Perry meets protesters, House targets Senate bills as session nears end


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on May 22, 2013 at 6:22 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 22 at 6:40 PM

AUSTIN -- As time runs out for the regular session of the 83rd Texas Legislature, tensions are mounting. 
"The Senate can make their choices, but it is wrong for the Senate to try to dictate to us and to our constituents," state Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Tomball) told House members Wednesday.
Riddle and state Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) each took turns taking aim at bills authored by state senators some felt were deliberately blocking House legislation, part of a simmering feud between the two chambers that seemed to gather steam Wednesday morning.
The day's subplot continued to revolve around the unresolved standoff between the House and Senate over a budget solution agreed to Friday. House Democrats voiced concern over voting on a Senate measure aimed to finance water projects with money constitutionally dedicated from the rainy day fund before receiving assurance of the upper chamber's commitment to approve a supplemental budget bill with additional money for public schools. Neither chamber seemed ready to act before the other.
"There seems to be some mistrust between the two Houses right now and some egos that may be involved," state Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) told KVUE Wednesday morning. "But I think we have the wherewithal to do it. I think we have the votes to make it happen." 
The heightened tension wasn't limited to the Texas Capitol. Speaking at a luncheon for small business owners at the Austin Hilton, Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) was repeatedly interrupted by organized protesters angry over his opposition to expanding Medicaid coverage for poor Texans. 
"There's six million Texans that don't have health coverage, and we need it," said Reynaldo Gutierrez, a small business owner from Houston who was asked to leave after interrupting the governor to read a statement. "I don't have enough money to have health insurance."
For his part, the governor offered an olive branch. 
"If you will leave here, I will invite you to the governor's office and we will have this debate face to face. How about that?" Perry proposed after several interruptions.
The meeting took place a few hours later, and afterwards Perry and demonstrators from the Texas Organizing Project (TOP) met with media separately.
"We actually found that there were a lot of things that we agree on, Medicaid is broken," Perry said.
"He listened to us," offered Connie Paredes with TOP. "But he has his mind set already."    
Baby steps perhaps, just as similar closed door discussions between the House and Senate seemed to reduce some tension as the day progressed.
By the afternoon, Riddle and Thompson had each announced a tentative ceasefire. Whether efforts to resolve major matters such as the state budget will pay off before time runs out remains to be seen.