Hot List: Day 101 of the Legislature

by Published on
Floor of the Texas Capitol lobby.
Jen Reel

The Lead:

We’ll say this for Sen. Dan Patrick: He keeps it interesting.

In an unusual move, the Houston Republican  pushed the Senate yesterday to take back a campaign finance bill by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) that the senators had already passed and sent to the House.

Seliger’s SB 346, which he said has “everything to do with transparency,” would require 501C(4) and 501C(6) organizations—IRS designations used for social welfare and lobbying groups—to disclose their donors. The Quorum Report mentions this would include groups like Texans for Fiscal Responsibility run by Michael Quinn Sullivan who’s been enforcing tea party orthodoxy the past few sessions, marshaling money to go after Republicans he deems insufficiently conservative.

Patrick actually voted for the bill when it passed the Senate but then tried to undo that, arguing he didn’t realize the bill’s impact. Some folks might say, well, that’s too damn bad—he should have read the bill more closely the first time around or found another way to kill it (there are, of course, many ways to derail legislation at the end of a session). But Patrick won the vote, and the Senate tried to bring the bill back.

But the House, which had already technically taken possession of it, denied the request. By the time the Senate vote was over, the House had already referred it to State Affairs for hearing next Wednesday.

Rep. Charlie Geren has picked up the bill in the House. “Sen. Patrick is welcome to come testify against the bill if he feels the need to,” Geren told Quorum Report.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. Many jokes hit the Twittersphere yesterday warning Texans to text, Tweet and drive while they still can. The Observer’s Emily Mathis reports after 11 amendments and much discussion, Rep. Tom Craddick’s texting-while-driving ban passed through the House.

2. The Observer’s Olivia Messer reports that 10 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Texas’ designation of “homosexual conduct” as a criminal offense was unconstitutional, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee took up SB 538, which would finally remove the language from the Texas Penal Code.

3. The Austin American Statesman reports Rep. Byron Cook laid out a bill in House State Affairs yesterday that would allow undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s licenses and car insurance.

Line of the Day:

“How can you be in one part of the Capitol advocating for best practices in cancer research … and then on the other end arguing on behalf of industry saying tobacco companies need regulating a certain way?… That seems to be the story of the CPRIT Foundation. It’s just one conflict of interest after another.” —Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer on the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute’s (CPRIT) choice to hire a tobacco company to lobby on its behalf, as reported by the Texas Tribune.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The House is scheduled to debate seven bills today on the floor, including HB 788, which would direct the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to regulate greenhouse gas permits and emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency does so currently.

2. The Senate State Affairs Committee has one bill on the menu for today: a redistricting bill that would would make the interim district maps used in the last election permanent.

3. The House Appropriations Committee started early this morning to discuss revenue bills, including HB 11 that would pull money from the rainy day fund to use for water projects, and a few other bills that discuss transportation and highway project financing.