As the final week of this legislative session begins (next Monday, May 27, is the last day), major issues are still unresolved, leading to rumors of a possible special session. This is standard operating procedure during regular sessions, though – the big bills are rarely finalized until the last days, and Capitol watchers always speculate that things will fall apart. And sometimes they do.

At this point, things are actually in better shape than they sometimes are late in the session – the conference committee on the budget wrapped up negotiations on the major pieces of HB 1 last week. The conference committee report has not yet been published, however, and the House and Senate will still need to vote on the final version. But this session the budget is not among the most controversial bills that would likely lead to a special session.

HB 3 (school finance reform) and SB 2 (property tax reform) are in conference committee negotiations as well, and the rumor mill has generated inconsistent stories – both that agreements have been reached, and that negotiations have stalled over issues on which neither chamber will budge. Teacher salaries appear to be among the problem areas, with the Senate still pushing for an across-the-board raise (although potentially willing to settle for less than $5,000) and the House still preferring to leave salary discretion up to local districts to the greatest extent possible.

Although the budget is the only “must-do” bill for the legislature, school finance and property tax reform are priority issues for state leadership, and failure to approve reform bills could result in the governor calling lawmakers back to Austin. If a special session becomes necessary, it could possibly be scheduled for very soon after the regular session ends, since school districts would need as much notice as possible about changes in state funding in order to adopt budgets for the upcoming school year.

A week is a very long time at the end of the session, though, so there is still plenty of opportunity for negotiations and decision-making and legislators are highly motivated to complete their work during the regular session.