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Texas House Poised To Override Finance-Bill Veto

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The Texas Senate voted last week to override Gov. William P. Clements Jr.'s veto of a landmark school-finance reform bill.

The House, meanwhile, passed a tax measure to pay for the finance reforms, which are expected to cost at least $4 billion over five years.

The Senate overrode the veto May 23 by a 23-to-8 vote. And observers predicted the House would succeed in its override attempt this week.

"The prospects look good," said Tim Conger, a spokesman for Speaker of the House Gib Lewis. An aide to the House education committee said an informal poll showed the bill is backed by 107 of the chamber's 150 members.

The bill needs the approval of two4thirds of each chamber to overcome Mr. Clements's veto.

The state supreme court has ordered lawmakers to enact a more equitable school-funding system by June 1. A court-appointed special master will devise a plan if the legislature misses the deadline.

The House approved the tax bill, which calls for a half-cent increase in the sales tax, by a 94-to-51 vote on May 24. The Senate was expected to pass the tax package late last week.

But the ultimate fate of the tax bill was uncertain. "The Governor has been pretty emphatic that he opposes the sales tax," said Mr. Conger.

Mr. Clements could choose to do nothing. By law, a bill passed by the legislature but not signed by the8governor becomes law 20 days after the end of the legislative session.

The school-finance bill could become law without the tax bill, thus forcing the state to make offsetting school-aid cuts. "I guess we'll be taking money from the rich districts and giving it to the poor ones," said the House education aide.

Some of the state's largest cities--including Austin, Dallas, and Houston--would lose money under such a "reallocation," the aide noted.

The ebb and flow of events last week had educators, lobbyists, and even lawmakers confused at times.

Early last week, Senate leaders were still negotiating with Mr. Clements to reach a compromise bill. But several senators withdrew their support during the negotiations, arguing that lawmakers had conceded too much. The Governor then vetoed the bill.

The Senate failed in its first override attempt. Senators soon restored some of the concessions made to Mr. Clements, however, and the measure was approved.

At that point, the Equity Center, a group of low-wealth districts that are plaintiffs in the suit, abandoned its neutral stance and began lobbying for the bill in the House.

The version of the bill passed by the House appropriations committee was unacceptable to the organization, however, so center members "changed our official position to neutral again," a spokesman said.--mn

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