Speaker’s Office Responds to Criticism on Interpretation of Calendars Committee Rule
Alexis DeLee, spokesperson for Tom Craddick, responded to my comments saying that the speaker had acted in a heavyhanded manner in refusing to allow members to correct amendments that violated the Calendars Committee rule. Her letter to my earlier post, “Speaker Slaughters Amendments,” follows below.
“Regarding the point of order on the amendments that would take money away from the Texas Enterprise Fund, the ruling was more than fair. Below I have drafted questions raised and outlined the reasons why this was an evenhanded decision.
“Why wipe out all these amendments at once, rather than simply allowing the members to debate them on the floor individually and allow the points of order to come up?
“The members voted on the Calendar Rule last week, which required any new spending item added to the budget to be accompanied by removing another item of equal value. It also obligated members to submit their amendments by 8 p.m. on Monday, March 26th. The Calendar Rule passed overwhelmingly with a 100-46 vote. Therefore, all members were well aware of what this rule necessitated.
“Why didn’t you allow the members to make corrections to the amendments? You have done so in the past.
“Your assertion that it’s unfair to put a burden on members for drafting errors and legal research is baseless. Members are completely aware of the consequences of bringing legislation to the floor that doesn’t comply with the Calendar Rule. The members voted overwhelmingly to pass the Calendar Rule last week. Consequently, it was their job to scrub these amendments prior to filing them to make sure they complied.
“In the past, the speaker has allowed members to make changes to their amendments when those changes have been minor technicalities. These amendments all clearly violated the Calendar Rule, and therefore were not debated.
“Isn’t it Legislative Council’s job to ensure the constitutionality of these amendments?
“No. The Legislative Council drafts amendments based upon instructions given to them by the members. It is up to the members to make sure their amendments comply with the Calendar Rule.”
Press Secretary for Speaker Tom Craddick
I appreciate the response from Alexis DeLee. I accept her explanation that the Speaker was justified in not giving members the opportunity to correct their amendments. If the letter of the law was all that was at stake, I wouldn’t have bothered to post about how Craddick responded to the members’ request for time. But simple courtesy was also at stake. Members were blindsided by the actions of their lawyers. The rules go so far as to say that an attorney-client privilege exists between members and Legislative Council attorneys. The speaker did not interpret the rules incorrectly. But he did have an opportunity to be gracious, and he chose not to do so. In my opinion, that was worth writing about.