Freshman Rep. David Simpson may be gaining a tough reputation in the lower chamber: black sheep.
The Longview Republican's "rogue" antics — using parliamentary procedures to knock three bills, including Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s contentious puppy mill bill, off of a fast-track House calendar — is attracting glares and backlash from his colleagues, some of whom are considering returning the favor.
"It’s been a little lonely up there today," Simpson conceded.
Simpson hasn't broken any official House rules. His moves were designed to ensure bills he disagreed with didn't get passed on the Local and Consent calendar, where they aren't subject to debate. But he broke the unspoken rules of decorum, his colleagues say — and clearly got on veteran member (and Local and Consent Chairwoman) Thompson's bad side — both of which jeopardize the chances of his own bills passing.
“If he doesn’t want to have a relationship with anybody around or if he thinks not going up and talking to authors before he knocks a bill off is the right way to go, that’s his business, not mine,” said Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, who defended Thompson’s bill on the floor.
As of this afternoon, 13 co-authors of Simpson's HB 1937, a popular bill to criminalize over-eager patdowns at airport security, had withdrawn their names from his legislation.
“Most of us learned, who’ve been around here, [that] you make your point and then you sit down. You don’t continue until you become annoying,” said Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Port Arthur, a former co-author of the airport security bill. “And he’s become annoying to a lot of members.”
Simpson, a Tea Partier elected on a conservative tidal wave, said he had “no other choice to stop the growing of government like a race track.”
Time-permitting, Simpson said he would have talked to both Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin and Rep. Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, the other two lawmakers whose Local and Consent bills he challenged. When he talked to Thompson, he said, she told him to go ahead and voice his concerns.
Comparing his struggle today to Sam Houston’s struggle against secessionists, Simpson said he may lose everything, but that “providence will dictate whether I did the right thing today.”
Twitter's certainly not "providence" — but judging from Thursday afternoon's feed, Simpson’s actions weren't sitting well. “Rep. David Simpson has made it a point to derail a number of local & consent bills from the calendar, including those by the chair," tweeted Rep. Aaron Pena, R-Edinburg.
News of Simpson's bill-bumping even made it back to his district. Longview Mayor Jay Dean said constituents, particularly those in favor of the puppy mill bill, aren’t happy either, and want Simpson to better choose "what battles to fight."
“What we expect in this district is that our representative is going to engage in the political process in order to enact legislation that is positive for the future of this district,” Dean said. Any action that “has a negative impact on the entire chamber is going to be very well noticed.”
In the end, it may be no harm, no foul: Members found a way to revive all three bills blocked by Simpson, Keffer said, by placing them on the General Calendar for debate next week.
Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, who spoke on the Floor in support of Thompson’s bill, said that while Simpson's behavior shocked some lawmakers, it was within his rights, and his purview. "He's a big boy," she said.