Texas House Transportation chair halts consideration of Senate bills

The chairman of the Texas House Transportation Committee ripped up voting cards for 10 Senate bills Wednesday morning in protest of the upper chamber’s lack of movement on lower chamber legislation.

In a brief, nine-minute meeting, Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) announced the committee would no longer consider Senate legislation, at least until House bills begin to move in the upper chamber.

“Members, it tolls me to have the conversation we’re about to have today,” Canales said after hearing and voting out a bill by Rep. Eddie Morales (D-Eagle Pass). 

“Anybody who’s been a member knows how hard it is to get a bill heard, sent out of Calendars, voted on the House floor, and then sent to the Senate. The reality is … our bills don’t seem to be as great in importance in the Senate as they are to us and the work that we put in doesn’t seem to be respected in the manner that I would like to be respected and that I would like my colleagues to be respected.”

Canales then said, “It is not my intention to call or hear or vote on any Senate bills until the House’s bills start to move in the Senate. In the words of my colleague Senfronia Thompson — if the Senate will not respect us, they better expect us.”

That quote from Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) is a reference to last session when the House recessed for two days in mid- to late-May in protest over the same issue: House priority bills stagnating in the Senate.

As of May 9, the House had passed 1,343 bills or resolutions, of which 206 have been heard in committee and 29 have been passed entirely. On the flip side, the Senate has passed 771 bills or resolutions with 416 having been heard in committee and 159 passed.

The two chambers often jockey over the timeliness of bill movement. At the end of April, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick jabbed the House, saying, “I previously expressed concern the House was far behind in the passage of bills and a train wreck was coming.” 

“As of this morning, the House has moved 1,142 bills out of committees but has not set them on the House calendar. The Senate is ready to help, but time is growing short.”

The Senate has passed all but two of its top 30 priority bills — one of which is the draft budget, which the House leads on this session, and legislation to create a commercial trial court on which the House’s version appears to be the blessed one — while the House has passed 18 of its 20 top priorities.

The Senate completed its run through its priorities before the end of April.

One of the two not passed, House Bill (HB) 10, is identical to a Senate priority that is moving. The other is HB 20 — the creation of the state’s Border Protection Unit — that died by point of order Tuesday evening but was tacked onto HB 7 in slightly altered form.

As sine die approaches each session, tensions flare as the two chambers’ opposite views on what should be prioritized — and what shouldn’t — come to a head.

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