After voting earlier this week to reject a bill to stop men from playing on women’s sports teams in Texas public schools, political retribution has given the bill new life.
On Tuesday, the House Public Education Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 29, the proposal to protect women’s sports, which is a legislative priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. At the conclusion of the hearing, the committee voted and the bill failed to pass.
On Friday morning, the bill was brought up again in committee and passed by a vote of 8 in favor and 5 in opposition. What changed? It seems politics in the Texas House may be the answer.
Late Thursday night, the House Public Education Committee’s Chairman Harold Dutton (D–Houston) laid out a separate bill that would allow the Texas Education Commissioner to address chronically failing schools. For Dutton, this was personal, as Houston Independent School District and many schools in his House district fit the description of public schools that continually fail to meet the accountability standards set forth by the Texas Education Agency.
The bill was subjected to much debate on the House floor, pitting many of the Houston-area lawmakers against one another, as well as lawmakers who have been historically opposed to additional scrutiny on school districts. After being successfully amended a few times, a point of order was called and eventually sustained, causing the bill to be returned to committee. This was almost assuredly a death sentence for the bill, given the proximity of impending deadlines; the last day for House bills to be voted favorably out of committee is Monday, May 10, and the last day for the House to consider a calendar with new House bills is Thursday, May 13.
As a result of his bill being given a death sentence, Dutton responded by reintroducing SB 29, changing his vote from “present” to “in favor.” State Rep. Dan Huberty (R–Humble) also voted favorably, though he was absent when they originally voted on the bill on Tuesday.
Notably, Huberty is a joint author of Dutton’s bill that was killed and is also a Houston-area lawmaker.
For advocates of SB 29, timing is of the essence. Assuming the committee report gets filed quickly with the House Committee Coordinator, it will then be sent to the House Calendars Committee, where it will be up to them to get it scheduled on a House calendar by Thursday, May 13.
Even then, if legislative history is any indicator, lawmakers will start employing delay tactics on bills already on existing calendars, making bills posted on House calendars after Tuesday, May 11, potentially vulnerable to never being considered at all.