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With time running out, House punts on taking action on school vouchers

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Hours after Gov. Greg Abbott said he believed the Legislature could pass a school vouchers bill before the end of the special legislative session, the House all but killed any deal.

The House met briefly Wednesday evening and recessed likely until Monday or Tuesday, pending the Senate’s approval of bills related to border security.

The special session ends Tuesday and the House has not so much as considered a voucher bill in committee, an early step in the lawmaking process.

At a news conference at the governor’s mansion Wednesday morning, Abbott said “we are on track to ensure there will not be another special session” and referenced a “bill that will be coming out of the House later on today.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick signaled his own optimism, saying in an afternoon statement that there was still time to pass a vouchers bill, but only if the House amended legislation already passed by the Senate rather than attempting their own version.

“The Senate will concur if we agree with the House’s changes or try to work out the differences in conference,” Patrick said on the social media platform X. “The Senate is ready to act, as we have been for weeks.”

But no bill materialized in the lower chamber, and House members took no action on the Senate’s voucher bill.

Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Killeen and chair of the public education committee, told KUT that the timing was “too tight” to pass a vouchers bill before the Tuesday deadline.

The House’s inaction all but guarantees a fourth special session, which Abbott had previously vowed to call if school vouchers did not become law. If that fails, Abbott has said he will support primary challengers to anti-voucher Republican House members.

Wednesday’s dissonance between the governor and House mirrored what happened Tuesday. Abbott announced that he had “reached an agreement” on vouchers with House Speaker Dade Phelan’s team, only for the speaker to demur and Republican holdouts to say there was, in fact, no such deal.

For all his pronouncements that the passage of a voucher bill is imminent, Abbott has been unable to show publicly that any of the two dozen Republicans who opposed vouchers in a spring test vote have flipped.

That group of mostly rural conservatives, along with nearly all Democrats, have successfully blocked vouchers in the House.

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Credit: by Zach Despart, Texas Tribune

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