May 24, 2009
Around the Capitol, they’re called “vehicles.”
But for those of us trying to pass legislation in this final week of the session, they’re more like lifeboats.
These are bills that are still moving through the process, ones that senators can amend other bills onto in order to pass them into law. And with everything that’s been going on over on the west side of the Capitol, there’s a whole lot of legislation that needs saving.
The House moved very slowly last week because of a strong disagreement over a bitterly contested bill that would require people to produce certain forms of identification, whether or not they have them, before they can vote. The Senate, as you may recall, ground to a similar halt over this bill a couple of months ago.
The difference is that this collapse comes at the very end of the session, with a parade of almost daily deadlines killing any legislation that hasn’t made it to a more-and-more distant point in the process.
I’m not getting back into the argument over what a terrible bill this is, or how badly it will depress turnout and disenfranchise voters, particularly poor and elderly ones. I’ve seen that movie twice already this session, and I didn’t enjoy it. I can’t imagine enjoying the sequel.
But with the House looking more and more tied up – and with a massive deadline (emphasis on “dead”) coming up to pass any new bills at all – the Senate is pouring time and energy into amendments for bills that have already been through the House.
These bills – or, again, lifeboats – are hopefully far enough along that they can survive these deadlines and carry the amended legislation to the Governor’s desk.
Last week, I stuck one proposal – to study programs that would provide relief to homeowners struggling with their property tax bills – onto a bill that would help folks in changing areas such as East Austin to stay in their homes. My seatbelt bill also caught a ride on a bill relating to kids in passenger vans.
And I put two amendments – one that will open energy-related stimulus funds to small cities and rural areas, and another that will explore the use of more efficient and reliable power systems in critical state buildings – onto a bill related to public building standards.
There will be more to come. The transportation “sunset bill” is coming up this week – that’s a bus even under normal circumstances. And the Senate’s deadline for passing bills is on Wednesday night.
The last day of the session is a week from today. I imagine we’ll all be sprinting until then . . .
Even if we’re using someone else’s legs.