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Wentworth's Campus Carry Bill May Be Stuck

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, hoped to bring up his campus carry bill today after a false start on Thursday. But the search for votes is proving more difficult than he anticipated.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, prepares to leave the Senate chamber after he tried to generate support for his guns-on-campus bill SB354 on April 11, 2011

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, hoped to bring up his bill today that would allow some individuals to carry concealed handguns on college and university campuses, following a false start on Thursday. But the search for votes is proving more difficult than anticipated.

Texas Senate rules require the consent of 21 members to suspend the rules and bring a bill up for debate. When Wentworth tried to bring the bill up for consideration last week, he thought he had the support of 22 members. But after debate got under way, state Sens. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, and Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, withdrew their support, leaving Wentworth — who described the move as a "complete surprise" — one vote short.

Generally, before a vote to take up a bill comes up, authors of bills have polled the members and turned in a sheet to the lieutenant governor demonstrating that they have the the necessary votes. From then on, Wentworth said, "you've made your commitments. At least, that's the way it was when I first arrived in the Texas Senate."

Currently, Wentworth says he has 20 members willing to consent to bringing the bill to the floor — a tally Wentworth says includes at least two Democrats: Sens. John Whitmire, D-Houston, and Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. He still needs one more.

"It would be nice if one or the other of them would honor their statement to me that they were going to vote 'yes' on the motion to suspend," Wentworth said of Gallegos and Lucio.

It won't be Gallegos, who said he has polled campuses in his region — the University of Houston, UH-Downtown, San Jacinto College and Houston Community College — and found that students overwhelmingly are against the bill. He said that no matter what, from here on out he will be against suspending the rules to take up Senate Bill 354.

Lucio said he would be willing to suspend the rules provided Wentworth is willing to accept an amendment allowing each institution to vote on whether or not to allow concealed weapons on its individual campus. Wentworth, who is against such an amendment, has no intention of making that promise and is reluctant to even consider caving on the matter. "It’s not the way I’d want to pass the bill," he said, "though I’m sure some would argue that’s better than nothing."

Last session, the Senate passed a bill almost identical to the one Wentworth is currently carrying. This time, until one of the opposing senators of either party agrees to let the bill come to the floor — or Wentworth agrees to let the bill be tweaked in ways he isn't entirely comfortable with — it may be at an impasse.

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