In 1986, caving to pressure from groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and following California‘s lead, the federal government decided to give all other states an ultimatum: raise the drinking age to 21 or have your highway funds slashed by 10 percent.
Texas was one of the states that was directed to raise the drinking age, as our minimum legal drinking age at the time was 19.
Now in the 21st century, at the onset of electronic cigarettes and vapes, with what nanny-staters are beginning to call the Juul “epidemic,” a similar question has come up: Should the minimum nicotine consumption age be raised to 21?
Most conservatives believe the answer is “no.” Young Conservatives of Texas, a group known for consistently standing up for conservative principles, lit up Twitter, calling Senate Bill 21 a “ridiculous policy.”
As SB 21 to raise the smoking age to 21 goes to @GovAbbott after the apparent failure of our conservative legislators:
— Young Conservatives of Texas (@yct) May 23, 2019
With YCT and many other organizations opposed to such a policy change, many thought Texas, a state generally perceived to support individual rights and oppose nanny-state policies, would reject efforts to raise the smoking age.
Their hopes went up in smoke.
SB 21 was filed by Republican State Sen. Joan Huffman (Houston), the chair of the State Affairs Committee, over the objections of lawmakers in her own party. It was then labeled as a legislative priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who partnered with Huffman to strong-arm legislators into passing the measure.
But despite Patrick and Huffman’s pressure, opponents of the legislation had five of nine votes on the State Affairs Committee—the number they needed to scuttle the bill in committee if only they all held firm.
While State Sens. Brian Birdwell (R-Waco), Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Pat Fallon (R-Prosper), and Bob Hall (Edgewood) voted against the measure, Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) voted to pass the legislation out of committee.
He would later vote against the bill on the floor but, despite doing so, the bill passed 20-11 with more than half of Republicans voting against the measure. In regard to the Senate Democrats, State Sen. John Whitmire of Houston was the only one to vote in opposition as the remaining Democrats teamed up with nine out of 19 Republicans to pass the bill.
But House Republicans still could have stamped out the measure.
Unfortunately, when the legislation made its way to the Texas House, it received much more support.
The House passed the bill 110-36. Out of the 36 who voted against the bill, 33 were Republicans with Democrat State Reps. Harold Dutton (Houston), Art Fierro (El Paso), and Ryan Guillen (Rio Grande City) opposing as well. The group of 110 who voted for the measure was made up of 64 Democrats and 46 Republicans.
In both chambers, the majority of the dissenters were Republicans, while Democrats from both chambers remained unified in passing this bill.
With so many Republicans voting against the bill, it’s difficult to label its passage as anything other than another indicator that Democrats were running the show for much of the legislative session. After all, if it were up to Republicans, the bill would have been smoked.