This week we enjoyed significant legislative success, and witnessed a “whole new kind of crazy” as the Texas House went into hyper-meltdown. Things boiled over as the House deadline to pass bills arrived at week’s end (May 11-12), resulting in more than 230 bills and resolutions dying on the Calendar-Vine at midnight Friday morning, and another 125+ items being knocked off a Local & Consent Calendar before noon that day in a retaliatory move by the Freedom Caucus for perceived slights and poor treatment at the hands of House leadership.
First, the good news: Three of our priority bills that were officially still alive last week are still alive this week, and have moved from the House to the Senate to start the second half of the legislative dance. HBs 2121, the bill to allow recovery of attorney’s fees in smaller-claim case;, 2473, a corrective bill to address a number of practical, “real world” administrative problems that had developed as a result of the passage of HB 23 in 2015; and, 3021 prohibiting duty to defend clauses in state (public) construction contracts, all passed without a single negative vote from the floor. They were among the roughly 40 bills (out of more than 270) the House passed on second reading last Thursday.
The bad news: HB 2343, our “Right to Repair” bill, and HB 3434, which would have extended application of the Texas Facilities Commission’s Uniform General Conditions to the Texas Education Agency, were just too far down the list to have a chance. They are now dead…unless we can find acceptable vehicles to which the text of those bills can be successfully attached.
The REAL NEWS: “’Vengeance is mine,’ sayeth the Lord” is an oft-cited Biblical phrase. The Lord wasn’t the only one inflicting vengeance this week; it was flying from all different directions—expected and unexpected. The bottom line is what had previously been considered the more deliberate chamber, at week’s end, was deliberate more in angry, punitive acts.
On Thursday alone, microphones were turned off in attempts to silence speakers, full-throated shouting matches ensued, there was much manly weeping—with equal doses of caustic sarcasm challenging the sincerity of those tears—disparaged as mere theatrics, and near scrums between fractious, battling caucuses vying to control any mantel of authority, if not moral superiority, which was in very short supply—if it was to be found at all.
There were fights between parties, within parties and over parties. It was U-G-L-Y, YOU-GLEE. Time with family away from Austin seemed to do the trick as legislators returned May 15 far less tense than May 12, which could be considered Doomsday as easily and accurately as Deadline Day. Maybe we should split the difference and call it the pre-Mother’s Day Massacre.
The final two weeks may prove more anticlimactic than productive, but there is still a lot to do, including passing a budget (so a Special Session doesn’t have to be called), extending numerous agencies going through sunset reviews—big ones like TXDOT—and, of course, our priority bills. Speaking of priority legislation, as of today: SB 807 (Venue) was just approved by the House committee; HB 2121 (Small Claims Attorney Fee Recovery) and HB 2128 (Larger AFR) were just added to a Senate bill passed on 2nd reading in the House; HB 2473 (Correcting HB 23) passed the House 141-0; and, HB 3021 (Duty to Defend) passed the House 143-0 and will be heard committee Thursday in the Senate committee. Defensively, HB 2170 is dead, its “cousin” SB 1215 was just amended to make it less objectionable, and SB 636 was heard in the House with eight witnesses opposing it and zero supporting it.
With a Sunday (May 21) deadline for Senate bills to be put on a House calendar for floor action, and final House passage of Senate bills required by Wednesday (May 24), we’ll have a great deal to tell you next week. Stay tuned.