The Dutton Questions
Thu February 19, 2009 10:20 am

On Tuesday, Harold Dutton raised two parliamentary inquiries of Speaker Straus. The first involved committee membership:

Q: Do the rules provide that a member can resign his seat?
A: Yes
Q: Can he resign from his committee if he wants to?
A: It’s up to the member to decide if he wants to participate.
Q: Can he officially resign?
A: There is no rule that speaks to that.
Q: If two members on separate committees want to swap, can they do so?
A: There is no language that addresses that.

Dutton was appointed to Corrections and Public Education. One can infer that he is not pleased with his lot. Democrats aren’t the only ones who are unhappy. At least one Republican who was appointed to Appropriations has said that he will not attend.

The question I want to deal with is whether the rules should allow members to switch committees. The answer should be no. The appointing of committees involves a lot of balancing of R’s and D’s and other demographics. The members should not be allowed to frustrate the speaker’s intent. My answer would be the same if Craddick were speaker.

The second parliamentary inquiry involves the new rule regarding the privileged motion to vacate the chair:

Q: Can the motion to vacate the chair, if it fails, the appropriate motion afterwards is a motion to reconsider. Is that correct?
A: Yes
Q: Is there a time limit on when the motion could be brought or how often it could be brought?
A: No
Q: If the motion to reconsider fails, does that cut off more motions to reconsider for the day, or for the session.
A: I believe the intent of the rule was for the session, but the parliamentarian needs to clarify.
Q. Then a motion to reconsider could be made every day, I suppose?
A. That’s possible

The rules are clear on this. New language added this year states:

Rule 7, Section 37: MOTION TO RECONSIDER A VOTE. (a) When a question has been decided by the house and the yeas and nays have been called for and recorded, any member voting with the prevailing side may, on the same legislative day, or on the next legislative day, move a reconsideration; however, if a reconsideration is moved on the next legislative day, it must be done before the order of the day, as designated in the 11th item of Rule 6, Section 1(a), is taken up. If the house refuses to reconsider, or on reconsideration, affirms its decision, no further action to reconsider shall be in order.

The bold-faced language is not new.

What I want to know is whether a motion to vacate the chair is still in order if the motion to reconsider fails. In other words, does the anti-speaker faction get one chance and one chance only to remove the speaker, or is the speaker in jeopardy every single day? I think the latter scenario is reflects legislative intent.

It remains to be seen whether Dutton’s questions are the tip of the iceberg or more serious.

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