Good morning Austin.
The special session of the Texas Legislature is half over.
Last night, the hour-long Facebook live Jim and Michael Show – that is Texas Right to Life’s Jim Graham and Empower Texans’ Michael Quinn Sullivan – had as their guest (via echoey Big Brother remote) Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who, to Graham and Sullivan, is the hero of the piece, delivering on almost all of Gov. Greg Abbott’s 20-point agenda, which is identical to their own.
The villain, no surprise, is House Speaker Joe Straus, their arch-nemsis throughout his tenure, and, once again, in the special session, the master of passive-aggressive obstruction of truth, justice and the Texas way.
MQS: Believe it or not we’re at the halfway mark of the special session. Fifteen days down. Fifteen days to go in the 30 days of the special session.
JG: And the House has passed three bills and at that rate we will only need 71 more days and three more special sessions. Football season. Hunting season. We’re going to be here a long time.
MQS: Over at the Texas House, they’re literally running out the clock.
Sullivan and Graham introduced Lt. Gov. Patrick.
Patrick talked about the Senate’s strenuous schedule in passing 18 of the 20 agenda items in such short order – That’s never happened in the history of the Legislature that I know of – even with Democratic stalling tactics, which he said were perfectly in order and what he would have done were he in the minority.
We came in at midnight.
One day we worked until 2 a.m.
Two remain. One deals with construction and the other with caps on local government growth.
Eighteen bills out. Remarkable work by the 20 senators.
One day we worked 16 hours straight.
DP: Almost all these bills have overwhelming support among Republicans and should have almost no opposition and in almost all cases have 50 percent support or more of Democrat voters, maybe not Democrat elected officials, but Democrat voters.
DP: What happens from here on out is out of my hands to some extent, but we did our job.
He said that it is high property taxes, and not “privacy” legislation, that imperils the Texas’ business climate.
Graham says the special session agenda is “arguably the most conservative agenda anywhere.”
JG: Are we being obstructed in the House or is there any chance we get this across the finish line?
DP: We have different bodies to work with. I have 31 members. They have 150. I understand we can move a little quicker. Plus it’s my nature to want to get the job done and get the tough work behind us.
Today they finally started to refer our bills to committee. We started referring some of their bills to committee today. We will have hearings on their bills starting Friday.
DP: We will start voting on House bills next week on the floor and we need the House to follow in kind. There’s still time for the House to get the job done.
DP: I am going to say something that is going to shock a lot of people, and I don’t mean it to be critical. I know people like to try to pit the House and the Senate and sometimes the speaker will take a shot at me and I will respond in kind. But the bottom line is this. We need to have better communication with the House. The governor and I talk every other day, every three days, sometimes at length, or meet at length. We try to have a plan.
I think what most people would think is that the speaker, the lieutenant governor and the governor would sit down and say, OK, we have 20 bills. How many of these bills do you think we can pass. We want to pass all 20, I think would be the comment of the governor and myself. What bills does the House want to pass. What bills does the Senate want to pass. What’s the timetable. Like you would do with any business. You’d sit down with the three leaders and you would have a plan.
We have no communication with the House.
DP: I requested a meeting from the speaker the entire session, the special session, and with the exception of a few breakfasts with the governor that are for the most part small talk breakfasts and then move on, I’ve not had one meeting with the speaker of the House in nine months on policy, and I don’t know if the governor has sat down with the speaker, and I don’t know, but maybe once in the last two months and I don’t even know if they talk on the phone.
We need a speaker, regardless of – look, I may disagree with any speaker on the position they take on a bill, I may have a different view. But we have to have someone we can communicate with, and I think people would be appalled that it’s very difficult for the governor to get Joe Straus and Dan Patrick – and I’m always willing. I’ve offered time and time again, every time I see Joe, when we’re somewhere in public, “Let’s meet Mr. Speaker.” He’s yet to ever agree to a meeting. So it’s hard, Jim, to predict what’s going to happen or work out a seamless way to do the people’s business if no one will sit down and talk with us.
