No Final Action on Extending State Agencies

The Texas House approved last-minute legislation Monday to try to save major state agencies from being wiped out, but inaction in the Senate derailed the measure.

The Senate adjourned without approving the House resolution, killing any chances of such a measure passing without a special session. But Gov. Rick Perry's office indicated that may not be needed, and that state agencies could continue to operate as usual.

Earlier Monday, the House adopted a last-minute "correcting amendment" allowing key state agencies, including the Texas Department of Transportation, to stay alive until the next regularly scheduled session in 2011.

But the House did not approve $2 billion in bond funding for transportation projects around the state. That prompted a furious response from state senators.

"Texans deserve to have these road projects built," said Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy.

Unless the issue is resolved in a special session, the agencies are in danger of closing, some lawmakers say.

Under Texas sunset law, the Legislature is required to regularly review and reauthorize state agencies. Along with the review, the Legislature must vote to continue operations or the agencies are abolished.

The House failed to meet a midnight Sunday deadline to pass a so-called "safety net" bill to postpone their "sunset" dates.

Some of this year's sunset bills did not make it through the 140-day legislative process.

House leaders were unable to wrangle two-thirds approval to suspend the rules and take up the catch-all sunset bill after the deadline. Critics argued that such a move would set a bad precedent for future lawmakers.

The stalemate sparked a morning of speculation about possible deals to entice critics and the threat of a special session. But, the issue was handled with a resolution, which only requires a simple majority to pass.

The move was criticized as a violation of House rules.

"This is an intentional attempt to circumvent the rules -- using a resolution to do what can only be done by the passage of a bill itself," said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston.

Still, Speaker Joe Straus overruled the objections and moved forward with the resolution, which was filed as an amendment to correct a bill that deals with state financial accounts.

The resolution, which still must be approved by the Senate, includes the Texas Department of Insurance, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Racing Commission.

The legislation is HCR291 and HB4583

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us