Updated 7:54 p.m.: The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee has voted out the TSA bill, 7-1.
Committee members agreed that the bill “had taken on a life of its own,” and said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick had made the issue an attack against the federal government. Still, a majority of members agreed the substance of the bill was well-intended, and complimented the House version's author, state Rep. David Simpson, for his persistence.
“There is no question in my mind that Gov. Dewhurst and Sen. Patrick did significant damage to this bill,” said Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine and chair of the committee.
The bill should be considered Wednesday, if the House allows Simpson to make a motion to reconsider the vote taken Monday on his version of the bill, HB 41. That would return the bill to second reading, allowing Simpson to then substitute its language with the Senate version.
Gallego said things may get a little tricky after that.
Because Wednesday is the last day of the special session, House members must muster a four-fifths vote to suspend the constitutional rule requiring that bills be read on three consecutive days. That means 120 members have to be present and vote to advance the bill — because it’s not a four-fifths vote of members present, but of members that comprise the body.
Members acknowledged the timing and the volatility of the bill, but decided to leave its fate up to members of the House. The lone vote against the bill in committee came from state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, an initial co-sponsor who recently withdrew his name. He said he was approached by law enforcement officials who had concerns about the bill, and also raised questions about the anti-government rhetoric that had since been applied to the measure.
Updated 7:30 p.m.: The House has adjourned for the evening while the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee considers the Senate version of the TSA "anti-groping" bill. Lawmakers will reconvene and attempt to pass that measure tomorrow morning.
Updated 6:45pm: The House just re-considered the vote on SB 1. This time, they passed the conference committee's report by a vote of 80-57. More than two dozen Republicans switched their votes after the GOP caucused for nearly 45 minutes in the Agricultural Museum.
State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said a provision he interpreted as being an unfunded mandate for small districts turned out to be unfounded. "My understanding of the bill has changed," he told the chamber before changing his vote to "aye." Bottom line: Lawmakers have averted a second special session. The Legislature is sending SB 1, the final "must pass" bill, to the governor's desk. The remaining issue before adjournment is SB 29, the TSA "anti-groping" bill.
The Texas House unexpectedly voted down a critical budget measure this afternoon, throwing the Capitol into confusion and bringing the Legislature to the brink of a second special session.
Call it an act of retaliation or a sudden change of heart. The Texas House voted down SB 1, a fiscal matters bill that must pass in order to balance the state's budget for the next two years. The Senate adjourned Sine Die — meaning they called an end to the session on their side of the Capitol — earlier in the day, leaving the House to finish up the budget measure and to decide the fate of a populist measure against groping by security agents at airports and other public facilities.
At this point, lawmakers' options are limited: convince a few Republicans to reverse their votes or stay in Austin. If they don't reverse their budget vote, lawmakers will have to come back or the 2012-13 budget won't be fully funded.
The 64-79 vote shocked a chamber that was already dealing with the fallout from the Senate's early adjournment. The upper chamber essentially placed the House in a "take it or leave it" position on the issue of outlawing invasive pat-downs at airports by federal officers with the Transportation Security Administration. Instead of passing the House's version of the bill or considering passage of a non-binding resolution on the matter, the Senate passed SB 29 and gaveled out.
In response, House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Chair Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, called a meeting downstairs to vote on the Senate version, to speed it to the House for full consideration before the session ends. He made no assurances he would pass the bill in its current form and lawmakers expressed their discontent toward the Senate in blunt terms. "They did an intrusive pat-down, a grope on us," said state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth.
As the committee met, the House resumed its debate over SB1, a bill that would distribute $4 billion in education cuts statewide and generate $3.5 billion for the budget through payment deferrals and accelerated tax collections. It soon became apparent that lawmakers were also upset with the Senate for some of the amendments to SB1, including provisions to keep a couple of agencies open.
State Affairs Chair Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, told the chamber the House's ideas "fell on deaf ears" in the Senate. With that, lawmakers voted the bill down. The Ayes were all from Republicans; 32 Republicans and 47 Democrats voted Nay.
House Republicans immediately went to caucus in hopes of reversing some votes. Democrats found themselves in the position of witnessing an implosion within the other party.
"People act differently when they’re about to be judged by voters," said state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, referring to lawmakers who've started to hear from their local school district officials and the potential federal campaigns of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Gov. Rick Perry.
Though it was the House that acted, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said the Senate has to take responsibility for the delay in the lower chamber. He said usually disagreements would be resolved in conference committees, but that is not possible since the Senate has gone home.
"The fact they sine died is very frustrating," King told reporters.