State lawmakers made haste Wednesday morning to pass a significant school finance reform out of committee, despite having just received a copy of the bill upon their arrival to the committee’s meeting.
“We’re just moving this along in the process,” said Senate Education Committee chairman, State Sen. Larry Taylor (R–Friendswood).
The bill, introduced in committee last week by Taylor, is a massive 300-page piece of legislation. The final copy from legislative council was provided to lawmakers only upon their arrival to the committee meeting. And, whether members had read the bill or not, the intent of the meeting was to pass the proposal.
Still, many lawmakers on the committee have serious reservations with the bill—namely with the addition of a contingency clause added to the proposal that makes property tax reform and relief measures dependent on the passage of a sales tax increase that has yet to be finalized in the Texas House.
“I can’t vote for this bill at this point,” said State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston). “I’m not trying to be disrespectful … but there are clear errors in the bill already, and the fact that the entire funding mechanism is entirely unknown at this time gives me great concern.”
State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) suggested the rushed manner with which they were taking up the bill was akin to Nancy Pelosi and Democrats in Washington ramming Obamacare through the U.S. House of Representatives, where she infamously suggested lawmakers would have to first pass the bill to see what was in it.
Taylor shrugged off the remark, saying, “This isn’t anything like that.”
Yet even far-left leaning progressive State Sen. Beverly Powell (D–Burleson) suggested she had reservations about passing the bill so hastily, citing concerns her district’s superintendents had about the bill.
The bill makes several changes that move House Bill 3, the House version of school finance reform, closer to Senate Bill 4, the Senate’s initial proposal. The inclusion of a contingency clause in the bill’s language, however, is the change most lawmakers are concerned with. The bill, likely heading to the Senate floor on Friday, is now at least partly dependent upon the passage of a sales tax increase as an additional revenue source for the big spending bill lawmakers have appropriated.
HJR 3, the sales tax increase bill being touted by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Speaker Dennis Bonnen, is currently an unfinished proposal in the lower chamber.
In the end, the bill was passed out of committee with 8 ayes, 0 nays, and three members present not voting. The three PNVs were Republican State Sens. Hall, Bettencourt, and Angela Paxton (McKinney).