An Alamo Dust Up in the Senate

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Texas’ most beloved landmark – the Alamo — is the subject of a bruising custody fight this legislative session. In a Senate committee last week, the hearing played out like a soap opera with accusations of financial mismanagement by the Alamo’s custodians the Daughters of the Texas Republic, a leaky roof, oh and an ongoing battle over which state agency might wrest control from the Daughters and their purported mismanagement.

Today, the custody fight got louder in a testy exchange on the Senate floor between San Antonio Democrat Leticia Van de Putte and San Antonio Republican Jeff Wentworth over Van de Putte’s SB 1841 to put the Alamo under the control of  a state agency.

The tussle broke out over whether the Daughters of the Texas Republic would remain custodians of the Alamo and which agency would share oversight of the Texas shrine. “I would like to ask you to pull it down,” Wentworth said of the bill. “I hope the Senate is listening to this debate to work out the moving parts with the Governor’s office and the Daughters.”

“This caught me by complete surprise,” Wentworth told Van de Putte. “I thought we were working in good faith on a solution.”

Van de Putte responded that she’d incorporated all of Wentworth’s suggested changes from the Senate hearing a week earlier and worked with the Governor’s office.

“Time is of the essence and we need to get this Senate bill moving,” she said. “At the end of the day we get a bill where the Governor’s office preserves the Alamo for future generations adds transparency on fiduciary matters and  does not remove the Daughters of the Texas Republic as custodians — ”

“That’s a clear misrepresentation,” Wentworth said. “It does not keep the daughters as custodians it transfers control to TPW (Texas Parks and Wildlife).”

After some more verbal dueling, Van de Putte withdrew her bill. As filed it would have transferred control to the Texas Historical Commission, which was apparently not to Governor Perry’s liking. Wentworth and Perry didn’t like Texas Parks and Wildlife either in the committee substitute.

After about an hour, Van de Putte was back on the Senate floor with another version of the bill that made Wentworth and Perry happier – transferring oversight to the Texas General Land Office. The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate and Van de Putte put out a celebratory press release.

“I am very grateful to all my colleagues in the Senate for working with me in order to ensure that there is an oversight structure in place that allows for the successful stewardship of the Alamo by the DRT.”

But this is one soap opera that isn’t over yet. Now the bill will have to make it through the House.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. She has a master’s in public health from Texas A&M University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.