Storm bill rests in the hands of compromise

William James Gerlich

The Texas Senate passed its version of the long-debated Texas Windstorm Insurance Association bill Wednesday, but legislators said it may be impossible to compromise the Senate and House versions of the legislation in conference committee.

The Association legislation has gone through ups and downs throughout the 82nd regular session and during the current special session, but senators are standing behind their version of the bill.

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, asked senators to not add amendments to the bill Wednesday and to wait to bring up differences during the conference committee. Although a number of senators did have things they wanted to change about the bill, they will submit them to Carona who said he will work them into the conference committee.

“This bill is basically the same one that passed the Senate during the regular session with a vote of 31-0,” Carona said.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said they will try to work out the differences between the House and Senate version of the bill this week, but they are very different, and Dewhurst hopes the House will compromise.

“The senate bill is a good bill. It needs some tweaks, but it protects the rights of policy holders throughout the state,” Dewhurst said.

Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, said the senate’s version of the bill is very different, and he does not see coming to an agreement in the next seven days because there are such fundamental differences in both versions.

“It is my intention to get Smithee and Carona together to get this must-pass bill agreed upon, with the dual goals of protecting our policyholders and not creating more lawsuits and costs [for TWIA],” Dewhurst said.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, authored a bill to create a bipartisan commission that would create all future congressional redistricting maps. The bill, which Wentworth has pushed since 1991, passed the senate Wednesday.

Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, stood against the bill and said his opposition had nothing to do with which party controls the legislature. He said he believes it is unconstitutional for any entity other than the legislature to set congressional maps.

Because of harsh criticism from various Republicans, the bill is unlikely to pass the house.