The Texas Department of Insurance Sunset bill is shaping up as one of the biggest unsettled issues of the session, along with Voter I.D. Having seen what happened in the Senate on the bill, when Democrats offered a series of pro-consumer amendments and Republicans defeated them all on lemmings-like party line votes of 18-12, the insurance industry is not eager to see a repeat in the House. Allies of the trial lawyers have been raising the alarm that the industry wanted to avoid a floor fight. Yesterday, Carl Isett brought the Sunset “safety net” bill to the floor, opening the possibility of further delaying scrutiny of TDI, which has not occurred on the floor for 16 years. Eiland, who wants a debate on insurance issues, made the interesting play of offering an amendment to move TDI to the safety net bill and announcing that he would vote against his own amendment. Isett and Smithee were on the back microphone by prearrangement, supporting Eiland’s tactic. The board lit up red, and the amendment failed, 135-0. It is the first all-red board I can remember since Keffer offered the governor’s school finance plan in a 2004 special session and it got zero votes. The Republicans got to cast a “good” vote on insurance, and Eiland made sure that the bill will be fully debated in the House.
This is not the end game, by any means. The House will load up the bill, it will go back to the Senate, and the Senate will take it to conference. Here’s what I wonder: Since there has already been a vote on the issue of moving the Sunset bill to the safety net bill, and it failed, is that tactic no longer available to Senate or the conference committee? Perhaps Eiland should have moved to reconsider and table the vote by which his amendment failed, which would have killed the issue for the session.
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