AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Democratic state representatives left Texas to prevent a vote on an elections bill, and for the last couple days, there’s been a lot of coverage of that issue. But, their absence has halted action on several other measures, too.
“The work we’re doing for the people of Texas is being wasted,” said Republican State Sen. Larry Taylor at a press conference Wednesday morning.READ MORE: Gracie Kennedy Of Southlake Wins New Car In COVID-19 Vaccine Raffle
Republicans are launching attacks, criticizing Democratic representatives who fled to D.C. for work left unfinished.
“They have abandoned our current effort to provide for retired teachers,” said Rep Greg Bonnen.
Republican House members invited the press to a meeting with a half dozen retired teachers. At risk, they say, is a bill to provide the more than 400,000 enrolled in the Teacher Retirement System of Texas with a one-time additional check of up to $2,400.
“Many of those folks have not had any increases in their retirement benefits for as long as 17 years. So, when you go through any kind of inflationary pressure that’s one thing, but with pandemic inflation, the retirees pocketbooks are pretty empty right now,” said Tim Lee, executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association.
The association isn’t taking political sides and says most teachers just want the parties to come together to pass the bill.
“Not knowing that it, you know, if it is going to happen, it has us on the edge of our seats,” said Lee.
Democratic Rep. Rafael Anchia says he finds Republican jabs over the stalled bill to be ridiculous.
“You know we were in legislative session for five months? After we passed out the 13th check for retired teachers on a bipartisan basis early in the session, guess what we worked on,” said Anchia, listing off references to Republican bills on elections, critical race theory and abortion access.
There was plenty of time, he says, to pass the bill offering an additional one time payment and to implement a permanent a cost of living increase to retirees’ regular payments, too.READ MORE: Dallas Restaurant Says 'Here We Go Again' Requiring Customers To Mask-Up
“We didn’t work on a 13th check. All of that was tabled and died in a Republican controlled Senate, and instead we worked on red meat issues for Republicans.”
In a press conference addressing the bill, Rep. Bonnen credited “an updated revenue estimate” for spurring action on the bill during the special session.
“The appropriators weren’t sure about the funding for this and so now that they’ve had a chance to hear back from our comptroller public accounts and they’ve got the new budget estimate, there seems to be some extra money,” said Lee.
Caught in the middle of the political war between the parties are several issues with bipartisan support, including CPS reform, approval of the legislature’s own budget and a bill requiring Texas students to receive education on domestic violence.
“We think that to educate middle school and high school age students on the nature of abuse and the kind of resources that are available will ultimately save lives,” said Ken Shetter, president of One Safe Place in Fort Worth.
The domestic violence bill passed with broad support during the regular session, only to be vetoed by Gov. Greg Abbott.
“The governor vetoed it so very disingenuously and almost cynically he puts it on the special call and now draws attention to it,” said Anchia, who sponsored the bill.
Abbott included the measure in his call for the current special session, saying he supports with the added provision that parents be allowed to opt their children out.
“Where was he during the whole session? He never came to our office as the House sponsor to say ‘I have a problem with the bill,’” said Anchia.
“Really there’s no reason that this bill shouldn’t already be law,” said Shetter, who’s followed the bill’s progress. He also maintains he’s trying to steer clear of the political fray.MORE NEWS: North Texas Businessman Ken Dunn Killed In Jet Crash
“I don’t want to be too critical of anybody. That’s not my job,” he said. “If there’s anyone to blame it’s just generally the nature of politics today.”