As House leadership makes hostile moves against them, Convention of States supporters are sounding alarms and preparing a citizen-led offensive to ensure the resolution passes before the session ends in May.
While the passage of an Article V resolution to rein-in the federal government is a top legislative priority for the Republican Party of Texas and has been designated an emergency item by Gov. Greg Abbott, advocates still face an uphill battle and victory is anything but assured. Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides a mechanism by which states can propose constitutional amendments through a convention rather than waiting for Congress to reform itself.
Given that citizens were successful at prodding House lawmakers to pass the measure last session, many supporters presumed the issue would easily cruise through the lower chamber this time. However, actions taken by House Speaker Joe Straus (R–San Antonio) indicate he may have other plans.
Instead of guaranteeing Convention of States safe passage, Straus is deliberately placing obstacles in the resolution’s path through the House.
First, Straus flushed the Select Committee on State & Federal Power & Responsibility which will handle the resolution of all of its members from last session. That included dumping State Rep. Phil King (R–Weatherford), who chaired the committee and helped shepherd the Article V resolution through the chamber last session.
Straus then reassembled the committee with cherry-picked Republicans, deftly managing to avoid appointing even a single legislator who authored or coauthored the Convention of States resolution last session. In their place, Straus stacked the committee with Democrats, Republican loyalists, and on-the-record opponents of an Article V convention..
Under House rules, Straus was free of the usual restrictions that limit who he appoints to standing committees. In reestablishing the select committee this session, he was allowed to select precisely the particular members he wanted without regard to caps on committee membership and seniority restrictions.
As a result of Straus’ tinkering, advocates for the issue won’t enjoy smooth sailing.
Of greatest concern to Convention of States activists are State Reps. Larry Gonzales (R–Round Rock) and Andrew Murr (R–Kerrville), two Republican members of the committee who voted against passing the resolution last session. Given the number of Democrats on the committee, Convention of States supporters must gain the support of at least one of them in order for the resolution to proceed.
Of those lawmakers, Gonzales seems to have dug in his heels and is sticking to a hard no. Murr shows promise in potentially coming around on the issue, but as a loyal backbencher, Murr likely won’t support the issue without Straus’ blessing.
Straus’ maneuverings broadcast that he is placing Article V legislation on a path to failure that only he can prevent. He appears intent on using Article V as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Abbott on the budget and other issues.
Given the widespread support for the Article V resolution, conservatives should demand that Convention of States not be held as a political hostage. With Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick making it a priority and setting a hearing in the Texas Senate this week, supporters should be demanding that the Texas House put Convention of States on the fast-track as well.