Republicans loyal to House Speaker Joe Straus partnered with Democrats twice on the same day in order to override conservative opposition and enable lawmakers to hide from their own voters.
On Monday, the Texas House voted twice to deprive conservative lawmakers of their ability to offer amendments on legislation, choosing instead to use parliamentary tricks to conceal the truth from Texans.
The first item was a calendar rule proposed by State Rep. Todd Hunter (R–Corpus Christi) to limit debate on Senate Bill 19 –a bill that takes money from the Economic Stabilization Fund to increase funding to Teacher Retirement System of Texas to decrease health insurance costs. Under the rule, lawmakers would be prevented from offering amendments that changed the funding stream to something other than the ESF.
Such a maneuver was likely chosen because of what happened on House Bill 25 earlier this month. Like SB 19, HB 25 also proposed to take money from the ESF, but was amended on the floor by the Freedom Caucus to draw funding from the Office of the Governor instead. Knowing that they would likely lose on the floor again if a substantive amendment was offered, liberal Republicans and Democrats colluded to ensure that none can be offered tomorrow when the bill is debated.
The motion passed by a vote of 86-45 over the objections of conservative lawmakers and a similar motion to “hide the ball” was made on the very next bill, property tax reform proposal Senate Bill 1.
Shortly after the bill was brought to the floor, State Rep. Dan Huberty (R–Kingwood) moved to shut down debate and prevent conservative State Reps. Kyle Biedermann (R–Fredericksburg), Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford), and Matt Rinaldi (R–Irving) from being able to offer amendments to strengthen the legislation to give Texans greater say over proposed property tax increases.
That vote carried 95-43, ensuring SB 1 only provides property tax reform for some Texans, not all of them.
Each maneuver was a contemptuous ploy to ensure that votes were about procedure rather than policy, a distinction that a majority of lawmakers apparently believe will afford them greater protection from the citizens they represent.
But such is a miscalculation.
Texas voters are becoming more and more shrewd about the legislative process and parliamentary procedure – it’s why they retired former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and replaced him with a conservative State Senator from Houston three years ago.
Most of current Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s campaign was about how he would reform the Texas Senate by tossing out the Democrat veto known as the 2/3 rule and changing how committees are appointed so that the majority party has greater say. Under his leadership the Texas Senate amended both processes and now leads the way on conservative reform.
House lawmakers would do well not to underestimate the intelligence of their own voters. If they do, they’ll suffer the same fate Dewhurst did.