OPINION COLUMNS

Valid bills die at the hands of petty legislators

By Racey Burden | Published Saturday, May 20, 2017
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So it looks like the Texas Legislature will go into special session this year at the expense of taxpayers.

There are multiple parties to thank for this – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Joe Straus and the extreme-right Freedom Caucus in the House.

Racey Burden

Patrick is currently holding the “sunset safety net” (which ensures some state agencies will continue to function) hostage. In a press conference Wednesday Patrick said the issue would move forward in the Senate only if the House votes on his pet projects – the bathroom bill and a bill reforming property tax which would cause automatic elections when local governments raise property taxes by more than 5 percent. The House, led by Straus, is ignoring the bathroom bill and has delayed a vote on the property tax bill.

Meanwhile, last week the Freedom Caucus, apparently outraged that some of their pet bills weren’t making it to the House floor, sidelined more than 100 bills on the House’s local and consent calendar, used for items that aren’t considered controversial. With so little time left in regular session, it likely meant death for those pieces of legislation. Included legislation that the Freedom Caucus found fit to sacrifice were HB 1158 and HB 2403, both proposed to help curb the state’s high maternity death rate – right before Mother’s Day. Also on their list was the House’s version of the “sunset safety net.”

If the legislature is forced into a special session this year, it won’t be because they didn’t have enough time to get done what needed to be done. It will be because they just didn’t do their jobs. Patrick and the Freedom Caucus especially have essentially taken away non-optional legislation to advance their own interests.

It’s politics as usual, yes. But it’s just plain petty.

Racey Burden is a Messenger reporter.

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