Tensions Rising at the Capitol as Special Session Stumbles to a Close

There are ten days left in the Special Session of the Legislature, and with Republican battling Republican and each house blocking each other's bills, tensions are beginning to emerge, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"We don't need to study this again," an angry House Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Humble) said of the threat that his proposal to let the voters decide allow $10 billion from the state's 'Rainy Day Fund' to be used for education.

Huberty says if his school finance reform bill is blocked by the Texas Senate, he will not allow Gov. Abbott's bill to call for creation of a commission to study long term changes to the way schools are funded.

"Gotta have 'em both," Huberty said.  "I am not passing the commission bill unless we have meaningful reform."

The battle is typical of the current Special Session, which has repeatedly pitted the social and evangelical conservatives who dominate the State Senate under Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick against the pro business conservatives who dominate the State House under Speaker Joe Straus.

The gridlock has means that each house has blocked the other's initiatives, and with the Special Session two thirds of the way toward completion, it doesn't bode well for the twenty measures Abbott placed on the agenda.

The bill to limit San Antonio's ability to annex unincorporated property is a good example.  The State Senate quickly passed a bill, allowing the City a quarter mile 'buffer zone' around military bases where it can impose limitations designed to protect the military mission.  A House committee quickly changed that to a five mile buffer zone, and the Senate has said that wide leeway for the City is unacceptable.

The Senate, which passed most of Abbott's conservative, largely 'anti urban' initiatives quickly, has also approved a bill limiting cities from raising property taxes, overturning local laws regulating cell phone use while driving in favor of a less strict statewide law, and has passed several bills restricting abortion access, from requiring stricter reporting of abortion complications in clinics to outlawing the use of standard health insurance policies to fund 'elective abortions.'  The House has not taken action on any of those bills.

The school funding bill is the best example of the inability of Republicans who dominate both chambers to get along.  The Senate has pushed through social conservative proposals like allowing tex credit vouchers for special needs students to attend private schools, while the House is focused in increasing state funding for public schools.

Abbott can call a second Special Session if this one sputters to a halt without significant action, but he has not indicated whether he will do that.

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