So, the special session is really left to the governor and I to try to direct it. That’s why I wanted to pass our bills out in a hurry and now we’ll see what the House does. I’m hopeful that the speaker will sit down with the governor. I’m hopeful the speaker will sit down with me.
This is the way that business works This is the way people expect politics to work. We’re all in the same party. But even if it were a Democrat speaker and a Democrat governor. Let’s have a plan. Let’s execute the plan. Let’s do the people’s work. And that’s what we do in the Senate, and that’s what we do with the governor. And I welcome Joe any time he wants to sit down and meet, let’s sit down and meet and work out a plan and get this done for the benefit of the people of Texas.
JG: Governor, I would argue that, one, you’re too kind and too humble because the Senate is the deliberative body and historically it is the body that moves much slower than the House, and the House is supposed to be more responsive to the people, and we’re seeing the exact opposite. You pass your bills by roughly a two-to-one margin and we know if we saw those same bills were on the floor tomorrow they would pass by the same two-to-one margin, and there are several individuals – Byron Cook in particular – he is obstructing the will of the people.
JG: He is telling Texas Right to Life that we have to rewrite all the bills that y’all sent over, and the beauty of the Senate and your work is that you sent over bills that were basically perfect, at least on our life issues and that’s all I know, but I got to assume that was true on all these other issues.
These were clean bills, that were written the way they needed to be and they were efficacious pieces of legislation. Now we’re coming over to the House and they are basically trying to gut our legislation. They are doing it to our life bills and I’ve got to assume that people like Byron Cook and others are trying to gut all the legislation and send back shells.
Ya’ll have done great work on the Senate side but we’re worried it will all be hollowed out on the House side if it even gets a vote.
MQS: And I’m going to pile on real quickly. We saw that one of the bills passed by the House and sent over to the Senate is a bill the governor vetoed and specially asked the House not to pass over to the Senate, and yet the House moved it.
MQS: And I guess my concern Gov. Patrick is, the next 15 days, at what point will members of the Texas House realize that they may not want to go down in Texas political history as obstructionist? At what point will they realize that maybe they want to be on the side of the citizens, of the grassroots, and at what point will they decide they want to be on the side of their party platform?
MQS: At some point it feels like the members of the House are going to have to have a little bit of an awakening that they are on the wrong side of history.
JG: And they’re not representing their voters.
DP: Let me just kind of close this loop. I disagree with the speaker on a number of issues of policy, I think everyone knows he comes from the very moderate wing of the party and I am arguably the most conservative lieutenant governor we’ve ever had, and when I was in the Senate one of the most conservative we’ve ever had.
That aside, the people expect us to do their work, they expect us to vote on public policy. They expect a debate. You know I heard someone say the other day, if a bill doesn’t have 76 sponsors, the number of votes it takes to pass a bill, we don’t need to have a hearing on it, it doesn’t have support. Well, that’s nonsense. Probably 90 percent of the bills we pass have fewer sponsors than voters. Not every supporter signs on to every bill. The whole purpose of a hearing, the whole purpose of a floor debate is to gather support or not support, so I hope everything gets a vote.
DP: But I am going to say this one more time – my door is open, the speaker has my phone number. He knows where I am most of the time. I don’t care about our differences. I don’t care about anything that’s been said in the past. I want to sit down and find a way to complete the governor’s agenda, which is my agenda and is the people’s agenda. And if the speaker is against one, two or three of these bills, fine. But if a majority of his members want to vote on them, I hope he will let them vote on those bills because that is what the people expect us to do.
DP: I’m willing to sit down. I’m willing to talk. But in the interim I’m going to do what the people expect me to do, I’m going to represent what I said I was going to do in my campaign. We’re going to work as hard as we possibly can.
I think we are the most efficient, productive legislative body in the entire United States today. We get our work done in the regular session and now in the special. We’re going to stand firm in what we believe for the people, and I’m willing to sit down and try to work all this out.
It’s really up to him.