-The House kills school choice efforts yet again, despite the push by Gov. Greg Abbott
-Lawmakers accuse House Speaker Dade Phelan of violating the constitution
-600,000 known ‘Gotaways’ reported at the border this year
Despite being the top legislative priority of Gov. Greg Abbott, school choice legislation is dead in the Texas House.
Abbott had been optimistic about the chances of the legislation passing as recently as Wednesday morning. He told reporters, “We are on track to ensure there will not be another special session.” He also indicated that a new bill would be filed later in the day, though that did not happen.
On Wednesday evening, the House met briefly and then was placed “at ease” until either Monday or Tuesday. The special session is slated to end on Tuesday.
State Rep. Brad Buckley (R-Salado), the chair of the Public Education Committee, said after the business was concluded that the timeline was “too tight for the House to be able to move something in this special.”
This is just days after Abbott said he had reached an agreement that would put billions of dollars of new funding into public schools.
So far he hasn’t commented on the latest developments. Or whether he will call lawmakers back for a fourth special session.
This raises some questions. Was there ever really a deal? And if so, what changed so quickly that Speaker Dade Phelan would drop his end of the deal?
A group of Republican lawmakers are accusing Speaker Dade Phelan of flagrantly violating Texas’ constitutional rules.
During a normal day of a legislative session in the Texas House, any business—such as passing legislation and referring bills—is done while the chamber is in session. When lawmakers break for the day, they adjourn until a time certain when they will reconvene.
Last, however, Phelan bucked precedent.
Instead of having the chamber adjourn until a specific day and time, he declared the House would “stand“at ease” until Monday or Tuesday as he waits for the Senate to approve some legislation.
While a motion to adjourn requires a vote by members, standing at ease does not.
Republican State Reps. Tony Tinderholt (Arlington), Nate Schatzline (Fort Worth), Steve Toth (The Woodlands), and Brian Harrison (Midlothian) say the maneuver is in violation of the Texas Constitution.
“It is particularly troubling to hear an announcement that the House ‘stands at ease’ for an indefinite period of time-up to five or six days—while the members are conducting no business,” the group wrote in a joint statement. “This appears to violate Article 3, Section 17 of the Texas Constitution which stipulates that one chamber may not adjourn for more than three days without the permission of the other chamber. The Speaker mentioned this was being done to allow messages to come over from the Senate over the weekend. However, there are items on the Governor’s call which still require the House’s attention.”
The 5-6 day weekend means the House will not pass school choice during the current special session, as it is slated to end on Tuesday.
“We swore an oath to uphold the Texas Constitution, including the Constitution’s command that one chamber should not abandon the work of the legislature without the permission of the other,” the lawmakers continued. “Speaker Phelan’s decision was made so quickly that we were not given the opportunity to properly object, nor does there seem to be a clear process to object to the Speaker’s unilateral declaration that we are ‘standing at ease.’ Accordingly, we wish to make our concern over the Speaker’s flagrant disregard of the Texas Constitution, our House Rules, and accepted House practice known.”
This is not the first time Phelan and the House have abandoned the legislative process. During the first special session earlier this year, the House adjourned “Sine Die,” after the first day, meaning they would not return for the remainder of the special session—a move meant to squeeze the Senate into accepting their property tax proposal.
The two chambers are also trading barbs over border security legislation. Meanwhile, the problem continues to get worse.
During a national security hearing on Capitol Hill, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified that more than 600,000 known “gotaways” were reported at the border for federal Fiscal Year 2023.
A ‘gotaway‘ is an illegal border crosser that is observed crossing into the U.S. but is not apprehended to turned back.
It is assumed the actual number of gotaways is higher than the reported 600,000.
Mayorkas stated that illegal aliens evading Border Patrol has been an issue for “decades.”
Previously, Mayorkas refused to admit that the border is open or that there is a problem with current border security policies.
FY23 saw 2,475,669 illegal alien encounters along the southwest border. Combined with the number of known gotaways, this brings the number of known illegals attempting to cross into the United States or successfully crossing to more than three million.
The total number of FBI terror watchlist suspects arrested along the southwest border in FY23 came out to 169—more than the previous six years combined. This excludes any potential suspects that may have evaded Border Patrol when crossing the border.
Throughout the past fiscal year, there were also several thousand criminal encounters at the border by USBP, including 12,659 subjects with criminal history, 852 subjects with warrants, and 564 gang members.
Again, this number does not reflect potential criminal gotaways.