In an unprecedented abuse of power, House Speaker Joe Straus unilaterally adjourned the Texas House without warning a day before the special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott was scheduled to end. In doing so, he ignored loud objections from the floor and denied members their right to vote on the move.
Shortly after the Texas House voted to approve a half-billion-dollar education spending program, State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angelton) began briefing lawmakers on the progress of negotiations about a property tax reform measure. Bonnen told lawmakers he would not appoint a conference committee on what was arguably the center-piece legislation of both the governor and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that was watered down over the weekend in the House.
Instead, Bonnen told his colleagues, the Senate would have to take the House version or leave it.
Then, without warning, State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble) stepped to the microphone and moved that the House adjourn “sine die” – the constitutional language concluding the chamber’s work for the special session.
Besides property tax reform, the adjournment killed the key issues in Gov. Abbott’s agenda, such as spending limits, privacy protections, paycheck protection, and more.
Straus’ radical move could be a last hurrah for the liberal Republican speaker.
The House Republican Caucus is scheduled to meet on Wednesday at 8:30am to discuss adopting procedures for a caucus nominee for speaker.
After Straus gaveled the House out, conservative members confirmed on social media that the speaker ignored a chorus of objections and demands for a record vote on the motion to adjourn.
It is Straus’s most insolent rebuke yet of Gov. Abbott’s authority to call a special session, and the basic foundations of our constitutional order.
Over the past several sessions, Straus had gradually consolidated power, refusing to recognize member’s motion, refusing to allow members to lay out amendments, and refusing to answer questions or justify his actions on any legal basis.
Today, the Texas House completed its devolution into a banana republic under the mismanagement of Joe Straus.
Now it will be up to Gov. Abbott to decide if will he call them back for yet another special session, or use the primary election season to hold Straus and his cronies accountable for their obstruction and abuse of power.
Cary Cheshire contributed to this report.