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In the last 14 hours before the final midnight deadline to advance Senate bills to the Texas House, Democrats did everything they could on Tuesday to prevent the body from considering GOP-backed legislation they opposed, announcing the death of some of the Senate priority bills.
The House had several of the Senate priories on its calendar, including a bill that would prohibit social media companies from blocking users because of their point of view or location in Texas, another that would bar local governments from ‘use public funds to pay lobbyists, and one that would force transgender student athletes to play on sports teams based on their sex assigned at birth instead of their gender identity.
Republicans control all branches of government in Texas, and Democrats have been trying to fight these bills since the legislative session began in January. The midnight deadline for passing the bills was the minority party’s last hope. And although they ended the night with hoarse voices, the House Democrats scored a rare victory this session, killing all three bills and ceding just one other Senate priority bill that barred the cities and counties to require companies to pay workers more than the federal minimum. pay them or provide them with benefits such as paid sick leave.
The failure of several of the Senate’s priorities is likely to prolong the rift between the two chambers, which differ on their legislative priorities. Last week, the House put the legislative process on hold for a few days ahead of key legislative deadlines, putting Senate priorities at risk as the Senate failed to bring forward the House’s priority criminal justice and care bills. health.
The House began at 10 a.m. on Tuesday with 129 bills on its agenda, setting up a marathon of debate, voting and political maneuvering. MPs spent the first half of the day giving final approval to bills the House initially passed on Monday, a generally procedural move that went beyond bank hours on Tuesday, with Democrats blocking out their fellow lawmakers with questions, compliments, and tactical procedures to slow the progress of the chamber.
Tactics in the House caught the attention of Senate lawmakers, whose bills floundered every minute that House Democrats delayed because legislation was approved in both chambers before becoming law. With many House bills locked in the upper chamber, senators also began to slow their progress and entice state officials who visited them during a lunch break.
Senators started making doggy puns when Senator José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, introduced a House bill that dealt with where pet store owners in large counties get their tickets. dogs and their cats, in an effort to target puppy mills.
“We don’t want this to be a dog-eating dog world,” said Senator Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston.
Menéndez called Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, the author of the bill who entered the chamber, to show him that the Senate was passing House bills.
“It would be nice if we could also get good bills passed in the Senate,” Menéndez said.
Back in the House, groups of Democratic and Republican lawmakers gathered in different parts of the chamber, planning their strategies for the rest of the day: Democrats to stop the bills they opposed and Republicans to get as many bills as they had worked on. on top.
Outside the room, opponents of the bill to restrict the participation of trans student athletes in school sports carried banners that read “Stop SB 29” and chant “Protect trans children!”
At around 6 p.m., the House began passing a bill that had been postponed by lawmakers on Tuesday in an attempt to make last-minute changes or strike deals to make it easier for those bills to get through the House. .
But the tweaking was not done, as lawmakers continued to postpone bills. Bills banning the moderation of social media content because of the point of view and the use of local government funds to pay lobbyists were among those delayed. The social media bill had the backing of Governor Greg Abbott, who traveled to Tyler to promote it with its author, Senator Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, in March.
Further down the list – and therefore more peril – were the transgender student athlete measure, which Abbott had also indicated his support for, and a bill that would require those seeking abortions in Texas to seek medical attention. a state contractor about support and other services. resources available before the procedure can be executed. None of these bills has been passed.
At around 7 p.m., the House passed Senate Bill 14, a measure prohibiting cities and counties from requiring companies to pay workers more than the federal minimum wage or provide them with benefits such as vacation time. sickness paid.
The bill is a revival of a similar measure that passed away in the 2019 legislative session. Supporters say it will avoid regulatory confusion in a way that will help businesses in multiple Texas cities get back on their feet. as the economy tries to recover from the devastating financial effects of the pandemic. But opponents say it reduces workers’ access to paid sick leave after going through the pandemic for more than a year.
The bill does not apply to employees of municipalities or to the terms of government contracts. It targets attempts by several cities in Texas to impose employee benefits. Over the past three years, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio have passed sick leave orders with pay, but court rulings have prevented them from being enforced.
Democrats, who widely oppose the bill, were trying to overturn amendments to soften its effect on large counties where their party holds control of local governments. With each amendment, more time went by and the deadline got closer.
Shortly after 9 p.m., a procedural issue was raised about the bill that could have condemned him. After more than two hours, the chamber postponed the debate on this matter until 10 p.m.
At that time, time was running out. Before the bill could be reconsidered, House lawmakers took surprise steps to postpone debate on the bill limiting transgender student athletes in school sports to 11:30 p.m., leaving only 30 minutes to the date. midnight limit.
When the House resumed SB 14, lawmakers added an amendment from Rep. Rhetta Bowers, D-Garland, that exempted local nondiscrimination ordinances that prohibited discrimination on the basis of hair texture. Bowers previously filed the Texas CROWN Act, to prevent the hair discrimination based on race that often affects black Americans in school and in the workplace.
The House then gave its initial approval to the bill.
By 11 p.m., the bill that would restrict how government entities use public money for outside lobbyists was killed because the bill’s mover could not come to an agreement on it with others. legislators. Social media company bills and transgender student athlete bills never returned for a hearing.
As the clock ticked around midnight, the House gallery began to fill with spectators, including supporters of transgender children who had argued against SB 29 the entire session.
Democratic lawmakers spent the last 15 minutes ostensibly trying to kick an amendment to a current wage rate bill, but in reality, they simply coordinated with each other to run over time.
As the clock struck midnight, Democratic lawmakers stood at the front of the room waving transgender pride flags and celebrating with spectators in the gallery.
House Speaker Dade Phelan announced her office was cleared and the chamber was set back until 9 a.m. Wednesday, when it will resume its final schedule of Senate bills which are largely local or undisputed.