Monday, May 16, 2005

If it hasn't passed by now, there's always next session

Friday, May 13, 2005

By CHRISTY HOPPE / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – A few minutes after midnight, the sharp bang of a gavel became the death knell for about 5,000 bills.

It was the deadline for a bill to pass the full House, and it became the clear line between the survivors and (according to their authors) the ideas that were ahead of their time.

The big-ticket items – the $138 billion budget, property tax cuts, school changes, Child Protective Services – had cleared the major hurdles and will continue the sweaty struggle that is the last two weeks of the Legislature's session.

But weary lawmakers Friday were tucking away hundreds of others, like forlorn fans, saying: Just wait till next session.

Bang! Down went a bill to let home-schoolers to attend some public school classes.

Bang! A bill to allow a university student to serve on the board of regents, gone – unless someone can attach it to a Senate bill.

Bang! No clarification of how to measure a knife to determine if the blade is illegally long.

OK, so some bills are more lamentable than others. But not to their authors.

"All these members are disappointed when they don't get their bills up," said House Speaker Tom Craddick. "But ... all the major legislation was passed."

Thus far, the House and Senate have passed a combined 2,340 bills. In 2003, they passed 4,724 new laws, a mark they're unlikely to reach this time. From here on out, everything is an uphill race against the clock.

"This process was meant to be difficult, and I have no problem with that," said Rep. Brian McCall, R-Plano. "Except on my bills."


Deadlines designed to prevent a last-minute legislative free-for-all are looming over Texas lawmakers. The first major one passed late Thursday, when any bill originating in the House had to pass that chamber to become law. Here's where some major legislation stands with the ultimate deadline – the May 30 end of the session – just a little over two weeks away:

$138 billion budget: House and Senate members are meeting this weekend to negotiate a compromise on the one bill they are constitutionally required to pass.
Status: Alive

Limit property appraisal increases to 5% annually: A major defeat for Gov. Rick Perry.
Status: Dead

Gambling initiatives to allow slot machines, casinos and electronic bingo: Social conservatives overcame an expensive lobbying effort.
Status: Dead

Lower the limit on how much local government revenue can increase, and allow voters to rescind the increase: Local governments are fiercely fighting this effort.
Status: Alive

Cut property taxes by raising sales and business taxes: A key to the school-finance fight; can lawmakers reach a deal in time?
Status: Alive

Ban on "sexually suggestive" cheerleading: The Senate has no appetite for it.
Status: Dead

Revamp school finance, raise teacher salaries, start school later, and create a merit pay system: A court order and political chaos could hang in the balance.
Status: Alive

Allow home-schoolers to participate in public school activities: Time ran out for Rep. Brian McCall, R-Plano.
Status: Dead

Give public money to students in low-performing schools for private school tuition: Vouchers, always a contentious issue, are a priority for conservatives.
Status: Critical condition

Restrict the use of the "top 10 percent" rule for automatic college admissions: The House and Senate must reach a deal.
Status: Alive

Ban gay marriage and civil unions through a constitutional amendment: After a bruising fight in the House, no senator has picked up the amendment as a sponsor.
Status: Critical condition

Allow a legal defense for marijuana if used for chronic medical conditions
Status: Dead

Mandate parental consent, instead of notification, for minors to have an abortion
Status: Critical condition

Allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions that end a pregnancy
Status: Dead

Compensation for wrongly convicted
Status: Alive

How to comply with a Supreme Court ruling on the execution of the mentally retarded
Status: Dead

Create the offense of life without parole in capital murder cases: The U.S. Supreme Court gave life to the issue by barring execution of killers younger than 18.
Status: Alive

Shut down use of corporate money and late stealth attack ads
Status: Dead

Mandate lawmakers votes on most matters be recorded
Status: Critical condition

Let Texans order cheaper drugs from Canadian pharmacies
Status: Dead

Make the Texas Residential Construction Commission more consumer friendly: New homebuyers have complained, but developers won this round.
Status: Dead

Ban on Internet hunting by prohibiting for-profit use of camera-mounted rifle
Status: Alive

Worker's compensation reform
Status: Alive

Hire more investigators while privatizing parts of child and adult protective services: Budgetary issues are hanging up a deal on this issue, designated an "emergency" by Gov. Rick Perry.
Status: Alive

Christy Hoppe
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