With just 10 days left in the legislative session—and a major deadline approaching on Tuesday—the Texas House recessed before 2 p.m. on Thursday until Sunday at 1 p.m., while priority legislation hangs in the balance.
The recess was not caused by a lack of pending business. Indeed, calendars had already been set for Friday and Saturday. Instead, those bills will now be considered on Sunday.
If lawmakers aren’t caught up by the time they adjourn on Sunday, the remaining bills will roll over to Monday’s calendar, and so on.
Tuesday at midnight, however, marks the deadline for the House to consider Senate bills. After that, the remaining businesses will be limited to either accepting or rejecting conference committee reports for legislation that has already cleared both chambers.
Additionally, the deadline for House committees to pass out bills is Saturday, and rules require those meetings to be announced and posted ahead of time.
In other words, with the strike of a gavel, Speaker Dade Phelan just killed a lot of bills.
Among the casualties is Republican Party of Texas priority legislation to prohibit doctors from performing child gender modification procedures.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because this is not the first time in recent weeks the House has killed such legislation.
Last week, House Bill 1399 by State Rep. Matt Krause (R–Haslet), which would prohibit the practice, was killed after the House Calendars Committee led by State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) failed to prioritize the bill ahead of last Thursday’s deadline for the chamber to pass its own bills.
Another bill to classify the practice as child abuse had already passed the Senate, but State Rep. Stephanie Klick (R–Fort Worth) refused to pass the bill out of the House Public Committee, which she chairs.
In a “Hail Mary” attempt, the Senate then moved another child gender modification bill this week—Senate Bill 1311 by State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood)—which is similar to the Krause bill killed by the House the week before.
Rather than move quickly on the bill, Phelan failed to even refer the bill to committee before the chamber recessed for the weekend—a motion that not a single member of the House voiced objection to.
The extended and unexpected recess came after State Rep. Jeff Leach (R–Allen) joined several Democrat colleagues in complaining from the back microphone that the Senate had not moved on several criminal justice bills the House had previously sent over.
“If the TX Senate wants to kill or sit on important bills sent over by the House, they can expect the same in return,” Leach threatened on Twitter Thursday morning.
It was that spirit of cross-chamber rivalry that led House members to applaud and cheer as Leach and Democrat State Rep. Joe Moody (El Paso) made the motion to leave until Sunday afternoon, even though the Senate has passed more House bills than the House has passed Senate bills.
When the House reconvenes on Sunday afternoon, the time left for action will be measured in hours, with the end of the legislative session slated for May 31.