The First Called Special Session of the 85th Texas Legislature is officially in the books: 29 days packed with political maneuverings and Pro-Life legislative victories. The Texas Senate passed all five of the Pro-Life bills within the first week of the special session, sending the legislation to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration. However, predictably the Texas House chose to delay the process by instead passing their own versions of several of the bills.
All five of the Pro-Life bills were sent to the House Committee on State Affairs, chaired by Byron Cook (R-Corsicana). Under Cook’s chairmanship, this committee is where Pro-Life legislation is sent to die. Frequently during the regular session, Pro-Life bills were left to languish in Cook’s committee without being scheduled for a hearing, or were voted out only when too late for their ultimate passage. This special session proved no exception, though four of the Pro-Life bills were able to slip through his death grip. However, House Bill 14 did not escape, being held hostage through sneaky procedural maneuverings until time ran out for the bill to pass.
Such a sneaky maneuver involved abusing the procedures through which bills pass from committee to committee and ultimately onto the House floor. Once a bill is heard in committee, the bill then must be voted out of the committee in order to proceed. When “reported favorably” out of committee, a bill is headed to the next stop, which is the House Committee on Calendars. This committee is responsible for placing bills on the calendar so they can be debated on the House floor. However, between the bill being passed out of the committee and reaching the Calendars Committee, a few additional procedural steps must occur, including the bill’s committee report being filed with the Committee Coordinator, the committee report being distributed, and the report being sent to the Calendars Committee. These few steps might seem like minutiae that do not require much additional work, but they are the details which Chairman Cook and his committee clerk, Toni Barcellona, used to kill HB 14.
HB 14, authored by Representative Drew Springer (R-Muenster), would have codified prohibitions on state funding of the abortion industry. The bill would have extended this prohibition to local governments as well, preventing funding and governmental contracts with abortion providers or their affiliates. The members of State Affairs voted the bill out of committee on July 27, but the corresponding committee report was not filed with the Committee Coordinator until August 14. Chairman Cook allowed his committee clerk to hold the paperwork hostage for 17 days, more than half the length of the whole 30-day special session. And this was no jam in the printer or clog in the process. Other Pro-Life bills, such as Patient Consent for DNR Orders and Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform legislation, which were voted out of State Affairs, had their paperwork filed and entered the Calendars Committee in the time that HB 14 was left languishing somewhere in committee-land between the State Affairs and Calendars offices.
Why stall such a common-sense bill for Republicans? Perhaps depriving the abortion industry of taxpayer dollars is Pro-Life legislation actually feared by Democrats; and Democrats allow lawmakers like Byron Cook and Joe Straus to remain in power.
Thanks to efforts from Pro-Life Texans calling their legislators and demanding that HB 14 be moved, the paperwork was finally filed. Unfortunately, the process was picked up on August 13, just three days before the end of the special session and too late for the legislation to pass. HB 14 would have marked the next step in defunding the abortion industry at yet another level of government. Unfortunately, legislators killed the bill during the committee process. Such underhanded tactics are unacceptable, and Texans deserve better, truly Pro-Life legislators who will advance protections for the unborn rather than engage in political games attempting to destroy them.