Why does Byron Cook still hold a death grip on Pro-Life Bills?

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Why does Byron Cook still hold a death grip on Pro-Life Bills?

That was the million dollar question buzzing around the Texas Capitol three weeks ago, and apparently, the question remains unanswered.

Representative Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) asked again this week.

Byron is holding yet another Pro-Life bill hostage and bringing down the Pro-Life cred of House members with the measure.

Cook is chairman of the powerful House Committee on State Affairs, where he has a history of thwarting substantial Pro-Life bills through the committee process he controls.  He is one of the last remaining lieutenants for Joe Straus, the Speaker of the Texas House.

What Straus and others who support Straus are missing is that Byron Cook is bringing down the House—the full House.  Cook has singlehandedly delayed all the Pro-Life bills that Governor Abbott requested this Special Session of the 85th Texas Legislature.  Some of the House members have managed to loosen Cook’s death grip on some of the bills, and these bills have passed, but one key Pro-Life bill remains hostage.

House Bill 14 by Drew Springer (R-Gainesville) would mark the next step in defunding the abortion industry by prohibiting municipalities from contracting with abortion clinics and their affiliates.  Most Texans and most of the House members want this bill to become law.  But Cook is holding this one last piece of legislation hostage to mock Governor Abbott and do the bidding of the pro-abortion House Democrats who are determined to keep Planned Parenthood funded with local taxes.

HB 14 was voted out of committee on July 27 and is lost in space somewhere in the Capitol web.  The House members need to hold Cook accountable.  Cook is killing HB 14, and consequently impacting the re-election of all the House members who claim to be Pro-Life.  If HB 14 does not pass the House within 48 hours, every House member will have to answer to you—the voters—on why he or she did not stand up to stop your tax dollars from subsidizing abortion.

Call your state representative today and urge him or her to #PickASide and demand that Byron Cook file the paperwork to move HB 14.  Call the Capitol Switchboard: 512-463-4630.

All Pro-Life endorsements of all House members will be removed if the House does not pass all five Pro-Life bills.  Tell your state representative to force Byron to let go of HB 14 (or the Senate companion, SB 4) and ask leadership where HB 14 is, just like Representative Jonathan Stickland did:

Such tactics largely contributed to challenger, Thomas McNutt, the young vice-president of Collin Street Bakery, announcing a second bid to unseat the longtime incumbent.  In 2016, Thomas lost to Cook by only 222 votes.  (Election fraud is under investigation in that district.)

John Seago, Legislative Director for Texas Right to Life, appeared on the July 11 episode of the “Jim and Michael Show,” a webcast centered exclusively on Texas politics and policy by Texas Right to Life and Empower Texans.  In response to a viewer’s question about whether the Pro-Life bills placed on the special session agenda by Governor Greg Abbott would once again be sent to the House Committee on State Affairs with Cook, Seago noted:

“Is the death grip on Pro-Life bills going to remain in Byron Cook’s hands?  Pro-Life activists are asking and saying, ‘No, let’s actually do this the right way.’  Let’s send these bills to committees where they actually belong.”

All of the bills under consideration during this special session were also introduced during the regular session – their assignment to the House Committee on State Affairs allowed Cook to unnecessarily ensure their demise.  But Cook doesn’t have to be given the power to kill Pro-Life bills.

Typically, assigning a bill to a committee falls into two categories: bills with no political bent or bills with a political angle.  Bills with no political bent land in committees with subject-matter expertise – like an insurance bill in the insurance committee.  Bills with a political angle are intentionally referred to a hostile committee, due to the bill author or to the special interest groups behind the policy.

For instance, the Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform bill is on the special session call.  The House has a House Committee on Insurance, a most appropriate committee for that bill and the committee to which the insurance bill has been referred in sessions past, whereas referral of the insurance bill to the House Committee on State Affairs marks a purely political move.

Another example is the bill to require patient consent for a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order on a hospitalized patient.  The House has a Public Health Committee and a Human Services Committee – both appropriate places for legislation dealing with health and Texas patients, and again both of these committees have heard and dealt with medical ethics bills in sessions past.

The bill to defund the abortion industry would prohibit state, city, and county governments from contracting with abortion providers.  Such a measure fits in the House Committee on Appropriations, Government Transparency and Operations, or the County Affairs committee.  But this bill, too, is likely to die a slow death in Byron Cook’s hands in the House Committee on State Affairs.

Lawmakers have the ability to challenge the games played by House leadership with Pro-Life bills.  Every state representative who claims to be Pro-Life should and must publicly ask the office of the speaker to refer the Pro-Life bills on the call for the special session their appropriate committees – and safely out of the grip of Byron Cook.

Any action short of that signals that your state representative cares more for political power in the marble halls than for saving innocent human lives.

Conservative Texans have spent too many sessions watching their top priorities languish in politically motivated committees and die in backroom deals.  Texans are demanding that their elected officials #PassThemAll.  They must choose between the obstructionist policies of House leadership and the will of the people. 

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