AUSTIN — The Texas Legislature accomplished much of what Gov. Rick Perry asked in the 1st called session of the 82nd Texas Legislature.
• Fiscal matters bills to facilitate a balanced state budget through Aug. 31, 2013, made possible through more than $15 billion in overall cuts that included the paring down of public education funding by $4 billion;
• Congressional redistricting;
• Health care funding; and
• Texas Windstorm Insurance Association reform.
But they failed to pass hot-button sanctuary cities and “anti-groping” legislation.
Congratulatory behavior, relief and expressions of resentment swirled on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives on June 29, the final day of the special session.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and the Texas Senate brought business to a close the day before, on June 28. But with the Senate gone, the House was left with a take-it-or-leave-it situation on SB 29, the so-called anti-groping bill meant to restrict pat-down searches by airport security workers and make violations a class A misdemeanor offense.
Feeling stuck, some House members openly expressed anger over the Senate’s action. But Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, the primary author of HB 41, the House version of the anti-groping legislation, implored his colleagues to vote in favor of the Senate version even though the bill had not gone through the rigorous House committee hearing process.
Simpson assured the body that: (1) the Texas attorney general’s office had vetted state and federal legal issues that might be triggered by restricting pat-down procedures enforced by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration; and (2) his bill was not intended as a political message to gin up opposition to President Barack Obama or the Obama administration.
But the atmosphere on the House floor did not indicate a shift in Simpson’s favor. When Simpson moved to suspend the constitutional rule requiring that bills be read on three several days, the motion failed. That action killed SB 29.
Simpson, one of a class of more than 30 freshman House members, then was allowed by Speaker Joe Straus to make a personal privilege speech that lasted several minutes. In summary, Simpson said, “The defeat of this bill can only be laid at the feet of the leadership of this state.”
After Simpson, Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee chairman, spoke briefly on the matter. Gallego said the leadership and members in general had the ability to stop the anti-groping bill much earlier by calling a point of order on it based on the constitution’s three-and-several-days rule, adding that it should be regarded as a gesture of courtesy for the bill to have been kept alive so long with little time left in the special session. Governor reacts to session work
Gov. Perry on June 29 expressed disappointment over the failure of sanctuary cities legislation that would have prevented cities from adopting policies preventing police from inquiring as to a citizen’s immigration status.
Nevertheless, Perry praised the Legislative branch for its service. “I’m proud of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Speaker Joe Straus and lawmakers’ principled leadership to pass a balanced budget that doesn’t raise taxes and preserves billions unspent in our Rainy Day Fund, leaving our state on firm fiscal footing for the future,” Perry said.
“The decisions made were difficult, but lawmakers should take pride in the fact that they did what families all across Texas are doing: living within their means.”
Some members have other plans
Rep. Fred Brown, R-Bryan, a car dealer by trade, announced his resignation from the House, sharing his plan to move to another district. Brown served more than 12 years.
Five-term Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, announced his candidacy for the Austin-San Antonio area U.S. congressional district seat held by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin. (Castro’s twin brother is San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.)
Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, reminded House members on the last day of session that he plans to run for a seat on the three-member Texas Railroad Commission.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, while a member of the executive branch, is also a member of the Texas Senate over which he presides. Dewhurst is expected to join the field of candidates to succeed U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has decided not to seek reelection.