Who Knew A Calendar Could Be So Deadly?

Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen apparently struck a deal with House Democrats to use the Calendars Committee to kill several conservative bills, as reported today by The Dallas Morning News.

Using the Texas House Calendars Committee as a way to “kill” a bill or prevent it from coming to a vote before all the House members is not a new tactic. After a bill is passed out of its related committee, it must also be approved and scheduled in the Calendars Committee before it can receive a vote (we provide a more complete explanation of the process here). Lawmakers often prefer this passive approach to killing a bill, so they don’t have to go on the record with a vote for or against a controversial bill. As the gatekeeper for bills to receive a vote, the Calendars Committee has historically been one of the most powerful groups in Texas politics.

In January, when Bonnen was elected to replace outgoing Speaker Joe Straus, liberals and conservatives alike expressed high hopes that the new Speaker would allow bills to progress through normal channels without putting his finger on the scale. It seems that is not the case.

Bonnen’s deal with the House Democrats was reportedly made in exchange for Democrats’ promise not to muck up a bill that would prohibit municipalities from providing tax dollars to abortion providers. The bills that are conspicuously absent from the House calendar after this weekend include a bill to increase election integrity and a bill to prohibit cities from mandating that private employers provide paid sick leave.

The current power dynamic in Texas politics has many questioning the real motive behind this Calendars deal. Given that Republicans control the Texas House and Senate, with a Republican Governor, they could, at least theoretically, pass any legislation without Democrat approval.

And no matter what Bonnen promised, the members (at least the majority) of the Calendars Committee had to go along with Bonnen’s deal for it to become a reality. Apparently they did just that.

So what gives?

Maybe it was a peace-making gesture with Democrats, in hopes of similar good-will from them in the future. Maybe Bonnen or the members of the Calendars Committee aren’t as conservative as they like to advertise in a red state. Maybe the powerful interest groups and PACs that give to these lawmakers prefer for them to kill bills in Calendars as opposed to allowing an on-the-record vote which might hurt them.

Here’s a list of the members of the House Calendars Committee with links to their donors, so you can decide for yourself.

Texas House Calendars Committee, 2019:

Four Price, ChairmanJoseph Moody, Vice Chairman
John FrulloJoseph Deshotel
Craig GoldmanOscar Longoria
Will MetcalfEddie Rodriguez
Tom OliversonToni Rose
John Wray

When your lawmaker gives you a time-ran-out excuse about a bill you care about, tell them you’re wise to the tricks played in the Calendars Committee. Lawmakers should do their jobs and allow both conservative and liberal bills to receive an up or down vote on their merits — not be subject to backroom deals.  

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