Lawmakers: Bill Slaughter Not a Partisan Deal

After a night of dramatic maneuvers in the Texas House, lawmakers were back at it on Wednesday morning, with a handful of irked conservatives using parliamentary tactics to kill previously uncontested Senate bills.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, on the back mic during the reading of local and consent bils, May 15, 2015.
State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, on the back mic during the reading of local and consent bils, May 15, 2015.  Todd Wiseman

After a night of dramatic maneuvers in the Texas House, lawmakers were back at it on Wednesday morning, with a handful of irked conservatives using parliamentary tactics to kill previously uncontested Senate bills. 

One of the Democrat-authored measures knocked out of contention would've further protected children from neglect or physical and sexual abuse; another would've increased awareness of prescription drug abuse in public schools.

But the Tea Party-backed lawmakers insisted that they weren't out for revenge for an anti-abortion bill that died on the clock late Tuesday. They said they were making decisions on a policy basis, not a partisan one.

"We don't play games, regardless of what the Democrats are saying," said state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, who was one of about five GOP lawmakers participating in the bill slaughter. "What we're doing is policy driven."

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As proof, he produced a copy of a list of the bills scheduled to come up before the House on Wednesday morning; it showed a mix of Y's and N's — indicative of whether the group of lawmakers would strike those bills from the calendar. 

Tuesday was the last day the House could approve major legislation that began in the Senate. For hours that day, Democrats worked to keep the anti-abortion proposal from reaching the floor for a vote, delaying consideration of mostly uncontroversial bills to run the clock.

Later that night, the House ate up hours debating and eventually passing ethics reforms and a watered-down version of legislation allowing the concealed carrying of handguns on college campuses.

When the clock struck midnightSenate Bill 575 by Republican Sen. Larry Taylor, which would have banned most abortion coverage on insurance plans sold on the federal Affordable Care Act’s marketplace, hadn't even come up for debate.

Some lawmakers tied Wednesday morning's bill kill to the failure of the abortion bill. State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, the Bedford Republican who appeared to be leading the effort, said that while "there's a lot of things going on," it was a "principled vote on every one" — not about the abortion bill.

But Stickland, who pulled down a controversial anti-abortion proposal over the weekend in order to get SB 575 moving, said Tuesday night's antics "definitely encouraged people to be more bold in what they normally might not do." 

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That night, some Republicans had attempted to postpone debate on the ethics legislation to take up the abortion bill instead. They were unsuccessful after Republican state Rep. Byron Cook of Corsicana, the House sponsor of the ethics legislation, declined to postpone the measure. 

SB 575 had already taken a tumultuous path in the lower chamber. It was cleared by the House State Affairs Committee on Saturday in a last-minute vote on the final day the committee could advance Senate proposals. 

The bill initially failed to get out of the Calendars Committee, which sets the schedule for when bills are considered on the House floor. But after fireworks over the bill, including a confrontation between Stickland and Cook, it was reconsidered and added to the calendar.

State Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, also insisted on Wednesday that the bills she was helping Stickland and Tinderholt to kill weren't about retribution. "I don't do paybacks," she said. 

Ryan McCrimmon contributed to this report.