While it’s no secret that Gov. Greg Abbott has been pressuring his fellow Republican state legislators with his “Parent Empowerment Nights,” our sources at the Capitol have told RA News that the pressure has been increasing of late.
In spite of the push, the Texas House on Thursday passed the Herrero Amendment to House Bill 1, which is the House version of the state budget. The amendment, sponsored by State Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown), prohibits the expenditure of state dollars for voucher programs.
The amendment includes provisions banning state funds for any voucher-like program, including Abbott’s Education Savings Accounts. While vouchers could still be passed, they won’t be funded if this amendment stands. The cost of Abbott’s voucher program is estimated to be $1 billion and climbing.
Prior to the vote, Rep. Brad Buckley, chair of House Public Education Committee, offered a motion to table the amendment. When the motion to table failed, he spoke in opposition to the amendment on the grounds that it was premature and argued that his committee should have the opportunity to debate voucher legislation when they convene next week. Rep. Cody Harris and Rep. John Smithee – both from rural districts highly skeptical of vouchers – also concurred with Buckley.
Despite their opposition, the Herrero amendment passed 86-52. Oddly, Rep. Buckley didn’t ultimately take a stand on the amendment and simply voted “present.” Two other members of the Public Education Committee, Reps. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) and Cody Harris (R-Palestine), also voted “present.”
Capitol insiders have told RA News that the Governor had proxies in the Capitol all this week pressuring members to cave on the amendment. Some even tell us that Abbott’s people have been suggesting that the governor would veto their legislation if they supported the Herrero amendment.
In this context, it’s especially noteworthy that 24 Republican legislators stood up to the pressure, including five who went so far as to co-sponsor the amendment: Reps. Charlie Geren, Stan Lambert, Ernest Bailes, Ken King and Glenn Rogers.
Many Republican legislators represent districts whose majorities oppose the voucher scheme, yet Abbott is not content to let them vote their conscience or their district. Given the widely held belief that the governor is planning a presidential bid in 2024, he appears to be placing his own political future over the priorities of his fellow Republicans or their constituents.