In a brazen act of contempt and arrogance, House Speaker Joe Straus is refusing to pass serious, conservative reforms Texans demand and is choosing to engage in a high stakes game of political chicken with the state’s highest elected leaders.
This weekend, Straus defied Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s ultimatum that the Texas House pass legislation on property tax reform and privacy protection, both declared “must pass” issues by Gov. Greg Abbott, in order to avoid a special session. Instead, Straus has passed do-nothing, homeopathic versions of both bills, apparently betting that both Abbott and Patrick are too weak to make good on the threat.
On Saturday, the Texas House passed a watered down substitute for property tax reform that doesn’t do anything to help alleviate taxpayers’ skyrocketing property tax bills. Instead, the legislation merely requires taxing jurisdictions to make clearer the extent to which they’re hammering home owners by posting their rates online—a proposal House lawmakers are ludicrously claiming does more than the Texas Senate’s serious rollback reform that was passed in SB 2.
House lawmakers then followed up that failure by passing a pretend fix for women’s privacy on Sunday.
Straus did not allow a vote on Senate Bill 6, the Texas Privacy Act by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham) which passed the Texas Senate with bipartisan support two months ago. In fact, Straus has refused to even refer that bill to committee to allow members to work on it. Likewise, he didn’t allow a vote on State Rep. Ron Simmons’ (R–Carrollton) House Bill 2899 which Patrick mentioned as an acceptable compromise.
Instead Straus and his lieutenants worked out a deal behind closed doors to pass a watered-down, do-nothing measure and kept the media more informed on it than members of the House. It got so bad that even Simmons, a Straus-sycophant, conceded he didn’t know what was going on.
I heard same rumor as everyone r.e. "bathroom" amendment on bill tonight. No idea of the plan. I have been shut out of discussions. #txlege
— Ron Simmons (@RonSimmonsTexas) May 21, 2017
What was ultimately unveiled was a hollow amendment by State Rep. Chris Paddie (R–Marshall) to Senate Bill 2078—a measure by State Sen. Larry Taylor (R–Friendswood) regarding emergency preparedness plans for public schools—requiring school administrators to provide single-stall accommodations to “transgender” children if they request one.
But that’s only if the child requests one.
Under the terms of the amendment, a biological male who identifies as “transgender” can still use the girls’ bathroom if he wishes, but school administrators must provide him the option of a faculty restroom or other single stalled facility. Texans wanting to keep boys in the boys’ bathroom and girls in the girls’ bathroom are out of luck.
The amendment also does nothing to protect Texas women’s privacy in other government buildings. Meaning biological men can still enter women’s restrooms, showers, and locker rooms on places like university campuses, state courthouses, city halls, and even the Texas Capitol.
The amendment also does nothing to protect private businesses from having their bathroom policies set by overzealous, left-wing city councils.
The amendment was so ineffective that liberal Republican State Rep. Jason Villalba of Dallas, who said he would vote against serious measures such as SB 6, even gave a speech for the amendment, noting that it was watered down to the point where he could support it.
After the vote, Straus beat his chest over passage of the Paddie amendment and thumbed his nose at Patrick and Straus in a prepared statement:
“Representative Paddie’s amendment will allow schools to continue to handle sensitive issues as they have been handling them. I believe this amendment will help us avoid the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6. Members of the [Texas] House wanted to act on this issue and my philosophy as Speaker has never been to force my will on the body. Governor Abbott has said he would demand action on this in a special session, and the House decided to dispose of the issue in this way.”
Some House members attempted to portray the passage of the Paddie amendment as a victory, but their own speaker’s comments confirm the amendment will do nothing. Under the terms of the amendment, schools will continue to handle the issue as they have been.
Straus’ failure to seriously address both issues reveals his contempt for not only conservative Texans, but for Abbott and Patrick as well. And the arrogance in his statement shows that he believes that neither of them have the fortitude to stand up to him.