Texas Legislative Update 2/8/17

by Emily Cook

Emily Cook

What’s happening in the Texas Capitol?

For the Texas Senate, a lot.

For the Texas House of Representatives, a whole lot of nothing.

Early this week, the Texas Senate prioritized and debated two important bills – Senate Bill 14 by Senator Van Taylor (R-Plano) and Senate Bill 4 by Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock).

On Tuesday, Senate Bill 14, an open government and ethics reform bill, passed the Texas Senate unanimously with bipartisan support. Senate Bill 14’s purpose is to increase transparency of certain dealings, including financial arrangements and contracts with governmental entities, enjoyed by elected officials.  However, as expected, attempts to regulate the political speech and finances of private citizens was briefly discussed by Democrat senators, complaining such First Amendment attacks were not included in Senator Taylor’s bill.  While the Senate debate surrounding infringement upon nonprofit organizations and private citizens was short-lived, conservatives can expect heightened similar attempts from the Republicans aisle in the Texas House of Representatives.

Also on Tuesday, the much-anticipated bill abolishing “sanctuary cities” was debated on the Senate floor.  Thirty-eight amendments were filed, providing for a lengthy debate. Long a priority of conservative Republicans in Texas, Senator Perry expertly redirected opponents’ emotional hysterics to focus on the actual result of the bill – local governments recognizing and enforcing federal immigration law. After six hours of debate, Senate Bill 4 passed along party lines with 20 Republicans in favor and 11 Democrats in opposition.

Both measures now head to the Texas House for consideration.

But don’t expect such quick action in the lower chamber.

While the Texas Senate has already actively worked through and passed entire bills, House Speaker Joe Straus has failed to even assign committees.  Bills must be heard and passed through respective committees prior to consideration by the full Texas House of Representatives, so the inexplicable delay has the lower chamber falling further and further behind the Senate.  The failure of Speaker Straus to efficiently and quickly assign members to committees has many accusing Straus and his lackeys of intentionally “slow-walking” the entire session.  

One frustrated lawmaker, State Representative Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) took to the back mic on Tuesday to inquire exactly when members could expect assignments, enabling them to begin work on the state’s business. Additionally, Representative Stickland questioned whether this lag was the longest time in the chamber’s history for committees to be assigned. While no direct answer was forthcoming from the Speaker’s dias, it may very well be the case.

The showdown between the two chambers continues.

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