Donna Garner : The Fault Lies at the Top

“The Fault Lies at the Top”

by Donna Garner



The Austin American-Statesman has an article in today’s newspaper (posted below) that is very critical of those Texas legislators who were absent during the Special Session; and as usual, the biased AAS has chosen to highlight mostly selected Republicans.


The real problem here is that we taxpayers should not have had to pay for a Special Session.  Rep. Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst were in charge of the House and the Senate. If they had done their due diligence, the Regular Session would have worked smoothly; and everyone could have gone home at the end of May.  Instead, we taxpayers ended up having to pay for a Special Session that impacted legislators’ families.


Legislators with children have to wait to take their vacations until their children are out of school; and with so many summer activities in which children are involved, families have to plan their vacations months in advance. Even legislators’ children “only come this way once.”  Legislators along with all parents cannot make up those missed experiences with their children.


The Regular Session was scheduled to be over by the end of May. Legislators had every right to make their summer plans; and if there had been good leadership at the top, a Special Session should never have been necessary. 


Instead, even though we sent 101 Republicans to the House, RINO House Speaker Joe Straus, who was directing his committee chairs from behind the scenes, deliberately stymied the conservative agenda, holding bills up in committee, not letting conservative bills out on the floor for debate, or else not letting them get scheduled by Calendars.


The pro-life bills should have been passed in the first couple of weeks that the House met in January.  With 101 Republicans who ran as conservatives, those bills should have sailed through almost immediately.  Instead it took months for the sonogram bill to get passed, and it was way into the Special Session before the defunding of Planned Parenthood took place.


The authorization to purchase new English Language Arts textbooks should have taken one day to pass since the Texas State Board of Education through its careful management of the Permanent School Fund had sent $3 Billion to the legislature to pay for the $500 Million for the crucial textbooks.  By law the PSF is supposed to pay for Texas school children’s textbooks, and the SBOE sent over way more money than was needed to pay for those textbooks. What was the hangup? What was there for the legislature to discuss that took months and months to achieve final passage? 


The all-important budget bill also should have been one of the first to get passed at the beginning of the session so that schools could have taken responsible action before the end of school.  Instead thousands of teachers were laid off in anticipation of severe budget cuts.  Since those cuts were modified in the final reiteration of the budget bill at the end of the Special Session, now many schools are having to go through the rehiring process, all of which takes time and extra funding.


Unfortunately, Texas has lost thousands of well-qualified, experienced, veteran teachers who went ahead and took early retirement because of the dire prospects in the legislature; and now the Teacher Retirement System is overloaded with financial obligations. It is predicted that by 2013, TRS could be in real jeopardy because of the addition of so many newly retired teachers.  Even worse is the great loss of the “brain pool” that Texas schools have lost through the early retirement of its most experienced teachers. 


Another instance of poor leadership by Straus/Dewhurst:  The process for the passing of the redistricting maps was a farce. Instead of having open debate on the floor, the maps were drawn behind closed doors by the RINO’s/Dems who were intent on punishing conservatives for the next ten years of elections.


Unfortunately, sanctuary cities and e-verify immigration bills got caught up in the emotion-packed, last-minute push of the Special Session and never made it to the Governor’s desk.  


An experienced Texas legislator told me way back in March that he had never seen a session move so slowly. At that point, the legislature was way behind its normal pace; and he said that he felt Straus had a plan to delay bills so that at the end there would be a frantic push for passage.  He said if that were to happen, nobody would have the time to check the loopholes buried up in the last-minute amendments; and this is exactly what occurred!  We won’t know for many days to come just exactly what was passed in the fine print contained in those bills.


I commend those Texas legislators who stayed to the bitter end of the Special Session, and I am sure they had to make great family sacrifices to do so. The staffers for these legislators also had to forgo their family vacations, and it was because of this type of commitment from so many people that the final versions of bills were passed.


Donna Garner


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