The Regular Session of the 87th Texas Legislature convened on Tuesday, January 12, and several important votes have already been cast under the pink dome. Texas Right to Life’s lobbying team worked in the Capitol throughout this first week, informing elected officials and their staff about the Pro-Life Priorities of the 87th Texas Legislature. Regrettably, we are also fending off early threats to life-saving legislation.
The State Senate debated the temporary rules that govern the chamber. The new Senate rules change the threshold for bringing up a bill for debate from 19 votes to 18. This change ensures that Democrats cannot unilaterally block Republican bills and priorities during the session. Additionally, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick released committee assignments for the Senate with two Pro-Life champions appointed to chair the two committees through which Pro-Life legislation move: the Senate Committee on State Affairs chaired by Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services chaired by Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham).
On the other side of the Capitol, the Texas House had a much more boisterous first week. House members selected Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) as the new speaker of the Texas House before working on House rules. The proposed House rules included several worrisome provisions, such as requiring three legislators, not one, to request a record vote. But the most concerning addition was the creation of a “consensus calendar.” If bills were placed on this new “consensus calendar,” debate would be limited to 3 minutes per member and, more importantly, all amendments would have to be pre-approved by the House Committee on Calendars. The standing, powerful House Committee on Calendars repeatedly kills Pro-Life bills, and this proposed rule would have further stifled the ability of members to offer Pro-Life amendments and adroitly maneuver on crucial issues during floor debate on needed reforms. Texas Right to Life released the first Pro-Life Scorecard alert of the 87th Legislature, opposing the “consensus calendar” and supporting any amendment to strike the rule. Thankfully, the “consensus calendar” and other troubling changes were ultimately struck from the House rules.
Newly-elected and Texas Right to Life endorsed State Representative Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) offered an amendment to prevent any votes by the House to rename bridges and streets until the chamber votes on the abolition of abortion. This amendment failed by a vote of 41 to 99, with Speaker Phelan not voting. Through the debate on this amendment and others, several members showed their concerned that the chamber will not focus on the Legislative Priorities set by the Republican Party of Texas and by grassroots activists across the state.
Now with the rules decided, both chambers will return to Austin on Tuesday, January 26. Texas Right to Life remains in the Capitol every day, working to pass enforceable Pro-Life laws that will stop abortions and save lives. The presence and efforts of your legislative team is strengthened by the opening of a new Austin regional office located just steps away from the Capitol building and the expansion of the policy team.
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