AUSTIN - Thursday, July 27, marked day 10 of the Texas Legislature's Special Session. Lawmakers are now a third of the way through the calendar and there's a difference between the two chambers.
The Senate has worked through the weekend and well past midnight some days to pass bills on 18 of the 20 issues Governor Greg Abbott put on the Special Session Call.
"No Senate in history has ever passed 18 bills in seven days," Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) said to the Senate Wednesday just before they adjourned.
"No drama, no tension. Total respect. Good debate. And I don't think any other legislative body in Texas or any other state will ever do that," he added.
Things are running differently in the House of Representatives.
"We have a process and a lot of moving parts over in the House, so we don't move as quickly as the Senate does," said Speaker of the House State Representative Joe Straus (R-San Antonio).
So far, Representatives have voted on four bills related to three of the 20 items on the Special Session call. But Straus isn't bothered by the difference between the chambers.
"Whether we pass a bill on the seventh day of the 27th day, it's the quality and not the pace," Straus said.
But some representatives in Straus' own party don't see it that way.
"I feel like we're working under a dictatorship because what happens in the Texas House is what House leadership wants to happen," said State Representative Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington).
Tinderholt said the representatives should get to vote on all of the bills related to the Governor's agenda, but he feels Straus and the committee chairs, which are mostly Republicans, are stalling.
"We should get the vote on the House floor. These bills must be heard. We came here to hear 20 bills yet House leadership is allowing dozens if not 50 to 100 bills being put into committees to slow the process down. We should be hearing 20 bills," he added.
While there are only 20 issues on the Special Session call, Governor Abbott can add additional items at any time and has even said he would consider doing so if a bill gets enough steam. That's why Speaker Straus has referred bills not related to issues on the call to House Committees.
And Straus said he knows there are about a dozen Representatives who want to speed up the process, but added he wants what's best for Texans.
"There's 10 or 12 of these people that I know are not in favor of the more deliberate process that we do here. But I think it serves Texas well, I think it serves the Texas House well,l to get our work done in a deliberate fashion, in a thoughtful way and to make sure that what we're doing is in the best interest of the State of Texas," said Straus.
"We're a deliberate institution and these issues the governor has placed on the call are going to be considered, just like they would be in a regular session; giving the public and our constituents back home a chance to weigh in. If that takes a little bit longer than the Senate had to take to get to the same place, or where we can find agreement, that's just the way it is," he said.
Some Republicans in the House and Senate have been seen wearing pins reading "20 for 20"; a sign that they support all of the issues on Governor Abbott's call.
Speaker Straus said he's not getting caught up in the numbers.
"It's not a, you know, free throw shooting contest," said Straus. "We're going to do those things that we feel are in the best interest of the State of Texas and I have all the confidence in the world that the House is going to work through these items and pass the ones we feel we should. And whether it's all 20 or it's most of them, I don't know. it's up to body to decide."
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