The Texas House Speaker’s top lieutenant – and killer of all things conservative – joined three Democrats to block the House from even considering a dramatically watered-down property tax reform bill. Fortunately, the effort failed.
Outside the Capitol, the only opponents to Senate Bill 1 – which would require voter approval for city and county property tax hikes – are Democrats, a drove of local politicians, and local government lobby groups.
Speaker Joe Straus’ dictatorial, pro-lobby regime has tried to counter criticism by telling the liberal press they run a “member-driven” House. But State Rep. Byron Cook’s (R-Corsicana) obstruction is yet another example of how an “impartial” scheduling committee can be weaponized to prevent that from happening.
The House Calendars Committee is full of liberal Republicans and Democrats handpicked by Straus, but even they voted (8-4) to allow the 150-member Texas House to have a floor debate on the House’s watered-down version of the Senate’s tax overhaul (SB 1). But Cook refused to do so.
Cook joined three Democrats – State Reps. Donna Howard (Austin), Roberto Alonzo (Dallas), Toni Rose (Dallas) – in opposition to moving the bill forward.
Straus’ obvious obstruction towards Gov. Greg Abbott’s popular reform agenda continues to be laid bare for all to see. Straus has faced vocal pushback from only the most conservative members, and has refused to remove obstructionist committee chairmen like Cook. That’s because Cook is doing precisely what Straus appointed him to do.
More than any other single member, Cook loyally plays the role of Straus’ hatchet man by privately and publicly opposing Abbott’s pro-taxpayer agenda.
Cook’s efforts have not been limited to fiscal issues. Despite passing pro-life House Bill 14 out of his committee 14 days ago, Cook has refused to send the paperwork to calendars. It’s dead until he does. The bill has 80 co-sponsors, more than the 76 votes needed to pass the House.
Straus continues to ignore the House rules and lay landmines throughout the legislative process, hoping to delay the 30-day session as long as possible. This strategy not only kills Abbott’s agenda, it prevents House members from having to take record votes on key Republican priorities.
The more record votes lawmakers take, the easier it is for taxpayers to see who’s on their side, and who’s obstructing.
Most Republican lawmakers have been quick to co-sponsor Abbott’s priorities for photo-ops and social media posturing, but stand quietly by as the reforms die a slow death. The path of passive compliance is an easier one inside the Austin bubble, albeit more cowardly, as compared to going against the proverbial grain.
House Leadership’s only opposition on the floor continues to comes from Texas Freedom Caucus members, such as taxpayer champions State Reps. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) and Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford).