Updated with newly scheduled committee hearing
While the quorum in the Texas House of Representatives remains tenuous at best, many Texans have asked what, if anything, was conceded to absent Democrat lawmakers by Republican leadership to convince many of them to return?
Though Speaker Dade Phelan claimed in an interview with a leftwing news website that no such deals have been made, Capitol sources have suggested there is more happening behind the scenes.
One of the items on the special session agenda set by Gov. Greg Abbott is Senate Bill 14, relating to preempting a patchwork of local government regulation on private business’ employment practices. The bill passed the Senate on August 11 on partisan lines by a vote of 18-11.
On the same day that the House finally obtained a quorum last week, ending 37 days of paralysis, the measure was referred to the House State Affairs Committee. It was immediately scheduled for a formal meeting for consideration on August 19, only to be abruptly canceled. It was rescheduled to be considered in another formal meeting on August 24 but was abruptly canceled yet again.
A Capitol source has told Texas Scorecard that both previously scheduled formal meetings were canceled because the House State Affairs Committee itself did not have a quorum or enough committee members present to vote on the bill.
Specifically, the source indicated that all of the Democrat committee members—which include State Reps. Ana Hernandez (Houston), Joe Deshotel (Beaumont), Donna Howard (Austin), Eddie Lucio III (Brownsville), and Richard Raymond (Laredo)—and Republican State Rep. Will Metcalf (Montgomery) were among the members preventing a quorum.
House Speaker Dade Phelan recently told The Texas Tribune that “absolutely no deals have been made” to bring back absent Democrat lawmakers.
The source indicated that Phelan himself asked State Rep. Phil King (R–Weatherford), the bill’s sponsor, to meet with Democrats to both hear their objections with the bill and see if a compromise could be reached. The source added that King did meet with those lawmakers but that he would not take their amendments to the bill because it would effectively render it impotent. As such, those lawmakers have since prevented a quorum in the committee, ultimately preventing the bill’s consideration at all in either of the scheduled meetings.
The Committee is slated to make a third attempt at hearing the bill on Thursday August 26, at 9:30am.
What Does it All Mean?
There are 12 days left in the ongoing second called special session. Phelan had indicated that he had not made a deal with House Democrats, yet he seemingly sent King to make the deal in his stead.
Texas Scorecard reached out to the House State Affairs Committee clerk, the House speaker’s office, and the offices of State Reps. Chris Paddie and Phil King, as well as State Sen. Brandon Creighton. As of publication, none have offered a comment or explanation.