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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pyrrhic Victory

I believe it was a major strategic mistake for Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) to filibuster SB 1811 and force the First Called Session.

A Regular Session of the Texas Legislature is designed to kill bills: A Called Session is designed to pass bills. In a Regular Session, approximately 6,000 bills compete for scarce committee and calendar time: In a Called Session, the only bills eligible for consideration are those determined to be within the Call of the Governor. In a Regular Session, the Senate has a blocker bill and requires two-thirds or 21 votes to pass most legislation: In a Called Session, there will be no blocker bill in the Senate and it will only require a majority or 16 votes to pass legislation.

The Democrats are hoping that the public will become engaged and enraged in a Called Session regarding the $4 billion in proposed cuts to public education. However, the Republican leadership intends to pass SB 1811 quickly before the opposition can fully mobilize.

The Republican leadership will then be free to pass other conservative issues that failed in the Regular Session. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst listed 9 issues that he would like to see on the Call in a letter to the Governor yesterday:
  • SB 1811 relating to school finance;
  • SB 23 relating to Medicaid cost savings;
  • SB 8 relating to the quality and efficiency of health care;
  • HB 5 relating to a health care compact;
  • HB 12 relating to sanctuary cities;
  • HB 272 relating to TWIA;
  • HB 400 relating to efficiencies in the operation of public schools;
  • HB 1937 relating to TSA groping; and
  • Congressional redistricting.
Without the two-thirds rule in the Senate and the logjam of bills in both the House and Senate, the floor time and votes will now be there to pass all of these bills -- and others such as campus carry -- if the Republican leadership so desires. Sen. Davis passionately believed that she was making a principled stand Sunday night and successfully killed SB 1811. However, it portends a Pyrrhic victory for the Democrats.