The House is displaying some serious independence these days. It’s as if Craddick said, OK, you whiners, you say you’re tired of being told what to do, you’re on your own now. And no committee chair has been safe since. (This is a consequence of Craddick’s centralizing power in himself over the past two sessions; chairs don’t have the power, the respect, or the immunity they had when the Democrats ruled the House.) The latest to run into trouble was Chisum. The chair of Appropriations no less. He had a bill today to establish a pilot program to allow data-gathering companies access to DPS driving records, which they would later sell to employers, who could use the data to ague for a reduction of their insurance premiums by showing that their professional drivers had good safety records. The bill failed yesterday but was resuscitated with a motion to reconsider the vote. The House debated it, amended it, and killed it again. Poor Chisum knew it was going down at the end; he said, just before the vote, that he just didn’t see the problems in it that the members did. He looked befuddled, something I have never seen. Members were worried about the privacy issues, and also that DPS was fronting the costs for the pilot program (which they would later recoup). I don’t think it helped that Corte, the chair of the Republican caucus, got involved in the debate, showing little regard for the privacy questions. Chisum did everything he could to pass it, accepting all sorts of amendments, but when the House is allowed to work its will, sometimes there just isn’t a way.
Update: There was no public policy reason for this bill to be worthy of being reconsidered. So why did Chisum do it? The answer is that it was a vendor bill, and a favored lobbyist wanted it. What I would like to know is, Who favored the lobbyist? Was it Chisum? Craddick?
More seriously, I don’t think it is good for the leadership to have their Appropriations chairman passing junky bills and getting beat, and reconsidering them and getting beat, and moving to limit amendments and getting beat. It’s not a certainty that the House will vote to adopt the conference committee report. That could be a floor fight. I think things are going to get crazier as this session grinds on, and, believe me, they’re plenty crazy now.