The highlights: 1. A process is established for removal of the speaker following the refusal to recognize a member for a question of privilege. (The Tom Craddick Rule) This had to be done. The Craddick/Keel/Wilson ruling that the speaker was an officer of the state and could not be removed except through impeachment could not be allowed to stand. 2. One-half of the Appropriations committee shall be determined on the basis of seniority (excluding the chair and vice-chair). Wow! I didn’t expect this. It means that a lot of experienced Democrats could be back on Appropriations: Turner, Gallego, Coleman, probably Dukes. Chisum makes it. Gattis and Kolkhorst will need speaker appointments to return. In fact, most of the Rs on the committee will be wiped out unless they get speaker appointments. Well, that wasn’t a very strong bunch anyway. 3. Points of order based on the bill analysis may be overruled if the analysis is not materially or substantially misleading. Yes, I think everybody recognized that the nitpicking of the bill analysis resulted in too many bills getting killed for hypertechnical reasons. 4. If a vacancy occurs in the office of the parliamentarian, the appointment of a new parliamentarian must be approved by the house in the next regular or special session. The parliamentarian serves at the pleasure of the speaker and has a duty of loyalty and confidentiality to the speaker and each member of the house. (The Terry Keel Rule) This change probably won’t be needed for a long time, but everyone understands why this barn door had to be closed, even though the horse didn’t get away. 5. The Calendars committee may set a third reading calendar to be considered by the house at a time certain designated by the committee. The third reading calendar has precedence at the time certain, except that the chair may permit the house to complete action on any measure under consideration. My impression is that this rule represents a backlash against the procedure at the end of last session when members were suspending rules right and left to get bills passed instead of clearing bills on third reading. That was an ugly scene, and the rule is necessary to prevent a repeat. 6. Motions to reconsider the vote by which a bill was defeated shall not be in order unless a member has previously provided at least two hours’ notice of intent by addressing the house while the house is in session. (The Warren Chisum Rule) Last session Chisum had a vendor bill involving drivers’ records that was defeated on the floor. The next morning there was a motion to reconsider. I don’t recall whether Chisum made the motion or not, but I do recall that hardly anybody was on the floor when the motion was made. The bill was reconsidered and Chisum lost again. That sneaky play was one of the reasons he ended up on the Ten Worst list. 7. Calendars committee rules governing debate for a bill must be laid before the house not earlier than six hours after copies of the rule have been distributed to members. To be effective, such rules must be approved by 2/3 of the members present and voting, EXCEPT that for an appropriations bill, a redistricting bill, or a tax bill, the rule may be approved by a majority vote. This rules change could have a huge effect. In particular, the Calendars committee’s standard rule for appropriations bills—you can’t propose new spending unless you cut an equal amount from somewhere else—makes it virtually impossible to move money around in the bill. If the rule gets voted down, the levee that has held amendments back for years will collapse. You will see Democrats offer an amendment that, say, takes money away from property tax cuts and puts it into something like dropout prevention, and Republicans will may take money from schools and use it to fund vouchers. I don’t like the calendars committee rule, because it prevents full debate on the state’s priorities, but the only thing worse than preventing full debate on the state’s priorities may be allowing it. 8. Members may not indicate a preference for the position of chairman for budget and oversight when indicating their preferred substantive committee assignments. You know what this means: no CBOs. Good for Straus. But it also means fewer plums for the speaker to hand out. 9. During a regular session, a printed copy of the calendar on which the General Appropriations bill is set for debate must be distributed to members at least 144 hours before the calendar may be considered by the house. It doesn’t matter. They won’t read the bill anyway. 10. Bill analyses must include a separate statement that lists each statute or constitutional provision that is being amended or repealed. I don’t know how far-reaching this is. I do know that it is impossible to know what is going on when the bill simply says it repeals section so and so. That doesn’t tell you anything. I have one major complaint with the rules. The end of the session was so chaotic last year, particularly the last three days, that I wished the House were operating under the Laney rules. This set deadlines for the progress of bills through the process in the last two to three weeks. The idea was to reserve the last week or so for negotiating the major bills in conference committees, and generally to prevent opportunities for skullduggery. I am sorry that the proposed changes do not incorporate the Laney rules, or something similar. On the good side, the damage inflicted by Craddick on the balance of power between the speaker and the members has been repaired. It’s way too early to say that this is a happy ending, but at least it’s a new beginning. One further point about the rules: I think Straus makes good here on his vow to run the House for the benefit of the members. On my list, #1, #2, #4, #6, #7, #9, and #10 all are designed to empower, or just to make life easier for, members. Solomons has done a very good job of transforming Straus’s intentions into reality. * * * * This is the language for the procedure to appeal the refusal of a speaker to recognize a member for a question of privilege: The refusal of the speaker to recognize a member for a question of privilege that is in order under this chapter is subject to an appeal to the house if the member seeking recognition submits to the speaker a written motion requesting recognition that is singed by at least 76 members of the house. An appeal …shall be set as a special order of the house to be considered 24 hours after the time a motion is submitted. If the appeal overturns the speaker’s refusal to recognize the member seeking recognition, the member shall be recognized on the question of privilege at the first time the question is in order….
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