The 85th Session of the Texas Legislature met for only two days last week, yet stark divides among House members are already emerging.
Three significant measures were laid before the Texas House of Representatives: a record vote for Speaker of the Texas House, the Housekeeping resolution, and the Texas House Rules.
As expected, lacking an opponent, Speaker Joe Straus was re-elected as Speaker of the House by 150-0. While many conservative Texans are rightfully disappointed in suffering through a fifth term under Speaker Straus’ obstructionist leadership team, with no contested race and a favorable “loyalty” vote, gone are the excuses for stalling and blocking legislation carried by conservative members. As was evidenced during the second day the Texas House met, conservative members of the Texas House are not shying away from forcing House leadership to recognize and play ball on conservative policies.
Day two saw passage and debate of a Housekeeping resolution and the Texas House Rules. While on their face such resolutions seem boring and meaningless, they are in fact, measures which set the tone for how the Texas House of Representatives operates during the remainder of the session. Conservative members took these opportunities to highlight much-needed transparency during the committee process and to block attempts silencing Pro-Life proposals on the House floor.
State Representative Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) offered an amendment to HR 3, the Housekeeping resolution, that would have continued to ensure each multi-use bathroom facility in the Texas Capitol under the House’s jurisdiction to be used by persons based on a person’s biological sex. While Representative Schaefer’s amendment was ultimately withdrawn, House leadership showed just how desperate they are to avoid discussing publicly the privacy of women and girls.
The House Rules, HR 4, were debated for several hours, resulting in 28 amendments. Two key themes were reflected in the controversy and debate around HR 4 – first, that attempts to limit the ability of conservative members to bring Pro-Life policies to the entire body will not be tolerated, and second, conservative members publicly shed a light on how certain procedures in the Texas House operate to shroud transparency to citizens.
State Representative Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) offered two important amendments centered on fostering transparency in the darkest committee in the Texas House – the House Committee on Calendars. Every bill must pass through the House Committee on Calendars prior to reaching the entire body on the House floor. However, not every bill passed out of a regular committee must likewise be passed out of the House Committee on Calendars. Currently, the names of those committee members who vote to remove a bill from a House Calendar are not reflected in the public committee minutes. Additionally, an informal practice of “tagging” is currently practiced within the committee – a member may anonymously “tag” a bill, delaying the ability of that bill to be voted upon by the entire committee. Representative Tinderholt’s amendments would have increased transparency by requiring both actions be public record. Unfortunately, both amendments failed by a large margin, but the lines of staunch conservative vs. moderate Republicans were clearly drawn.
State Representative Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) put forth proposals in the Rules Committee which would have, in effect, led to possible elimination of Pro-Life amendment opportunities to sunset bills. Sunset bills are a very specific category of legislation historically used as a vehicle to pass Pro-Life laws when traditional bills are stalled by House leadership. After several organizations, including Texas Right to Life, alerted members of the dangerous nature of Representative Gonzales’ procedural measures, Representative Gonzales did not offer those amendments during Wednesday’s debate.
More battles are sure to take shape during the 85th Session of the Texas Legislature as various ideological factions fight for the direction of the Texas House. May the Conservative Republicans prevail!
Texas Right to Life
CRTXNEWS. All rights reserved