financial aid for "U.S. students."
by Emily Ramshaw
Rep. Turner: This is the second most important bill of the session and we are dealing with it on the last day of a legislative session. No parents have had a say on this bill. No teachers have had a say. Educators have not had a say.
by Emily Ramshaw
Turner: "I love you all. I am so angry with what you all are doing."
by Emily Ramshaw
SB 1811, school finance plan, passes the House 84-63.
by Morgan Smith
Here in the Senate now. We've just gavelled in — haven't taken up SB 1811 yet. Can't see what kind of shoes Sen. Wendy Davis, who rumors have it may filibuster tonight, is wearing...
by Jay Root
All eyes are on Sen. Wendy Davis and Sen. Rodney Ellis, Democrats who are mulling the possibility of killing the school finance bill (and triggering a special session). The Senate proceedings fired back up a few minutes ago.
by Emily Ramshaw
Republicans who voted against 1811 include: S. King, Hughes, Harless, Pena, Carter, Christian, Simpson, V. Taylor, Truitt, Morrison, Hamilton, Bonnen, Cain, Flynn, White.
by Morgan Smith
Sen. Robert Duncan is on the Senate floor bringing up SB 1811. Democratic Sen. John Whitmire walks by the press table saying, "Uh oh."
by Morgan Smith
Now Duncan opens the floor, and Ellis jumps up for a "couple of questions." First off, he wants to know how much of the provisions in bill were not heard in either chamber. Duncan says that most of the bill was heard in either the House or Senate.
by Emily Ramshaw
State Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, and other Democrats hold a press conference to decry SB1811 school finance legislation passed by the House, and awaiting a vote in the Senate.

by Morgan Smith
Duncan says members of both parties have contributed to SB 1811 and the school finance plan, even if they aren't in agreement. "There has always been huge debate and policy issues and give and take," on school finance, he says.
by Morgan Smith
He calls SB 22 one of the "most vetted school finance bills that I've ever seen" and says it's "been as fair as we could make it."
by Julián Aguilar
State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said that if SB 1811 is adopted he will offer a correction Monday that would explain in greater detail what the Senate hoped to achieve with SR 1260, the outside the bounds resolution to the conference committee report.

Senate members became concerned with language in the resolution that would grant broader authority to the Texas DPS and Public Safety Commission when the agencies make rules to determine driver’s license or ID requirements.

The language grants the PSC authority to “study procedures and requirements necessary or advisable to ensure the security, validity, and efficiency of driver's licenses and personal identification certificates.” Opponents claim that could give the DPS and the Public Safety Commission broader authority to deny IDs and licenses to applicants.

Williams agreed the language was very broad and said his correction would get closer to what he authored in SB9, his omnibus homeland security bill that failed to get placed in a House calendar. Williams said Texas is one of only three states that doesn’t take the necessary steps to ensure applicants for driver’s licenses or IDs are legal residents or citizens. Language in SB9 would address those concerns, he said.
by Morgan Smith
After a lengthy back and forth between Republicans Duncan and Deuell on SB 1811, Sen. Leticia Van De Putte gets up with some questions.
by Jay Root
The legislation being debated on the floor of the Senate, included in the "out of bounds resolution" making changes to Sen. Robert Duncan's sweeping SB 1811, would allow the Texas Enterprise Fund and Emerging Technology Fund to keep a lot of their records secret.

Senate Resolution 1260 says that the state must release the name and address of the individual or entity getting an award, a "brief description" of the project, and whether or not the state has an equity position in the company. But for any records beyond that, the information can only be released with the consent of the governor, lieutenant governor, House speaker and the person or company getting the award.
by Jay Root
The Senate just passed SR 1260, the out of bounds resolution
by Ross Ramsey
There's always a trap door. The school funding in the budget is contingent on passage of SB 1811, meaning that if SB 1811 doesn't pass, the budget can still be certified by the comptroller. But it wouldn't have the school money in it, and the governor would still need to get lawmakers back for a fix. Here's the rider from Article 9, pointed out by someone smarter than me:


Sec. 18.115. Contingency for Senate Bill 1811. The All Funds appropriations made for the Foundation School Program (FSP) in Article III, Texas Education Agency Strategies A.1.1 and A.1.2, are contingent on enactment of SB 1811 or similar legislation by the Eighty-second Legislature, Regular Session, 2011, relating to certain state fiscal matters and that amends Chapter 42 of the Texas Education Code to adjust state aid payments to the level of FSP appropriations made elsewhere in this Act. Should this legislation fail to pass and be enacted, the All Funds appropriations for the FSP made in Article III, Texas Education Agency Strategies A.1.1 and A.1.2, are hereby reduced to zero for each year of the 2012-13 biennium, and the sum-certain appropriation identified in Rider 3 of the Texas Education Agency’s bill pattern is hereby reduced to zero for each year of the 2012-13 biennium.
by Jay Root
Lots of speculation now that Sen. Wendy Davis is going to wage a filibuster, potentially throwing the Legislature into a special session beginning Tuesday. The little red light on her desk, signaling she wants to be recognized to speak, is lit up.
by Ross Ramsey
Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, during the early part of the debate on SB 1811.



