Taking up right where they left off a month and a half ago, conservative members of the Texas House began the special session by fighting back against efforts by Democrats and liberal Republicans to scuttle Gov. Greg Abbott’s conservative agenda.
State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) has filed House Resolution 35, a proposal to amend the House Rules and allow the Republican majority to impose penalties on absent members who employ quorum-busting tactics to stop the House from conducting business.
Since Abbott announced the special session in June, Democrats have been openly discussing whether they may leave the state in order to prevent Republicans from conducting business. That would be a repeat of what Democrats did in 2003, when the House Democrats fled to Ardmore, Oklahoma, for four days in order to temporarily prevent Republicans from passing a redistricting bill.
The Tinderholt resolution would modify house rules to allow a majority of members, but less than a quorum, to impose the following penalties on absent members:
- remove the absent member from any committee chairmanship;
- remove the absent member from any procedural committee; and/or
- permanently strip absent members of seniority privileges.
The resolution was promptly referred to the House Rules & Resolutions Committee, as is required by House Rules. That presents a problem for the resolution, however, because House Speaker Joe Straus chose to appoint State Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, a Democrat from Brownsville, as the chairman of that committee.
Tinderholt raised several parliamentary inquiries seeking to know what Republican members can do to move the resolution to the floor of the House if Lucio refuses to cooperate. Straus refused to answer those questions and instead repeatedly urged Tinderholt to speak privately with the parliamentarian.
Democrat quorum-busting tactics can only exist if the Republican majority in the House enable those tactics. It will be interesting to see how Straus and the House leadership respond to Tinderholt’s proposed solution. It will force them to choose between their Republican label and their Democrat political base.