A Straus lackey just admitted the one thing everyone knows but few talk about: Establishment Republicans want a secret process they can use to kill conservative bills.
State Rep. Kyle Kacal (R–College Station) is one of the most liberal Republicans in the Texas Legislature, with a career grade of “F” on the Fiscal Responsibility Index. A part of former Speaker Joe Straus’ closest circle of supporters, Kacal most recently served as the Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Rules & Resolutions. He was also a member of the powerful House Calendars Committee, where secret votes decide which bills go to the House floor for a vote and which bills are blocked from debate.
Under the current rules of the Texas House, the Calendars Committee is composed entirely of members appointed by the speaker and is allowed to sit on legislation for up to 30 days—more than enough time to kill most items given tight legislative deadlines. Although the committee was created to serve a calendaring function—hence the name—the committee is, in fact, a gate-keeper. The committee doesn’t prioritize legislation for debate; instead, it picks and chooses which bills get to be debated at all.
At a recent meeting of the Texan A&M College Republicans, Kacal was asked by a student if he would support making the Calendars Committee’s votes more transparent in order to allow voters to see what their elected representatives are voting on. Here’s how he responded:
Don’t take that ability away from Calendars. Calendars is a catch…that committee has been designed that way by our forefathers for certain reasons. Now, you have a bigger issue with the chairman; whoever that chairman is has an incredible amount of power. But the committee has to be able to kill bad bills; the process is all about killing bills, it’s not about passing bills.”
While it is true that the legislative process is supposed to be slow and restrictive, arcane parliamentary rules in one chamber of the legislature are not what is supposed to make it so. Bills are supposed to be killed by the political checks and balances we elect—consent of the house, senate, and governor, all under the watchful eye of we the people.
The current process empowers a small group of sycophantic legislators to block their colleagues from debating legislation without a vote and deprives citizens of knowing where their representatives truly stand.
And those “forefathers” that Kacal refers to? You would think he is talking about the founding leaders of Texas, but the reality is that the current Calendars process was created by Democrats when they controlled the Texas House in 1993.
But the Calendars process works…I’ve got bills that I’ve had every Calendars Committee member sign that we were going to get through or we were going to kill, and it was either one I thought was going to pass and it would never make the floor, and vice versa…the process is there and it functions well. It’s just misunderstood, is that fair? Unless you serve on the Calendars Committee—unless you serve in the Texas House—it’s so difficult…you have no idea how that sausage is made, and sometimes you really don’t want to know. Is that fair? It’s a unique process, but…I still have faith in it.”
Kacal enthusiastically admits to killing legislation that he knew would pass were it to go to the floor of the House, the body duly elected by the people of Texas to make law-making decisions. It would be one thing if Kacal were actively encouraging his fellow legislators to vote against conservative reform, but his actions on Calendars seek to suppress their will and replace it with his own.
Kacal’s comment that everyday Texans wouldn’t want to know how “that sausage is made” and how the process is just “misunderstood” belies his contempt for the average Texas voter. He is saying Texans don’t have the wisdom and knowledge to make decisions regarding how they will be governed. Instead, those decisions have to be left to a group of legislators handpicked by the speaker, who must operate in secret.
Taxpayers should demand their state legislators go on the record on what legislation they support or oppose. Demands for secrecy mean those officials are afraid their actions in Austin won’t match their conservative campaign rhetoric. Elected officials are our servants—not our betters. They are capable of making decisions in the disinfecting light of electoral scrutiny.
You can listen to Kacal’s remarks here: