With the major deadline for House bills quickly approaching a week from today, lawmakers in the Texas House are … taking the weekend off.
That’s right. Even though this coming Thursday, May 9, is the last day a Texas House bill can be voted out before having the slightest chance of making it through the Senate in time, lawmakers won’t be considering legislation over the weekend. Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen told members in an email that, after polling the membership, they will adjourn Friday through Monday in order to “have time with family and attend district events over the weekend.”
By taking the weekend off, Bonnen and company have ensured that the House will continue to fall behind on their scheduled calendars. When the legislature meets, a calendar is set with the legislation the House is expected to debate and vote on. As the deadline for passing bills approaches, traditionally the House eventually falls behind on the calendar—first it’s by a day, then it’s two days, then it’s even more.
Certain tactics such as long lunch breaks, drawn out recognitions, and early dismissals—all utilized this session—make certain that on Thursday, May 9, the final day a House bill can be passed, many bills will be left on the calendar without a vote.
What does this mean in a practical sense?
It means that even more bills, many of them conservative priorities, will die.
Bills placed towards the end of the calendar end up being referred to as “fantasy legislation.” Conservative priorities, like a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying, could very well be tossed out of the Calendars committee’s hands like a hot potato, only to be placed at the end of a calendar that the legislature has no intention of getting to. When the clock hits midnight on that deadline, members will throw up their hands and exclaim that they wanted to pass it, but they just ran out of time!
“You know I supported that bill. Hopefully we can get it across the line next session!”
In short, it is a way to deflect blame for bills being killed (nevermind that bills that are an actual priority for the House and its leadership are voted on in a timely manner.)
With a week to go until that deadline, the House is about two days behind in its current calendar and doesn’t seem to be on a trajectory to “catch up” anytime soon. But even former Speaker Joe Straus went through the song-and-dance routine of meeting for a few hours on Saturday at this point in the last session, even if only for show.
As the final House calendars are released in the coming days, Texans will see which bills are of little priority to the Republican legislature they elected. Remember, when your lawmaker tells you they “just ran out of time” to pass your legislative priority, ask them how they enjoyed their weekend.