House Passes Emergency Funding for Schools, Wildfire Relief

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After a few tiffs, the House approved an $875 million supplemental spending bill to provide funds for public schools and wildfire relief during the 2013 fiscal year.

House Bill 1025 allocates $500 million for public schools and $161 million for wildlife relief. An amendment also passed that would reserve recovery funds for West, Texas. The amendment is a placeholder until lawmakers better know how much recovery from the fertilizer plant explosion will cost.

The House overwhelmingly turned down an attempt to put $60 million toward volunteer firefighters. Most of the 15 people who died in the West catastrophe were first responders. However, representatives could only move funds around—they couldn’t add or subtract money from the bill. Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) wanted to fund the volunteer firefighters because he said the funds were supposed to go to them all along and hadn’t, but Democrats said Simpson’s amendment would take funds away from the free and reduced lunch program for school kids.

Rep. Helen Giddings (D-DeSoto) pressed Simpson to explain his reasoning. “Would you agree that no child in this state should go to bed hungry while we can do something about it?” Giddings asked.

Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) said the change would be detrimental. “This is not a problem for a few kids,” Wu said. “This is a problem for half the kids in my community.” After Rep. Naomi Gonzalez teared up while describing the nights growing up when she went to sleep hungry, Wu tweeted “I think a lot of House members don’t know what it means to be poor.”