CAPITOL INSIDE – June 3, 2019:
“GOP State Rep. Dan Huberty locked down a spot in the Texas Legislature’s hall of fame with the herculean performance that he delivered this year as the architect of a school finance and tax relief plan that had been a labor of love and source of considerable heartbreak for him since its conception more than two years ago. Huberty had been so distraught and disgusted when the measure died in 2017 that he actually entertained the thought of giving up without a bid for re-election last year. Huberty’s baby had been a casualty of war in a standoff with the Senate on a private school tuition bill that had been a pet priority for Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. But the former suburban school board member was too far past the point of no return to throw in the towel on the issue that had been the driving force behind his decision to run for the lower chamber in the first place back in 2010.
The Public Education Committee chairman in the west wing of the statehouse since the early stages of the regular session in 2017, Huberty can look back now and see that the hostage execution of HB 3 during its initial voyage had been a silver lining that inspired him to return with a vengeance en route to rebuilding the school bill into a much stronger piece of legislation than it had been two years ago. The passage of HB 3 on the first go-round would have taken the pressure off lawmakers to do something bold with a $10 billion surplus that they didn’t know they would have when the measure went down last time around in the flames of collateral damage.
With the luxury of a massive revenue windfall, Huberty had the opportunity to shape HB 3 into a package that the Democrats would rally behind in a chamber where the Republicans wouldn’t be able to say no to billions of dollars of property tax reductions that he merged into it as red meat bait. Every state representative voted for HB 3 on its first trip through the House this spring with the exception of a lone tea party Republican who ending up casting the only opposing vote on a long line of bills before the session shut down on Memorial Day. But then – after the price tag had ballooned from $9 billion to almost $12 billion in the negotiating process with the Senate – every drop of blood, sweat and tears that Huberty had dedicated to the measure paid off with symbolic perfection when the House ratified the conference committee report on HB 3 without a whisper of dissent on the regular session’s final weekend.
But Huberty didn’t have smooth sailing on HB 3 by any stretch of the imagination despite the votes on the floor that made it look like a proverbial slam dunk. With first-time Republican Speaker Dennis Bonnen leading the interference and Huberty under center, House leaders were forced to find a way to overcome a potentially fatal impasse as a result of Patrick’s temporary intransigence on a massive teacher pay raise that he muscled through the Senate in a move that threatened to derail the measure’s paramount priorities of classroom learning and system equity. Bonnen and Huberty ran the risk of undermining HB 3 by threatening to tie it to proposed swap that would have hiked the state sales tax by a full cent to foot the bill for $5 billion worth of additional property tax cuts. The tax redirection plan that had Huberty’s name on the House author line proved to be a major distraction from the time that Governor Greg Abbott teamed up with Bonnen and Patrick endorsed until it fell apart in the face of serious opposition on both sides of the aisle. But Huberty and his fellow speaker team members regrouped in grand fashion when the House appeared to win the skirmish on teacher pay while sweetening HB 3 in conference to the more conservative Senate’s delight with $2 billion earmarked for local school tax relief than either chamber had supported initially.
Huberty somehow found a way to pass significant legislation on a variety of issues that didn’t revolve on schools. He came to the rescue of neighborhoods in the suburban community of Kingwood that had been hit hard by Hurricane Harvey – serving as the chief House sponsor on a bill that will crack down on illegal sand mining that contributed to the disaster by making it harder for local waterways to control the floodwaters that the violent storm unleashed on the Houston area. Huberty passed measures that will clarify the state’s ambiguous campaign residency requirements and allow police and firefighters who’ve been disabled in the line of duty to attend state colleges and universities without having to pay tuition. Huberty guided another measure to success in a move that’s designed to reduce the odds for cardiac attacks by high school athletes.
Bonnen dished out the ultimate compliment when he said that he’d never seen a lawmaker work as hard on a legislative goal as Huberty had on school finance. There’s nothing more that you can do when you’ve done your best.”