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House Rules Can Turn Back Time


by: Chaille Jolink

Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 07:51 PM CST


Today the House passed HR 4 known as the House Rules.  A total of 33 amendments were introduced and a total of 15 were adopted.  

Amoung some of those that passed 4 were introduced by Rep. Villareal of San Antonio. The first two amendments give more transparency to the committee process and the other two give more information to lawmakers when evaluating costs of bills.

Yet throughout the day Republicans voted against amendments that were aimed to create more transparency or knowledge within the lawmaking process. Representative Abel Herrero of Corpus introduced an amendment that ensured state funds were diverted to their intended use, which prompted back mic dissent from Republicans claiming that did not happen, despite the Speaker and the Governor calling against this kind of diversion when the House was first gaveled into session.

The largest change came from one of the first amendments which, now adopted, make it easier to overrule points of order. The amendment states that if a violation within a bill called out for a point of order doesn't "deceive or mislead"  then the speaker can overrule the point of order. This will make things considerably more problematic for the minority party in the House and gives a credible amount of power to the speaker..

But really the most noted thing all day was Representative Debbie Riddle's quote, "God is on the side of stopping the clock." Just like physicists, and God, the Texas Legislature's stance on time is relative.  This amendment introduced by Representative David Simpson, in his attempt to make the House Rules more transparent, called for time to not be relative but to be recorded precisely in the House Journal.

The problem is that sometimes the Texas Legislature is known to stop time, literally.  Towards the end of session when deadlines loom large the rules, or really time needs to be bent a little in order to save bills from dying. Bills need to be read "on three several days" in order to pass so at the last minute sometimes bills on second reading will be moved to third reading in the same day (even though they are supposed to be read on different days). The House will suspend these rules and have it recorded in the journal as different days. This actually happens each time a bill is introduced in the Senate, which is why they don't follow a calendar at all.

So Simpson tried to ensure that the actual time was recorded in the journal, and not the "legislative time" if you will.  Debbie Riddle took issue with this, and in her infinite wisdom mentioned that the Legislature and God are the only people that can stop time, and that Simpson was on the wrong side of this time issue. Hence, "God is on the side of stopping the clock," obviously.  

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It's not too much to ask that bill records be correct. (3.00 / 1)

In a previous Session I worked to stop a bad, punitive-minded bill by Rep. Tony Goolsby.  I visited with Rep. Jim Dunnam's office about the concern.  He discovered an error in Goolsby's bill, that violated the Rules.  So he raised a point of order.  The Republican Speaker, Craddick, agreed with the point of order and approved it.  Goolsby sat down, and his bill died.  Then we elected Carol Kent to represent that district.

On Monday, Rep. Phil King passed a rule amendment to stop that kind of point of order.  There may be other ways of stopping a bad-old Goolsby bill - - but Phil King's rule gives us one less chance.  


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