Lawmakers will have yet another chance to line their pockets with expense money, because Gov. Perry has called a third expensive special session of the Legislature, at a cost to taxpayers of $1.2 million.
Special sessions give lawmakers a wonderful chance to stuff their pockets. The vast majority of lawmakers collect the maximum allowed $150 dollar a day in 'expense' money, even though lawmakers work only a handful of days during special sessions. In the first session, for example, the House was only in session for seven of the thirty days of the session.
The only item on the agenda for the third special session will be a transportation bill. The measure to take nearly $1 billion from the state's oil and gas royalty money and use it for highway construction passed the State Senate, but was torpedoed by Tea Party Republicans in the House.
House Speaker Joe Straus says it's silly for the governor to expect a different result this time around.
"I don't think that you can keep pushing uphill the same bill that was losing support, not gaining, as the summer wore on," Straus said.
Perry said it is the most important issue to face lawmakers this year.
"When it comes to transportation, the stakes facing our state could not be higher, and a failure to act now could take years, if not most of a decade, to correct," Perry said. "Inaction is a Washington-style attempt to kick a can down the road--but everybody in Texas knows we're rapidly running out of roads to kick that can down."
The State Senate has twice approved the bill to divert half of the state's oil and gas royalty money to highways, but Tea Party Republicans say that amounts to 'stealing from future generations' by using money which would otherwise go into the state's reserve 'Rainy Day Fund.'
State Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) says he is prepared to float a compromise.
"There may be other ideas, we have already heard some things that might make it ever better," Nichols said.
"Everybody seems to be in agreement, it is a good idea to use transfers from the Rainy Day Fund for roads."
Conservative Republicans are proposing ending the diversions of about one quarter of the state's gas tax money to education, and using that money for road construction.
Lawmakers could vote as early as next week on a revised highway funding plan.
But, of course, they'll start pocketing their 'expense money' today.