May 21, 2021      6:17 PM
HK: Did the Budget Conference Committee, the Speaker, and the Governor sucker punch the Texas House?
Abbott’s pledge of adding legislative oversight to a fall special session should perhaps be viewed in light of his past broken promises to Texas House members and the retribution faced by lawmakers who challenged his authority
In passing the Appropriations
Act, the Texas House unanimously adopted the Morrison
Amendment demanding legislative oversight over the expenditure of
around $16 billion in federal Coronavirus funds earmarked for this state. The
will of the House could not be more emphatic.
Yet when the Conference
Committee report was released, QR was the first to report all
such oversight language had been stripped—a rare middle finger salute to the
House. In effect, a governor who had dedicated the entire session to passing
legislation to bolster his next election would now be the only arbiter of how
the money would be distributed.
To say that appropriators
and rank and file members were enraged was an understatement. The words “slush
fund” come to mind and given the Governor’s political history, an equitable
distribution could be legitimately questioned.
Apparently responding to
our story, the Governor e-mailed members the following: “As everybody knows,
I will be calling a special session for redistricting in the fall, and have
committed to Lt. Governor Patrick, Speaker Phelan, Chairs Nelson and Bonnen,
and Vice Chairs Lucio and Gonzalez that I will place the allocation of the
nearly $16 billion in Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Relief federal funds on
the same special call so the entire legislature can participate in the
allocation process in a way that best serves all Texans.”
In other words, a vague
commitment to allow the Legislature to “participate.”
Frankly, that is not good
enough given Abbott’s past history.
By Harvey Kronberg