Over two weeks ago, the Senate finally passed all five Pro-Life bills after diligently working day and night to push the bills through their chamber. On July 26th, less than 10 days after the special session began, every Pro-Life bill had passed out of the Senate in full. Yet, as special session rapidly approaches the end, the Senate duplicated the chamber’s herculean performance. The Senate performed in passing all five Pro-Life bills out in a timely manner. The House, however, is a different story altogether.
Owing to the rapid pace of the Senate, the House had the opportunity to pass the Senate versions of the Pro-Life bills, rather than the House versions. This seemingly subtle distinction is key. At the state level, either the House or Senate version must pass both chambers. Given that the Senate versions of the Pro-Life bills arrived in time to pass the House, the House should have followed the Senate’s leadership. Unsurprisingly, the House snubbed the Senate’s Pro-Life work. Now, as time is dwindling, the Senate must work double time to compensate for the incompetence, or sabotage, of the House.
Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform, HB 214 by Representative John Smithee (R-Amarillo), finally arrived at the House floor last Tuesday. This bill was voted out of the House with bipartisan support. Although this development is fantastic news, the Senate companion, SB 8 by Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), has been sitting on Speaker Joe Straus’ (R-San Antonio) desk since July 27th. Had SB 8 been referred, and worked its way through the House , Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform could have been on the way to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk promptly. Instead, the Senate heard the bill a second time, voted the measure out of committee, and debated the bill once again on the Senate floor. The anti-Life Democrats were thankful for another opportunity to offer their weakening amendments and use the extra air time to rant against the Pro-Life measure. Diligently though, Senator Creighton and Dan Patrick ushered the House bill back through the process, finally passing the measure and sending the bill to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Other Pro-Life bills suffer the same fate. Both abortion reporting bills from the Senate, SB 10 by Senator Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) and SB 73 by Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), sat on Speaker Straus’ desk, where they have been since July 27th. All the while, the House companions have passed to and out of the Senate, where the legislative process continues.
SB 4 by Senator Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) still hasn’t been referred to a committee. This bill and the Senate companion, HB 14 by Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster), would prohibit funding of the abortion industry. While SB 4 hasn’t taken even the introductory steps, HB 14 sat in limbo between the House Committee on State Affairs and the Calendars Committee for eighteen days, presumably to remain lost and forgotten forever. This is unsurprising given the House Committee on State Affairs, chaired by Representative Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), is notorious for blockading Pro-Life legislation.
Of the Pro-Life agenda items on Governor Greg Abbott’s proclamation, only one will be moved to Governor Abbott’s desk as a Senate Bill. This honored distinction belongs to SB 11 by Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), which requires patient or surrogate consent in most cases before a doctor can enforce a Do-Not-Resuscitate order on the patient, a priority of Texas Right to Life during the regular session. Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) authored HB 12, the House version, and his diligence and persistence were essential in moving SB 11 forward.
However one interprets this situation, House leadership is to be implicated. Every Pro-Life item on Governor Abbott’s proclamation has more than 70 coauthors in the House. The grassroots Pro-Life leaders, along with rank and file House membership, support these legislative efforts. In turn, the blame falls solely on House leadership, particularly Speaker Straus and Chairman Cook.
The Senate, meanwhile, quickly reheard bills in committee and rehashed the floor debates, before sending them to Governor Abbott’s desk. The lack of adherence by House leadership to the will of the members and grassroots is forcing the Senate to pick up the slack. Therefore, while most Pro-Life bills that receive Governor Abbott’s signature will have an “HB,” the Senate and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick deserve the people’s gratitude for doing their work quickly then picking up the House’s slack during the special session.