El Jefe is back: TMF stalls open carry, still has sights set on Senate

At the Democratic State Convention in Dallas, state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, the chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, distributed Mexican loteria cards bearing images and nicknames of some prominent Texas politicos. Martinez Fischer’s card identified him as “El Jefe” – “the boss.”

Good morning Austin:

He’s back.

Better than ever.

Trey Martinez Fischer. TMF. El Jefe.

 

At the Democratic State Convention in Dallas, state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, the chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, distributed Mexican loteria cards bearing images and nicknames of some prominent Texas politicos. Martinez Fischer’s card identified him as “El Jefe” – “the boss.”

At the Democratic State Convention in Dallas, state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, the chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, distributed Mexican loteria cards bearing images and nicknames of some prominent Texas politicos. Martinez Fischer’s card identified him as “El Jefe” – “the boss.”

 

The heart and soul of the House Democratic Caucus. Who the voters of San Antonio, in their wisdom earlier this year, chose to keep in the fractious, joyful, rough-and-tumble dynamism of the House rather than exile to the sterile quiet of the Texas Senate.

Let nice guy José Menéndez suffer the deathly decorum over there.

When I arrived for a previously arranged lunch with TMF in his office yesterday, he had just called a successful point of order in the House, winning a small but satisfying victory for Democrats and enemies of the public display of firearms by slowing the inevitable enactment of open carry legislation, and also requiring the Texas House to work  harder this Friday than they had planned on.

The American-Statesman’s Chuck Lindell explains:

A computer glitch derailed two hot-button bills in the Texas House on Tuesday and could require fixes to 125 other bills awaiting a floor vote.

The problem was revealed by state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, moments after the House began considering legislation that would allow holstered weapons to be openly carried by those with a concealed handgun license.

Martinez Fischer, who opposes the open carry bill, called a point of order arguing that the legislation couldn’t be considered because a computer-generated report mistakenly listed how some witnesses testified on House Bill 910 during a March public hearing.

After a 30-minute delay and sometimes energetic discussion around House Speaker Joe Straus’ desk, the mistake was verified — halting consideration of the open carry legislation.

Soon after, the same computer problem claimed House Bill 40, which would halt local bans on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

 

 

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, center left, debates a point of order motion with HB910, Open Carry Bill sponsor Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, center right, as Parliamentarian, Chris Griesel, far right, holds the change position report that held errors during debate on the House Floor of the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, April 15, 2015. The point of order was sustained forcing the technical error back to committee. RODOLFO GONZALEZ/American-Statesman

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, debates a point of order motion with Open Carry Bill sponsor Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, RODOLFO GONZALEZ/American-Statesman

I missed the drama on the floor. When I arrived for lunch, TMF brought me up to date.

 I just called a point of order on the open carry bill. I called a point of order because the committee report was inaccurate. Turns out the flaw is not unique to that bill. It sounds like it’s going to touch about a hundred other bills.

I alerted them to the procedural flaw. They did a little research. The House stands at ease while they research these things. And they came back and said, “Well, you raise a good point and it also touches about 100, 125 other pieces of legislation.” The good news is now, with that point of order, they’re going to fix those things. But, I can tell you Larry Phillips was not happy and I said, “I’m just philosophically opposed to people carrying their guns around like it’s the Wild West.”

It’s entirely fixable, but it’s just going to take to take some time now.

 

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, center left, debates a point of order motion with HB910, Open Carry Bill sponsor Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, center right, as Parliamentarian, Chris Griesel, far right, holds the change position report that held errors during debate on the House Floor of the State Capitol. The point of order was sustained forcing the technical error back to committee. RODOLFO GONZALEZ/American-Statesman Assignment:

RODOLFO GONZALEZ/American-Statesman
Assignment:

 

From Lindell:

The author of the open carry legislation, Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, said he hoped to have HB 910 before the full House on Friday.

Passage is all but assured. The open carry bill has 83 Republican co-authors, already a majority of House members.

“You can’t be angry. This happens,” Phillips said. “It’s the legislative session. We’ve got plenty of time, so it’s not a concern.”

