87th LegislatureState HouseState SenateIn Feud With Senate, Texas House Recesses for Two Days Closing in on Key Deadlines

As the time crunch accelerates, members of the Texas legislature scramble to pass their prized pieces of legislation.
May 20, 2021
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Tensions came to a head in the Texas legislature on Thursday when the House sent a clear message to its upper chamber counterparts in recessing until Sunday afternoon. That means the legislative agendas for both Friday and Saturday will be pushed to Sunday — further constricting the time available to pass legislation before the session’s conclusion on May 31.

The day began with a bout of frustration on the House floor as members threatened to postpone the entire slate of Senate bills on the calendar today.

Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) inquired from the floor, “Mr. Speaker, would you recognize me for a motion to postpone all Senate bills?”

The request was not recognized, but its effect was realized when the House recessed for two days. But more inquiries were made throughout Thursday’s floor proceedings.

The origin of irritation was the Senate’s pocketing of various criminal justice and health care priority bills.

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Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) prefaced the scuffle this morning when he tweeted, “There are either two chambers or there are no chambers. If the [Texas] Senate wants to kill or sit on important bills sent over by the House, they can expect the same in return.”

“As the deadline for passing bills approaches,” Rep. Jeff Cason (R-Bedford) added on Facebook after the body recessed, “the House has decided to send a message to the Senate by refusing to pass any more Senate bills until the Senate begins movement again on our House bills.”

The gripe cannot be over the volume of bills withheld from referral, but rather the priority or other certain bills themselves as the Senate has referred nearly 400 House bills to committees in the same time the House has referred 20 Senate bills.

Among those referred by the Senate are most of the House’s criminal justice bills. But multiple of them have been either left pending in committee for days or are awaiting a hearing — especially bills authored by House Democrats.

On the health care side, legislation to extend for a year a minor’s eligibility for the Children’s Health Insurance Program until age 19 and a mother’s eligibility under Medicaid until a year after giving birth are both still languishing in the committee process.

Later Thursday afternoon, the gamble appeared to be making some headway when Leach’s House Bill 686, among the stalled criminal justice bills, moved toward the Senate’s local and uncontested calendar.

With about a week and a half left in the session, any delayed time will mean the death of legislation that otherwise might have found its way to the floor. Tuesday is the last day the House can consider Senate bills on second reading.

Furthermore, the deadline for Senate bills to be referred to a committee is Saturday. Among the most notable bills yet to be referred is Sen. Bob Hall’s (R-Edgewood) bill to prohibit the use of sex reassignment surgeries or puberty-blocking drugs on minors.

If the House remains recessed until Sunday, that deadline will come and go with no movement on that bill. The effective postponement also pushes back bills that were set on the Sunday calendar — such as the bill allowing nursing home residents to designate one essential caregiver who cannot be prohibited from visitation. That bill also began to move after the House recessed.

The Senate’s final day to consider bills that haven’t already been passed on second or third reading is next Wednesday. The legislature is on the clock to push across the finish line its priority legislation and with that comes friction between the two chambers with oftentimes markedly different priorities.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.