Texas’ legislative soap opera hurts law process

Freedom Newspapers

The Texas Legislature’s struggle to enact some sort of public school finance reform is beginning to remind us of a soap opera.

After all, the plot is full of twists and turns. But following bouts of high drama and much anguish, we always seem to end up back in the same place — at a dead end.

Now this sort of storyline works quite well for long-running daytime dramas such as “Days of Our Lives” and “As the World Turns.” Those not addicted to soaps like to joke that viewers can skip a few months and then jump right back into the show without missing much in the way of substantial progress.

Such is the case with the lawmakers in Austin.

As we left the last episode, the Texas House and Senate seemed to be drawing closer to a compromise on their respective visions as to whose ox gets gored the worst when the first special session (at least this time around) came to an end.

So Gov. Rick Perry called a second special session to begin immediately.

So, with a fresh 30 days, you’d have to assume our elected officials would be able to push right on and get that near-compromise whipped into some useable form.

Naturally, that would be a false assumption. It appears that real-life legislative soaps aren’t supposed to have predictable plots.

Just when the House seemed poised to pass a fine-tuned version of its multibillion-dollar school funding bill and property tax relief bill, the whole thing fell apart.

Even two key Republican sponsors of the original bills, Jim Keffer of Eastland and Kent Grusendorf of Arlington, ended up urging their fellow legislators to defeat the proposals.

House Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland had a simple explanation for the sudden turn of events. He said legislators’ indecision over the issue deepened once school superintendents started calling and voicing dissatisfaction with some aspects of the legislation.

Perry is taking some of the heat as some lawmakers charged him with playing politics. Perry faces a challenge from State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn next year.

As Keffer said about the failed legislation, “This was the governor’s plan. We worked on it, massaged it as much as we could. To be quite frank, we didn’t get there.”

So this little daytime drama inches along. Some speculate this special session is now doomed.

“The stars are going to have to be aligned for that, and right now they’re not aligned,” Grusendorf said.

Now cut to the Senate where Lt. Gov David Dewhurst cautioned against overreacting to developments in the House. He assured Texans that senators were continuing to negotiate on their own education spending bill. Ah, but a vote on that proposal was delayed Monday because of disagreements.

So tune in tomorrow and the next day and the next … and, well you get the idea. The real-life and all too sad version of “All Our Children” goes on and on and on.