After dragging their feet all session, the Texas House is far behind where they wanted to be on the Calendar and bills they wanted to pass.
The result has been a deluge that has clogged up the works in the Texas Senate, which has otherwise been humming along like a well-oiled machine all session. In a statement released last night the Dean of the Texas Senate, State Sen. John Whitmire (D–Houston) said that he had spoken with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and that they would move in earnest to pass the legislation that’s inundated the Texas Senate.
However, he also criticized lawmakers for dumping so many issues on their laps at the last minute:
“The House has delivered over 600 bills in May including over 500 in the last four days, with a hundred plus additional bills expected in the next 24 hours,” said Whitmire. “We are making a good faith effort to handle this unprecedented surge. We suspended senate rules today to take up 22 House Bills tomorrow and Friday in committee. We are adding extra committee hearings and a local calendar on Friday and we are also adding extra committee hearings next week.
With the full session of work that has come to us within the last ten days, it will be a daunting challenge to hear these bills and get them to the floor.”
“We encourage the Texas House to move forward in the same good faith in this expedited effort,” he added.
The two chambers of the Texas Legislature differentiated themselves very early on in the session, with the Texas Senate moving quickly to begin debate on the issues and pass legislation. Indeed, the Texas Senate passed all of Gov. Abbott’s priorities by March. After that, they worked at a steady clip to pass a large number of measures quickly and efficiently.
Meanwhile, the Texas House initiated “Operation Slowdown” and delayed debate on anything by refusing to make committee assignments until a lot of the clock had already expired. The delay was intentional—House Speaker Joe Straus and his allies wanted to push as many issues as possible late into the session so they could use them as bargaining chips in budget negotiations with Abbott and the Texas Senate.
But now their delay is catching up to them, and in a frenzied flurry they’ve flooded the Texas Senate with broken measures that they’ll have to work overtime to fix. Such a situation can be attributed to the difference in leadership between the two chambers of the Texas Legislature, or perhaps more accurately the lack thereof in the Texas House.