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Perry Vetoes More Than Two Dozen Bills

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

With just two days before the Sunday deadline for Rick Perry to veto bills passed by the state legislature, the Texas Governor has blocked more than two dozen pieces of legislation that passed both chambers and made it to his desk.

Public Integrity Unit

The governor is used a line-item veto to remove some items from the state budget, including the state funding of the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, from which D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg has refused to resign in the wake of her DWI conviction.

“I cannot in good conscience support continued State funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public's confidence,” Perry said in a written statement.

The unit investigates allegations of corruption in state government.

Equal pay bill

House Bill 950 aimed to end pay discrimination against women by extending the statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit. A co-sponsor of the bill, State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), said she was shocked and disappointed.

“Women who do the work of men deserve to have the same pay as men,” Davis said in a phone interview. “This sets Texas back and it makes us look like a place that isn’t in keeping with the 21st century.”

The legislation would have brought state law in line with the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act by extending the statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit. In a statement, Governor Perry said the bill “duplicates federal law.” Supporters of HB 9 say enshrining the principle in state law would make it easier for women to sue over pay-discrimination.

University regents bill

A bill that aimed to limit the power of university regents, who are appointed by the governor, also got the veto. “Limiting oversight authority of a board of regents, however, is a step in the wrong direction,” Perry said in a statement. “History has taught us that the lack of board oversight in both the corporate and university settings diminishes accountability and provides fertile ground for organizational malfeasance.”

Senate Bill 15 found support from lawmakers who were dismayed over a perception that University of Texas regents were trying to unseat U.T. Austin president Bill Powers. The measure would have required that regents take ethics and conflict of interest training, and would have restricted their ability to fire a university president unless the university’s system chancellor recommended it.   

Arming teachers bill

It wasn’t a concern of arming school district employees that prompted Governor Perry to veto Senate Bill 17. Rather, it was the cost of providing free concealed handgun training to two employees per public school campus and the $10 million price tag associated with it.

Plus, Perry says, the bill wasn’t clear about the role of those teachers in the time of a crisis, nor did it specify how weapons should be safely stored on campus.

“I have signed HB 1009 and SB 1857, which take a far more measured approach to school safety, and do not impose a large fiscal burden on taxpayers,” Perry said.

So what do those other gun bills do?

House Bill 1009 allows school boards and charter schools to appoint employees as school marshals and pay for them to receive training from the Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education. The person would be permitted to carry a weapon on campus. Districts will be limited to one marshal per 400 students.

The measure is aimed at smaller rural or suburban school districts that can’t afford their own police force. Many larger districts, such as those in Austin, Houston and Dallas, have their own police departments and already place armed officers on some campuses.

Senate Bill 1857 creates a school safety certification for concealed handgun instructors, so school employees could take extra training to learn ways to respond to an active shooter situation on campus. The training can occur on campus, if the school approves it.

Drinks on campus bill

An effort to limit unhealthy drinks at elementary, middle and high schools was blocked by Governor Perry’s veto pen. House Bill 217 would have only allowed these drinks to be sold on campus: water without added sweetener, milk with a fat content of one-percent or less, low fat milk substitutes, 100 percent fruit juice, and 100 percent vegetable juice.

The milk provision, in particular, seems to have irked Governor Perry. He says the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy already limits unhealthy beverages.

“House Bill 217 takes this effort to an unreasonable and unnecessary extreme, and would limit access to such innocuous beverages as two percent milk,” Perry said in his veto statement.

But that’s not all!

Other measures that got the ax include a bill to overhaul the Texas Ethics Commission, a bill that would have created a habitat conservation board to oversee the state’s response to endangered species, and various other line-item vetoes to the budget. You can read about all the vetoes on Governor Perry’s website.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
Trey Shaar is an All Things Considered producer, reporter and host. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @treyshaar.
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