Is a bill ever really dead in the Texas House?

One of the basic principles to understand when following the activities of the Texas Legislature is this: The process is designed to kill bills, not pass them.

Last session, for example, 6,927 bills were filed between the House and Senate. Of those, 1,073 were passed and signed by the governor—around 15 percent.

What happens to the other 85 percent? Those bills die somewhere along the way.

Some don’t get a committee hearing.

Others don’t get voted out of committee.

Some may be voted out of committee but not set on a calendar.

Every point along the way is an opportunity for the bill to die.

Those odds flip, however, when a bill reaches a vote on the floor where the vast majority of bills—well over 95 percent—are approved.

Once in a while, however, bills are voted down. But even that doesn’t always mean it’s the end of the line.

Take, for example, House Bill 78 by Democrat State Rep. Lina Ortega (El Paso), which would would allow El Paso County to impose an additional $10 fee on annual vehicle registrations.

The bill originally failed to pass on a vote of 63-81. But just moments after the measure was voted down, State Rep. Tom Oliverson (R–Cypress) gave notice of a motion to reconsider the vote.

Essentially, after any vote, a member who was on the prevailing side can make a motion to go back and reconsider, as long as they give at least one hour’s notice. When the bill was brought up again later, it passed by a vote of 84-57.

Bills killed on the Local and Consent Calendar can also be brought back.

That calendar is designed to be a legislative fast track for bills that are generally considered noncontroversial, such as highway renamings and the like. In order to be placed on the Local and Consent Calendar, legislation must be unanimously approved in committee and the Local and Consent Calendar Committee must unanimously approve its placement on the calendar.

Bills placed on this calendar are also easy to kill, either by receiving signatures from five members or by a single member speaking for 10 minutes.

On Tuesday, State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) killed two bills using the latter method. One of those bills was House Bill 2133 by State Rep. Kronda Thimesch (R–Lewisville), which would allow the city of The Colony to hold elections in May, opposed to uniform November elections called for by the Republican Party platform. The second was House Bill 3439 by State Rep. Ann Johnson (D–Houston), which creates additional veterinary service regulations.

After the bills were knocked off the calendar, House leadership moved fast to place them on the calendar for Thursday—just two days after they were killed. Meanwhile, conservative priority legislation to ban sexually explicit drag shows from targeting children, end critical race theory and DEI programs in Texas universities, and protect women’s sports have yet to be scheduled.

The main point to remember is this: When an issue is a priority for House leadership, they almost always have a way to move fast to get it done.

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens

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