Legislative Line – May 12, 2017

The first round of legislative deadlines hit this week and a vast majority of bills are effectively dead as of Friday, May 12.

Members only reached page seven of Thursday’s 23-page calendar. Amid high drama leading up to the midnight deadline, the so-called Freedom Caucus, an ultra-conservative bloc in the House, started “chubbing” (the House’s version of a filibuster) as retribution to House leadership. In addition to the chubbing, they also knocked more than 100 bills off Friday’s Local and Consent Calendar with the same parliamentary maneuver used to bump 22 bills off Tuesday’s Local Calendar. Local and Consent calendars consist of bills that only impact local jurisdictions or are perceived to be non-controversial. These calendars typically pass around 100 bills in a speedy two-hour process.

Among the bills that died last night was the Sunset Safety Net Bill, HB 3302. This bill would keep some important state agencies alive and is considered a must-pass for the state to stay in business. If the Senate is unable to pass the measure and send it over to the House, Gov. Greg Abbott might be forced to call a special session to keep agencies running.

It is important to note that just because a bill died due to Thursday night’s deadline, it does not mean members can’t keep the issues alive by tacking them on as amendments to other legislation that is still moving through the process. An issue isn’t truly dead until lawmakers pack up and leave town.

With the first major deadlines of the session behind us, the next week will be critical in making sure any measures left to pass one chamber or the other get across the finish line. Tuesday, May 23, marks the last Senate Bill calendar in the House. Realistically, anything that hasn’t been sent to the House Calendars committee by Monday or Tuesday of next week will have a hard time making it.

Also this week, Gov. Abbott signed the sanctuary city bill into law via Facebook Live in lieu of a public bill signing, which is customary for priority legislation.

Last Week 

Passed the House: HB 1643 by Drew Springer would add a concentrated animal feeding operation to the definition of “critical infrastructure facility” over which an unmanned aircraft is prohibited. The committee substitute and three floor amendments were adopted and it passed to Third Reading on a voice vote. On Thursday, it received final approval by a vote of 135-8.

On Monday, the Senate Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs Committee took up HB 3451 by Rep. Lynn Stucky and sponsored by Sen. Kirk Watson relating to the study and approval of lethal pesticides for feral hog control. It was left pending.

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee took up SB 2 by Paul Bettencourt, an omnibus property tax reform bill. It was voted out favorably as substituted.

On Friday, the House Transportation Committee met to consider SB 1383 by Sen. Charles Perry, which would allow trucks transporting fluid milk to run up to 90,000 pounds, with a third axle. A prescribed route would be associated with the heavy permit allowing state regulators and milk haulers to access the safest route to the milk processing facilities along with a permit fee to assist in off-setting road impact. Reported favorably from committee with a vote of 11-0.