 

 Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, center left, smiles as his point of order motion was about to be sustained postponing HB910, Open Carry Bill, sponsored by Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, center right, as Parliamentarian, Chris Griesel, behind, Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, top, and House Speaker, Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, far rigth, look on, during debate on the House Floor of the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, April 15, 2015. The point of order by Rep. Martinez Fischer, pointed out a technical error in committee proceedings sending many bills back to committee correct. (Rodolfo Gonzalez / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, center left, smiles as his point of order motion was about to be sustained. (Rodolfo Gonzalez / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

 

I asked Martinez Fischer, a master of the procedural arts, how and when he came up with this point of order.

When the bills get set on the floor you start looking at them – and it’s clearly something, it takes a lot of time.

You know points of order – we’ve had some now here this session and folks kind of wing it. I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way but I think there is a certain art to a point of order. It’s not just having the substantive capacity to get into the rules.  In part, I think you have to have those skills to read, discern and advocate your position, but it also takes a certain level of focus on looking at all the procedural nuances we have here.

Sometimes it’s about the policy, whether its germane, two subjects, but then oftentimes it is procedural. Before a bill can come the floor it must be A, B, C, D, and it’s doing all the due diligence to find out that every single witness followed the right rules, that every single bill get reported by the committee the right way. So it takes time, it takes time.

From Lindell:

State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, told House members that the computer problem had been identified and that a fix would be in place by Tuesday evening.

The problem, he explained, was caused when witnesses changed their position for or against a bill while testifying during a committee hearing. A computer program used to generate a report on their changed positions mistakenly listed those witnesses as testifying for the first bill on the committee’s agenda, even if they hadn’t mentioned that bill, Bonnen said.

A full report on the problem will be delivered to the House Administration Committee on Monday, he said.

April 14, 2015 - Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, second from left, is congratulated by Rep. Alfonso Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, as Celia Israel D-Austin, left, and Armando Walle, D-Houston, right, look on, after Rep. Martinez Fischer, successfully delayed HB910, Open Carry bill, with a point of order during a vote on the House floor of the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. (Rodolfo Gonzalez / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

April 14, 2015 – Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, second from left, is congratulated by Rep. Alfonso Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, as Celia Israel D-Austin, left, and Armando Walle, D-Houston, right, look on, after Rep. Martinez Fischer, successfully delayed the Open Carry bill, with a point of order. (Rodolfo Gonzalez / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

 

So look at these photos. See the joy.

From Lauren McGaughy at the Houston Chronicle:

Points of order, known in the Capitol as “POOs,” can come in many forms and often are employed by lawmakers in the minority as a delay tactic. Martinez Fischer made his name in part with his frequent use of the maneuver, with Texas Monthly crowning him the “prince of POO” in 2013.

I don’t like POO. It’s gross, unseemly, undignified. Last session, along with Claire Cardona of the Dallas Morning News, I vowed not to use it. Instead of POO, I suggested POFO. Much better. And so, instead of TMF being the Prince of Poo, he’d be the Mofo of POFO.

But, the point remains the same. This is much better than being over there in the Senate.

It was a close call for Martinez Fischer. He led Menéndez in the January primary to replace Sen. Leticia Van de Putte by a wide margin.

 

Race Summary Report
2015 Special Election, Senate District 26
1/6/2015
RACE NAME PARTY CANVASS VOTES PERCENT
State Senator, District 26 – Unexpired Term
Trey Martinez Fischer DEM 8,232 43.28%
Alma Perez Jackson REP 3,892 20.46%
Jose Menendez DEM 4,824 25.36%
Joan Pedrotti REP 1,427 7.50%
Al Suarez DEM 644 3.39%
———–
Race Total 19,019

But the February runoff handed him an upset defeat.

Race Summary Report
Special Runoff Election State Senator, District 26
2/17/2015
RACE NAME PARTY CANVASS VOTES PERCENT
State Senator, District 26 – Unexpired Term
Trey Martinez Fischer DEM 9,635 40.95%
Jose Menendez DEM 13,891 59.05%
———–
Race Total 23,526

 

I asked Martinez Fischer if he had an regrets about the campaign.

The election didn’t go the way I would have hoped it would have gone but I ran exactly the race I wanted to run.

It just so happens in this runoff, 6,307 identifiable, consistent Republican voters decided to weigh in. and when you have a Republican turnout that is close to a third of total turnout, well they’re going to decide.

