The leader of the Texas House’s Republican caucus blamed Democrats for sinking legislation Monday night that would have paid for a state water infrastructure fund.
But a rogue member of the GOP might have had a hand in taking down the water bill.
“This week, the Texas House Democrats killed the most important piece of water legislation the Texas Legislature has considered in 50 years,” Chairman Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said in a statement on Wednesday. “The bill would have funded the 2012 Texas water plan and set up long-term funding for water for the first time in Texas history. The Democrats defeated the effort on a technicality to pressure the Texas House to increase funding to public education.”
Creighton pointed the finger at Democrats and state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, who called the parliamentary point of order that killed House Bill 11.
Unmentioned was state Rep. David Simpson, a tea party Republican from Longview in East Texas. About a week ago, Simpson said, he noticed a line in the House rule book that forbids the transfer of money from the state’s general revenue fund to another account in the first 118 days of the session. The water bill fit that description.
“All I did was bring the news that what was happening was not in line with the rules,” Simpson said. “Those in opposition to the bill were certainly interested and grateful. Sylvester had personal experience with the point and argued it successfully.”
Turner, one of the House’s more eloquent speakers, didn’t give Simpson credit during the debate, and said later the bill-killer was his own. He added: “I’m probably not the only one who had that point of order.”
House Democrats and Simpson may have been united in their desire to kill the water bill by state Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, but their motivations differed greatly.
The water bill would have set aside $2 billion from the state’s rainy day fund to pay for water projects. Democrats opposed it because they want an additional $2 billion for public education, which bore the brunt of state budget cuts in 2011 amid an economic downturn.
Simpson doesn’t want to tap into the rainy day fund at all. And he doesn’t think the state should be in the business of funding municipalities’ water projects.
“Capital for long-term water projects is already available at attractive rates from private sources,” Simpson said. “There’s no necessity for the state to enter the banking business.”
Creighton credits bill-killing parliamentary procedures only to the members who calls them. He didn’t comment further on any involvement by Simpson.
Ritter himself pronounced the water bill dead, but the Legislature still has other chances to pass it, such as attaching it to another piece of legislation. But first lawmakers will have to address Democrats’ and tea party Republicans’ concerns.