Educrats and lobbyists are celebrating a victory after liberal Republicans partnered with Democrats to kill a proposal that would have laid the groundwork for conservative reform.
On Monday, just over thirty Republicans sabotaged attempts by State Rep. Bill Zedler (R–Arlington) to add an amendment to Senate Bill 16, a proposal to create a commission to recommend improvements to the public school finance system.
Zedler’s amendment was simple. It merely called for the newly formed School Finance Commission to study “the effect on school districts of deducting or withholding payment of dues, fees, or contributions to a teacher union organization, teacher association, or professional teacher organization.”
Such a proposal is anything but controversial.
Eliminating the automatic collection of labor union dues by governmental entities is a part of the Republican Party Platform and one of the items on Abbott’s agenda for lawmakers. It’s passed the Texas Senate with overwhelming Republican support in the 84th regular session, 85th regular session, and this special session.
Yet Zedler’s amendment to simply study the idea drew intense criticism from two of Straus’ allies, State Reps. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana) and Dan Huberty (R–Kingwood) who described it as “teacher discrimination” in debate against the amendment. Their intense opposition was no surprise. For years, Cook has used his position of power in the Texas House to kill union dues legislation without a vote and Huberty has been beholden to teachers unions.
To ensure he won this one, Cook and his allies began whipping Republicans and enlisted 32 of them to join with Democrats and oppose Zedler’s amendment. Even though a majority of the House Republican Caucus voted with Zedler, they were defeated by the Republican-Democrat coalition that controls the Texas House.
The lawmakers who voted with the Democrats were State Reps. Ernest Bailes (Liberty), Byron Cook (Corsicana), Scott Cosper (Temple), Sarah Davis (West University Place), Dan Flynn (Canton), Charlie Geren (Fort Worth), Larry Gonzales (Round Rock), Lance Gooden (Athens), Justin Holland (Rockwall), Dan Huberty (Houston), Todd Hunter (Corpus Christi), Kyle Kacal (College Station), Ken King (Canadian), Ed Keumpel (Seguin), Stan Lambert (Abilene), Lyle Larson (San Antonio), JM Lozano (Beeville), Geanie Morrison (Victoria), Chris Paddie (Marshall), Dade Phelan (Beaumont), Larry Phillips (Sherman), Four Price (Amarillo), John Raney (College Station), JD Sheffield (Gatesville), Hugh Shine (Temple), Drew Springer (Muenster), Phil Stephenson (Wharton), Lynn Stucky (Sanger), Ed Thompson (Pearland), Gary VanDeaver (New Boston), James White (Hillister), and John Wray (Waxahachie).
But even worse than the 32 Republicans who turned their back on their own voters and rebuked the governor are the lawmakers who ducked the vote.
Republican State Reps. Trent Ashby (Lufkin), Cecil Bell (Magnolia), Greg Bonnen (Friendswood), Giovanni Capriglione (South Lake), Travis Clardy (Nacadoches), Jay Dean (Longview), Phil King (Weatherford), Jodie Laubenberg (Parker), and Scott Sanford (McKinney) all voted on the motions before and after Zedler’s amendment, but neglected to register a position on the amendment itself.
Some of these may be unintentional, such as Sanford whose office told Texas Scorecard that the lawmaker was off the floor and intends to enter a journal statement in support of Zedler’s amendment. However, several of the absent representatives are known to be duplicitous and deceitful towards taxpayers.
A few of the absent members are particularly egregious, such as Phil King, who was carrying the bill and refused to accept Zedler’s amendment even after allowing six from Democrats. Joining him is Capriglione who multiple members say intentionally walked away to avoid taking a stand on the issue.
The vote is simply the latest in a growing list of occasions when the Republican majority has been defeated by defectors from their own party siding with Democrats. Both Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas voters should hold these lawmakers accountable.