4/1/2011 11:18 AM
This morning the long back and forth over the House version of the budget began more or less as can be predicted, except for one amendment brought by David Simpson (R-Longview).
His amendment sought to zero out the general revenue funding for the Texas Commission on the Arts for the next two years, about $3.5 million, and move it into the Department of Aging and Disability Services. It would leave untouched about $1 million of GR-dedicated funding for the Commission. The amendment proved very controversial and led to a record vote that did not break along party lines. Some Republicans voted yes, others no. Some Democrats voted yes, others no.
It passed 67 to 61, with some 17 present not voting.
The amendment had some Democrats in the chamber sounding curiously like Republicans sounded all day yesterday, saying that they are very supportive of services for the elderly and disabled of Texas, BUT … they cannot support this particular amendment.
Lucio said that he agrees with the mission of DADS, but said that the Commission on the Arts provides a service to a lot of underprivileged children who don’t normally have access to the arts, to enhance their ability to learn. Howard called the amendment “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Yesterday Democrats offered several amendments, and have already offered an amendment today, to zero out “unexpended” dollars from the Governor’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Texas State Preservation Board, and rerouting those dollars to the Foundation School Program and other such education- and health-related funds. This forced Republicans to repeat that while they value education and health services, they could not support the amendments because the cuts had been made 15 months ago by the agencies, etc.
Obviously the Democrats who opposed the amendment were not alone. Rep. John Zerwas (R-Simonton) a physician by trade, spoke passionately against the amendment. So too did Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) and John Otto (R-Dayton).
Rep. Vicki Truitt (R-Keller) actually suggested from the back mike that the amendment was brought with the intention of forcing a record vote that could be use against members in future primary elections.
But Simpson did not appear to push for a record vote himself. As the gavel was about to come down to adopt the amendment without objection, someone objected: Dean Tom Craddick. He voted no on the amendment.
As of posting time, LSR has been told by Simpson that there will be a motion to reconsider. Simpson is presently working the floor to shore up his votes. So it may be short-lived.
But if nothing else, the amendment did place many Democrats in the precarious position of either having to vote against the arts or against the elderly and disabled. Of the 17 who registered Present Not Voting, 11 were Democrats.