In a recent interview, liberal House Speaker Joe Straus was asked to respond to allegations from many, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, that conservative bills went to House Calendars only to die without a vote.
Citing the example of SB 1968 by State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Brazoria), legislation that would have stopped the state government from automatically withholding public employee unions’ dues from public employees’ paychecks, Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune pushed the Speaker on where the blame should fall for the death of the legislation.
“Well I don’t know if the House Calendars Committee killed some of those bills. I’m not even sure that some of those bills even made it to the Calendars Committee,” responded Straus. “But, specifically on that union dues bill, that was the poorest job of lobbying that I have seen.”
Though the amount of conservative legislation buried in the House Calendars graveyard is substantial, the committee wasn’t responsible for the defeat of this particular legislation. Thanks to Speaker Straus, they didn’t even have the chance.
Straus killed the House version of the legislation in March by referring the bill to a committee chaired by a Democrat where it didn’t even receive a hearing. Despite his initial attempt to defeat the legislation, the bill found life in the Texas Senate and passed in early May.
Though Straus claims a “poor lobbying job,” the legislation had widespread support across the state and even the explicit support of Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Mechler.
Due to the popularity of the bill, Straus was forced to rely upon his designated bill-killing henchman, State Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) to bury it in the House State Affairs Committee, the same committee that perverted (and subsequently killed) the Senate’s unanimously supported ethics reform bill (SB19).
The denial of the truth, and the presentation of a false narrative to deflect blame is simply standard operating procedure in the Texas House. Such tactics used to be the norm in the Texas Senate as well. However, last November, Texans put an end to such mischief by choosing Dan Patrick to lead the upper chamber. Since coming into leadership, Patrick championed conservative legislation rather than quietly suppressing such reforms. Since taking office, Patrick has been largely successful in passing most of his reform priorities.
A similar change could occur in the Texas House with a conservative at the helm.