by Morgan Smith
Education Committee Chair Florence Shapiro is up talking about SB 1811, praising her colleagues for their hard work. She says the Senate "showed a commitment under very stressful circumstances" to their principles as they worked towards a school finance plan. She says that school finance is a very difficult issue that "pits colleague against colleague."
by Morgan Smith
Sen. Wendy Davis up now. Will she or won't she? "This will be the very first time ever, that we will not be funding student population growth," she begins.
by Ross Ramsey
In case you thought she was just going to talk for a minute, Davis' staff just sent the media a press release with this subject line:

"Senator Davis to hold press conference following her filibuster on the Texas budget"
by Morgan Smith
A press release from Davis' office calls it a filibuster. Here we go.
by Ross Ramsey
To kill the bill, Davis has to go until midnight. Most politicians can talk for an hour and 15 minutes without getting winded.
by Ross Ramsey
Davis has an email out to supporters, too, with this subject line:

"In Wendy's Words - Click link to watch me live - filibustering"
by Ross Ramsey
Dewhurst points out that senators, if they want to, can suspend the midnight deadline. It's a big hill to climb, however: It takes 4/5ths of the senators, or 25 of them, to suspend that particular rule. But doing that would mean Davis has another 24 hours to talk.
by Morgan Smith
With 45 minutes of filibustering to go, Sen. Davis now reading letters from constituents begging her to save public education funding.
by Jay Root
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Republican leader of the Texas Senate, said Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis sent a letter to the Senate parliamentarian earlier Sunday night indicating a filibuster was coming.

The letter was delivered before the Senate came back in at about 9 p.m., Dewhurst said.

She used the magic words, saying she wished to be recognized to speak against the bill -- and speak for a long time," Dewhurst said.

Besides saying it was theoretically possible to get the wheels back on with the consent of 25 senators on Sunday -- the last day of the regular session -- Dewhurst addressed a few other issues in a brief talk with reporters at the press table while Davis was in mid-filibuster.

Asked whether new ideas could emerge in a special session, he said: "With a lot more time in a special session, there might be some pressure to go back and look at some different things."

How he feels about the filibuster: "I think it's unfortunate."

On how long this special session could drag on: "It really depends on what's put on the call, and how controversial they are. It could be short ... or if more items are put on, some of the them maybe opposed by one group or another, it could be longer."

On whether he tried to talk Davis out of it: "I did not visit with her about it. I sensed she had made up her mind."

by Ross Ramsey
Davis talking. Her press aide, Tony Spangler, told Jay Root that, "She's got enough material to read for a day or so."

by Morgan Smith
Davis now reading aloud the state funding cuts to the 1200 plus ISDs and charter schools. We're on the As. 22 minutes to go.
by Jay Root
Dewhurst said Republican senators thought it was important to keep the Senate filibuster tradition.

"It's a tradition that has been in place certainly since World War II," he said.

by Morgan Smith
Just spoke with Shapiro on the floor. She says that there's enough Ds that don't support Davis to get the 25 votes to suspend the rules to bring up 1811 tomorrow. When asked whether Davis was making friends today in the Senate, she said, "As many as she's ever had."
by Morgan Smith
It's 12:03. Davis concludes her speech. The filibuster is over.
by Morgan Smith
There's clapping in the gallery as Davis concludes her filibuster. Dewhurst calls order, saying that's against the rules of the Senate.
by Morgan Smith
Fellow Ds at Davis' press conference post-filibuster: Gallegos, Lucio, Ellis, and Rodriguez. And Van de Putte has just put out a statement in support of her fellow Democrat.
by Morgan Smith
"This is a tool we had to make a stand," Davis said, adding "And I'm glad I used it on behalf of the people I represent." Ellis says he thinks a special session will invite more transparency in the budget process — but talking to reporters afterwards, Dewhurst said he was worried it could result in less for public education if the Senate was forced to come closer to the House funding levels.
by Morgan Smith
With that, I'm signing off the liveblog. Catch y'all tomorrow for more fun.
by Jay Root
A few Democratic senators would not rule out voting to suspend the rules to bring back the bill that went down in a filibuster Sunday night.

Democratic Sens. Leticia Van de Putte, Royce West, Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa and Carlos Uresti were all non-committal when asked if they could vote in favor of a move to get SB 1811 back before the Senate. It would take 25 senators, which probably means six Democrats would have to join all 19 Republicans.

"Tomorrow is a new day," said Uresti, even as he cast doubt on the likelihood of a rules suspension.

The following senators told me they would vote no: Judith Zaffirini, Mario Gallegos, Rodney Ellis, Jose Rodriguez and Eddie Lucio. An aide to Sen. Wendy Davis, who waged the filibuster, said the Fort Worth Democrat would "absolutely not" vote to bring the bill back up. That leaves Sens. Kirk Watson and John Whitmire, who slipped off before the Texas Tribune could get their views.

Sen. Steve Ogden, a Republican, said it was "possible."

He said a special session could "open up a lot of issues that members hoped were dead -- like sanctuary cities."

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