Due to a rule in the Senate Rule book, House Bill 1 was brought up for debate on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday. This ruling states that on “House Bill Days” (Wednesday and Thursday) House bills may be considered before Senate bills and therefore does not need the two-thirds majority usually necessary to bring it up for debate. This means that with 16 instead of the normally required 21 votes the Senate was able to debate the House budget bill.
The Senate book of rules is usually brought out when a Senator wishes to pass or kill, usually kill, proposed laws and consists of a tangled web of obscure statutes and fluctuating laws. Sounds like interesting reading though somewhat snooze-worthy.
House Bill 1 passed the Senate with a simple majority vote of 19-12 along party lines with all Democrats voting nay and all Republicans voting yea.
With a proposed $176.5 billion budget, the Senate’s version of the bill, despite deep cuts, includes significantly more money for public schools, nursing homes, employee heath insurance and other programs as opposed the the House’s $164.5 billion Budget. Both chambers must now reconcile these plans that differ by $12 billion in conference committtee before Sine Die (May 30,2011). If differences cannot be compromised lawmakers will be in for special sessions this summer.
Since not a single Democrat voted for the bill in either chamber the future budget of Texas rests in the hands of the Republicans which brings to light several insecurities. The first of which is the breach of tradition through the use of an obscure rule in order to bring the bill up for debate. The worry is that the two-thirds rule could be circumvented regularly therefore bringing legislation to the Senate from the House by Republicans without the Democrats present. Another insecurity rests upon the Republican supermajority. With control of the budget in their hands there is little that Democrats can do to impact its passage therefore the question arises: Does this budget represent the best interests of Texas or does it best represent the interests of the Republican agenda?
Though the budget bill has been hammered out by both chambers it will likely be quite a battle between House and Senate budget writers as they try to meet in the middle of this piece of legislation mandated by law to pass before final adjournment.