A state investigation that began after one Texas House member ejected another from a hearing for allegedly signing up absent witnesses to support legislation could reach its conclusion Tuesday at a House committee hearing.
At an April 30 hearing of the House Transportation Committee, Chairman Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, got into an argument over Stickland’s proposal to ban red light cameras. Pickett accused state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, of breaking the law by listing witnesses who were not in Austin as supporters of his legislation. He then ordered Stickland to leave the hearing.
“Mr. Stickland, you may leave, or be removed,” Pickett told a stunned Stickland at the hearing. “Which one do you prefer?”
“This is the most disrespectful thing that I have seen,” Stickland said, shortly before a House Sargent escorted him out of the room.
The day after the hearing, state Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin, announced the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee, which he chairs, would investigate the allegations raised at the hearing. Kuempel’s committee later voted to refer the investigation to the Texas Rangers, a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
On Monday, Kuempel declined to discuss the investigation or his plans for Tuesday’s hearing.
Stickland has claimed that Pickett's actions and the investigation mark an attempt to stifle free speech from him and other critics. He did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Pickett said he believed the final result of the investigation will be that the House will clarify its rules at the beginning of the next legislative session for witnesses registering their opinions at committee hearings.
“I think it will be made clear that if you want to testify, you need to be in Austin, Texas,” Pickett said.
Pickett also said the Texas Rangers investigation found at least 50 witnesses who had registered for Stickland’s bill without having been in the Capitol. A request for comment to DPS about the status of the investigation was not returned Monday.