GOP conservative-backed rule changes on LGBTQ issues fail at Texas House

Austin. The House on Wednesday rejected several proposals from the right-wing Republican majority, including a demand that the House not have Democratic steering committees and that it further resist gay rights.

The House also toughened penalties for deputies who violate the quorum in the future.

Also, because rents in Austin are so high that lawmakers are having trouble hiring for the meager salaries they can offer, members of the House of Representatives have changed the “housekeeping resolution” to boost their office budgets.

If there are no special sessions, each state representation will receive almost $219,000 this year instead of almost $171,000—a 28% increase. Typically, 80% of this money goes to payroll, with the rest covering expenses such as office rent, utilities, and travel expenses.

Rule changes backed by a small number of the most hardline members of the GOP House that would have required House committee chairs to put their position on LGBTQ issues in writing, such as “do they believe there are only two genders,” were voted down on parliamentary grounds Wednesday? “.

The chairman of the committee could be banned from using any speech code that “restricts the use of biologically correct pronouns.” Another would prohibit any member of the House of Representatives or staff member from placing preferred pronouns at the end of a work email.

Other failed proposals would ban lawmakers from doing one of their favorite things – naming roads and bridges after people – until the state bans gender-affirming health care for transgender youth and bans minors from attending “transvestite performances.”

Another rule change, dropped for violating House procedures, would have required the chairman of the committee to state on official stationery “whether he or she supports Marxism or not.”

In each case, Dade Phelan’s speaker, R-Beaumont, rejected the proposal, maintaining the “order of conduct”. This allowed the mainstream Republicans not to gain a record number of votes.

The failure of die-hard conservative Republicans to incorporate anti-LGBT sentiment into the rules of the House may show that they have little desire to make the gay and transgender rights debate a top priority in a session likely to see property taxes and a $33 billion revenue surplus distribution. take center stage.

As the debate continued, freshman Rep. Wenton Jones, Dallas, said he was not surprised that amendments were proposed that raise such thorny issues. Jones, one of three new openly LGBTQ lawmakers, said one of the reasons he ran was the growing number of attacks on LGBTQ Texans.

“Unfortunately, with the end of today, this will not be the end of the attacks,” he said. “There is a certain level of optimism because these (amendments) are failing. So that’s inspiring and I think that’s the reason why we will continue to fight for it.”

In recent years, debates about House rules have become increasingly mired in culture wars and proposals by GOP dissidents to reduce leadership power. It has lasted longer than usual this year, in part because conservatives miscalculated when it would happen.

Expecting the House to pass a rule resolution on Thursday, the Texas Republican Party, Wise County conservatives and other hardline conservative groups organized buses to transport citizens to Austin.

In recent days, GOP activists seeking to implement one of the state party’s legislative priorities — that legislative leaders don’t name Democratic chairs — have braced for protests. Some flaunted “Ban Democrat chairs” T-shirts, while others used the #NoDemChairs Twitter hashtag as their slogan.

However, late Tuesday afternoon, Phelan circulated a memo informing the 150 members of the House that housekeeping rules and decisions would be reviewed on Wednesday. At the start of the debate on Wednesday, Royce City GOP Rep. Brian Slaton called on the House of Representatives to delay the debate until Thursday, presumably so protesting bus passengers could fill the gallery.

Phelan wouldn’t recognize Slayton because of the movement.

Fort Worth GOP member Charlie Guerin, a Phelan ally who played a leading role throughout the day in destroying GOP dissident proposals, was quick to point out that the timetable could not be set until the House of Representatives chose a speaker on opening day. .

Within hours of his election on Tuesday afternoon, Phelan made decisions on housekeeping and rules for an in-room debate on Wednesday, Guerin said.

The timing of the rules debate varied, said Phelan, who gave dates for the sessions starting in 2009.

“Members, the rules are accepted [up] at different times depending on this session,” he said. “It wasn’t my decision until I became Speaker of the House of Representatives.”

Texas Legislature to Consider Redistribution of Political Borders of State Offices Again

Later, when Slayton was credited for his proposal to bar Phelan from appointing Democrats to lead committees, six other Republicans signed on.

Four of them, like Slayton, are from North Texas—Brian Harrison of Midlothian, Richard Hayes of Denton, Nate Schatzline of Fort Worth, and losing speaker candidate Tony Tinderholt of Arlington.

Guerin, however, noted that shortly before, when delegating their housekeeping cases, House legislators added a clause stating that the Texas Constitution forbids the use of “House resources,” including “allocated funds,” for ” achieve any political goals. But the constitutional provision refers to prohibitions on giving grants from public funds to individuals, associations and corporations. It does not mention politics.

Phelan insisted that members had just “codified” a constitutional “rule” against the use of funds for political purposes, which he said would violate the #NoDemChairs proposal. He supported Guerin’s objection, which killed Slayton’s proposal.

State GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi, a former state representative from Irving, ridiculed Phelan’s logic.

“This unreasonable and absurd decision was taken solely to protect the power of the Democrats,” Rinaldi. tweeted.

However, those relieved by Phelan’s move may have included some freshmen who, on the campaign trail last year, backed a ban on Democrats being committee chairs.

Phelan’s team entered the debate on Wednesday, ready to appease fervent Republicans who have demanded punishment for Democrats who violated a quorum in 2021 to stall the GOP-backed “election security” bill.

The author of the rules resolution, Rep. Todd Hunter, a veteran Republican from Corpus Christi, sought to overcome the constraints. His amendment succeeded, mostly along party lines, 87–59.

Under Hunter’s statute, if members are absent without permission – which is only allowed by a majority vote – they can be punished. But the absence must be “for the purpose of obstructing the action of the House,” the rule says.

Such AWOL member is “subject to one or more of the following” sanctions – fines of $500 per day; an invoice for part of the cost of sending House sergeants to search for missing members; and reprimand, censure or exile. Fines could not be paid out of campaign funds or from House of Representatives accounts.

Freshman Representative Jolanda Jones, a Democrat from Houston, objected.

“What if you’re poor,” she said. “What if you don’t have a big bank account? … I was hoping that you don’t have to be rich to be in the Legislative Assembly, and that poor people can be elected and have voters.”

Protests such as the 2021 Democratic quorum break are constitutionally protected free speech, said Jones, who also questioned the provision that if fines are not paid by AWOL members, the House Administrative Committee can direct the business office of the House of Representatives to deduct the office’s monthly stipend. by 30%.

Referring to the new GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and his discussion of rule changes to make it easier to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Tinderholt offered the Texas version. His amendment would lower the threshold needed to start a debate about whether to “vacate the chair.”

Currently in Austin, 76 of the 150 members of the House of Representatives must reach an agreement before a debate on the speaker’s beheading can begin. Tinderholt, noting that the US House of Representatives had lowered the threshold to one member, advocated raising it to five members in Texas. Members shot down the idea, 146-3.

It was not only the ideas of staunch conservatives that were rejected. Several Democratic redistricting proposals were defeated, mostly along party lines.

Back to business in Austin: Texas Legislature Opening Day

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