HB 1: The Long Wicked Twisted Road Ahead

The Texas House passed HB 1, the state’s general budget bill, HB 4, the supplemental budget bill and HB 275 allowing the state to tap the rainy day fund for $3.2 billion.  In the words of Texas Country artist Reckless Kelly this is one step forward in a long wicked twisted road.

The Statesman reported that the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden intends to take up the budget bills passed by the House the week of April 18th.  Ogden may attempt to combine two of the bills into one in order to be able to better negotiation an agreeable budget with his fellow Senators.

Unlike the House where the Democrats had no real say in the floor debate, the Senate Democrats, while being the minority party, still hold significant power and influence over the outcome of the budget bills due to the Senate’s rules, procedures and personalities involved.  The Senate bill has about $10 billion in additional spending compared to the House bill.  The Statesman reported that Ogden has been asking his Senate colleagues an all too familiar question heard in the House, “How are you going to pay for it?”

Once the Senate passes their budget bill, the House and Senate will each select five delegates to represent their chamber to meet in a conference committee to resolve the differences between the two chambers budget bills.  After the conference committee kicks out an agreed upon bill each chamber has to vote to approve the changes that were made.  Last but not least, Governor Rick Perry can sign the bill, let it pass without his signature, or veto the whole bill.

Lets not forgot the Governor’s line item veto powers too, he is not afraid to use his veto pen and he has a whole bottle of ink.

One more thing that sends shivers down the spines of capitol staffers like myself, there is no guarantee that the House and Senate can both agree on a budget bill or that they can pass one the Governor will not veto, meaning hello special session and good bye a much needed summer vacation.

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