May 28, 2013
Two years ago, I joked that “Sine Die,” the official phrase for the last day of the session, is really Latin for “see youtomorrow.”
That’s starting to not be funny.
Yes, for the second session in a row, we’re still going. It seems that some of those in control of the Capitol didn’t get quite enough partisan red meat, so they’re heading back to the buffet. The Special Session – and it is special – started last night, less than an hour after the regular session ended.
So far, the only item on the agenda is a needless round of redistricting (which sets state and congressional district lines), though other items have been requested and more are expected. One way or another, it’s likely to be very partisan and divisive. And there will be plenty of time to weep and gnash teeth over it.
But today, the day after the REAL end of the session, let’s at least take a second to think about what we’ve accomplished.
Actually, I’ve got a better idea: Let’s talk about it.
Tonight, at 7 p.m., I’m holding a tele-town hall where we can talk about the what’s been going on at the Capitol for the last four-and-a-half months.
There’s plenty of good to go over – we accomplished a lot this session (see below). There was some bad, too, especially when you think about the missed opportunities on health care coverage, transportation funding and, yes, even schools. And, naturally, there was some ugly – it is politics, after all.
Sure, Texas can still do better. The good news is that, over the past 140 days, Texas has done better; we close out this regular session leaving Texas in better shape than we found it.
One thing I really want to about talk tonight is what a successful session this was. We made real, significant progress implementing a number of our priorities:
We also successfully blocked legislation that would have been genuinely bad for the state. Some of that legislation would have:
And we used the Senate’s traditional Two-Thirds Rule, which requires two-thirds of the Senate to concur before a bill can be brought up for a vote, in a way that empowered the Senate itself and all Texans. For instance, we fixed House Bill 148, a bill that initially would have undermined the ability of elderly and disabled Texans to cast absentee ballots, to ensure that it only – and appropriately – cracked down on those who are paid or who pay others to “harvest” these ballots unethically.
Make no mistake – with or without a special session, there’s more work to do.
This session will leave a series of missed opportunities, especially with the failures to expand Medicaid and improve health coverage for Texans, provide additional revenue streams for transportation, create more budget transparency and honest accounting, and ensure our schoolchildren have all the resources they need to thrive in the 21st century. It’s … well, it’s ridiculous that none of these vital issues are expected to be taken up during this “special” session.
Texas can still do better.
But there’s also much to be proud of. By coming together and working with our colleagues, we advanced goals and priorities that are important to all Texans. The work and accomplishments of this legislature will help extend our great state’s prosperity into the 21st century.