Texas Legislature Sidestep

By:  Kelly Holt
Texas Legislature Sidestep

While Texas’ 83rd Legislature might go down in state history as one of the most colorful, it didn't start out that way.

Folks who normally view the biennial meeting as notice to break out the popcorn and grab a seat in the public gallery were initially disappointed. Affectionately known in Texas as “the Lege”, the 140-day regular session was uncharacteristically bland. But the abortion debate closing the first special session focused the nation’s attention on the Lone Star State. Conservative Lege-watchers noted, however, that it was to the exclusion of other important legislation. In spite of statements by top Republican leaders and the all-but-certain pro-life victory at the end, sound legislation and fiscally responsible bills failed to get passed.

More constitutionally-minded Texans hoped for more constitutional legislation — and honest behavior — from their legislators had Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) succeeded in his bid for House Speaker. Simpson gained national attention in his freshman year (2011) with his wildly popular anti-TSA bill, but when the Session convened January 8, he noted in a short withdrawal speech that his reason was the retaliation planned for his supporters if they voted for him. 

In all, 10,630 pieces of legislation (House and Senate bills, and resolutions, which do not carry the weight of bills) were introduced. But as the session progressed, conservatives and liberals alike were frustrated by the lack of action in even getting bills heard, especially conservatives who counted on Republican leaders. Bill Cherry of The John Birch Society had this observation about the Lege:

“We heard a number of pronouncements and public statements from top elected state officials about how much they were against ObamaCare and were not going to take part in the program. Yet, when at least five ObamaCare nullification bills (HB 3785 and HB 3709,  et al) were introduced in both the House and Senate, not one made it through the process; they all died. They were stopped by the leadership making sure the bills never made committee or hearing deadlines, or they made sure there was no time left for bills to make it through the process to be voted on in the House and Senate." 

At least one nullification bill introduced by Cecil Bell, a conservative freshman, was desperately drafted at the last minute when it became obvious that the others were meeting resistance, but to no avail. This prompted Cherry to add this observation about yet another freshman who got a similar surprise concerning his new role:

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