Being in my eighth term in Texas House, seven of those terms being a member of the minority party, I’ve gotten beat by Republicans a bunch of times. I get up, I’m stronger, I will  come back stronger. I have beaten Republicans, just like I did today.

So the fact of the matter is, the next time this seat’s available it’s going to be in a Democratic primary. And when you look at this special election and you look at the first round as a very indicative example, where Democrats voted for Democrats, Republicans voted for Republicans, I took almost 44 percent of the vote. I’m comfortable with who I am. I am comfortable with the race that I ran. And I’m comfortable knowing the support base that I have. I don’t have any regrets. I don’t have any regrets. I want to stay tried and true to who I am and what I represent

I have never made a single decision politically about how far that gets me with Republicans. That’s not the person I am.

 So this means he’s planning a rematch with Menéndez?

What it means is that I ran the race that is most in line with the voters who would make this choice in a presidential primary. What happens between now and March, or now and the filing period in December, is a long time from now. My focus is back here at the Capitol. Every day I get up and stand for Democratic values. So in my mind, December is along way away, Anything can happen. But I don’t have to establish with Democratic voters that I’m with them. They know that.

But, I asked, don’t he and Menéndez see eye-to-eye on most things and won’t Menéndez do a good job of representing those values in the Senate?

I think the job performance (rating) is done by the voters. I think that any time somebody runs for public office, it’s a matter of telling people what they stand for, showing people their track record, what they’ve done, then voters decide what’s their better preference. And so I think ultimately it’s about who can appeal to the voters, and as I said, you know, the voters who will be making this decision the next time around, there wont be 6,300 Republicans getting in the middle of a Democratic primary.

But, if he were to make another run for the Senate, this time he would have to give up his House seat.

You raise a very good point. The stakes are higher. But, at the end of the day, what matters is who you believe can do the best job for the constituents, and frankly … I think truly our job as state lawmakers is to represent the values of our constituents, and anybody who runs for public office knows that ultimately they decide. And so, like I said, December is a long time away for me. I’m back here and I have zero regrets.

But, in his heart of hearts, doesn’t he prefer operating in the House?

Sometimes there’s a higher order of things. We spent some pretty rough times here in the Texas House and we’ve been in some hyper-partisan environments and it took a little bit of standing up and pushing back on leadership to bring some much-needed changes. And some might argue that bringing that same kind of perspective in a Senate chamber that’s losing its way, I think is – I mean the decisions we make in the Texas House, pragmatic or otherwise, can be (he snaps his finger) eliminated like that in the Senate chamber. So if the true outcome is to serve your constituents and provide them with the best level of service, something tells me that there needs to be, or part of anyone’s analysis is to see that San Antonians are being served in both the House and the Senate.

I asked Martinez Fischer for his impression of the early tenure of Gov. Abbott and of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

In fairness to Gov. Abbott, when he was newly elected and had not yet taken the oath of office, he came to San Antonio and he met privately with the delegation and he said he was going to make an attempt to reach out and try to work with folks and you know we’ve seen some of that. and I think that is something I would put on the side of being positive. I think we have some major differences in philosophy, but the notion that we’re sort of arguing over what’s an ideal Pre-K program, it’s a departure from where we before. In 2011, it was, `Let’s just get rid of it, let’s just cut Pre-K,” take $200 million out of the equation, and today it’s the governor thinks we should have $100 million and I tend to think we need $200 million

 I think even the governor recognized you have to be a little pragmatic in the House and it’s not this `my way or the highway.’ So you give the governor the benefit of the doubt. That’s a good first step.

Dan Patrick is completely the opposite. It’s a new day for him. It’s his way or the highway. Everything is a party-line vote and I think that what he needs to take … I’ll say this, I don’t know how much he knows that that sort of philosophy kind of dies in the rotunda. That may the operating procedure in the east wing of this Capitol, but when he gets to the rotunda, its’ a different ball game, and the west side the Capitol has demonstrated that,`Hey, we’re going to fix things.’  We’re not going to agree. I mean I called a point of order today on one of  the priority bills for the right-wing. This is not kumbaya in the House. But we’ve recognized that we are going to have to work together and so I think that Sen. Patrick is having a tough go.

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