Fallout from the walkout: what happens to other legislative efforts to be considered in extraordinary session?
AUSTIN (KXAN) – Legislative efforts at the State Capitol are on hold, after more than 50 House Democrats from Texas crossed state lines to the nation’s capital this week.
The move was part of an effort to prevent Republicans from passing new voting rules because Texas law prevents any business from being conducted without at least two-thirds of lawmakers present to achieve ” quorum”. However, the move also puts a stop to movement on dozens of other issues to be discussed at this special session.
“Nothing is happening,” Christy Hoppe, longtime political reporter and former Austin bureau chief, told the Dallas Morning News. “Now you are approaching the crisis with the foster families. You are approaching the crisis with the retirement of teachers and other major issues. But at the end of the day, it’s all rocked by some highly partisan issues that suck all the air out of everything else. It becomes the line in the sand.
Governor Greg Abbott presented more than a dozen priority items for consideration at this special session. Earlier this week, he threatened to bring lawmakers back for further special sessions until they were able to vote on issues such as bail reform and critical race theory.
“While there are many issues that a lot of Texas politicians feel very close to, those about elections and politics are close to their hearts,” she said.
Hoppe said Democrats had already fled the Capitol in 1979 and 2003 – both times to block voting-related legislation.
“When something as polarizing and purely political as something like electoral restrictions, then everyone clings to it and partisanship comes out.”
Christy Hoppe, longtime political journalist
She said it would likely take a compromise on one side or the other on this bill to bring Democrats home.
“They have to find a way to come together and diplomatically discuss these other issues,” said retired teacher Joe Ramirez.
He taught the humanities to junior high and high school students in Austin for almost 30 years. He said he failed to interact with students on a daily basis, but the stress of “living month by month” was enough for him to leave the classroom. When asked about the long-term financial savings, Ramirez immediately shook his head.
“There was no way to save,” he said.
Now, as president of the Austin Retired Teachers Association, Ramirez had his eye on the “thirteenth check” – an effort to send a one-time additional payment of retirement funds to former educators.
“I think we all appreciate the fact that there is some recognition of our needs,” he explained. “I see the Thirteenth Check as a temporary stopgap.”
He hopes lawmakers take it even further in the special session and consider permanent cost-of-living adjustments and other measures for retired teachers. However, as the special session came to a halt, he realized that those hopes would have to wait.
“I think the frustration really goes back to the regular session,” he said. “If all this had been settled during the regular legislative session, we would not have to worry about it at this time. ”
Funding for foster care providers was also at the top of the list of legislative priorities that received attention.
Several measures were adopted during the regular session to address what has been termed a “capacity crisis”, with hundreds of children sleeping in state CPS offices and hotels in recent months. . Still, advocates said lawmakers failed to increase provider funding rates or refunds to foster families – one of the main ways to encourage more providers to open beds for children with families. reception.
Andi Harrison, director of foster care and adoption for Buckner in North Texas, said they were most worried about older children with mental health needs and behavioral issues that made them more difficult to place.
“Foster homes would be much more open to looking after some of these more difficult children if they were reimbursed the rate needed – knowing the kind of care and supervision needed,” she said. “Right now we are extremely underfunded. ”
Texas Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) on Tuesday posted a sign on his office door that read, “Days without a quorum because Texas Democrats abandoned foster children and teachers in retirement: 1 ”.
Ramirez said he understands the intent behind why Democratic lawmakers fled the state, and added that he knows some retired Texas teachers actually support the move. Still, he wishes there was a way to keep working on other issues important to Texans.
“It is time for lawmakers to come together for a meaningful discussion on all the issues on which they disagree at this time.”