On Wednesday evening, several of my Senate colleagues and I tagged 11 bills referred to committee shortly after midnight.
We did this in order to give the public adequate notice of the hearings.
As it did yesterday when I tagged a bill, the Senate did something nobody here can remember it ever doing, which is vote to suspend the tag rule AFTER Senators already had placed the tags.
In so doing, the Senate disregarded its own processes and precedent in order to push through purely partisan bills without allowing time for democratic debate, denying a fair application of its rules to each of the Senators who had tagged bills.
In the case of more than one bill referred to committee, including SB 2 (vouchers) and SB 3 (“bathrooms”), at the time of referral, shortly after midnight, the text was still not accessible to the public via the state’s website.
By pushing these bills through without adequate notice to the public, the Senate is also disregarding the democratic process. We know a lot of Texans want to participate because so many people showed up to testify or register a position when similar bills came up during the Regular Session. With respect only to the Senate committee hearings:
· Bathroom bill (85R SB 6): 1,718 people
· Property tax rollback rate (85R SB 2): 524 people
· Vouchers (85R SB 3): 290 people
· Union dues (85R SB 13): 167 people
These hearings are the public’s only opportunity to speak out for or against a bill on the legislative record. They are also Senators’ only opportunity to question witnesses as part of the public record. Even though some of these issues have been discussed before, these are new bills that members of the public (and the members) have not had enough time to review. Many of the bills have changed significantly compared to the bills that were filed last session (including the SB 3, bathroom bill, and SB 1, the property tax rollback bill).
Many of these bills were filed very recently, giving the public and members very little time to review them.
· SB 1 (property tax rollback rate): a 99-page bill filed Tuesday
· SB 2 (vouchers): not filed until right before this midnight session, but text not available online at the time of referral to committee
· SB 3and SB 91 (bathroom bills): filed around 5:30 pm on Wednesday, but text not available online at the time of referral
· SB 4 (tax dollars for abortion providers): filed on Monday
· SB 10 (abortion complications reporting): filed on Tuesday
Five other bills (SBs 73, 77, 80, 85, and 87) were filed either Tuesday or late Wednesday. This means that, for some of these bills, including the bathroom bills, we are basically giving the public one day in the middle of a work week to find out about the bill and hearing, review the bill, make arrangements to travel to Austin, and prepare to testify.
This body has always protected the rights of the minority, and respected the rights of the public to comment in public hearings. This is why we have the rules we do. Disregarding them with a raw exercise of power in order to push through bills with significant opposition has not been the Texas Senate way until now. I will resist this in every way that I can.