Speaker rebuffs effort to discuss bathroom debate,
Speaker discards amendments to railroad panel bill.
Flexing his parliamentary muscle, House Speaker Joe Straus headed off efforts Tuesday to bring a vote to the House floor on the regulation of the use of bathrooms by transgender people.
In a showdown with socially conservative members, Straus ended debate on a bill about the fate of the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas operations, by announcing there were no further amendments to consider.
But at least two amendments had been filed before the debate seeking to fold the contentious transgender bathroom issue into the relatively tame oil and gas bill.
With Straus having signaled that he will not let a counterpart to Senate Bill 6, which would limit bathroom and locker room use in public buildings to the gender listed on a person’s birth certificate, make it to the House floor, social conservatives were looking for legislation to act as a vehicle to get such bathroom use rules past Straus.
Conservative lawmakers quickly demanded to know why their bills wouldn’t be heard.
Straus said he had determined the proposed amendments “were not germane” to the bill.
A proposal by Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, required that bathrooms in buildings owned or leased by the commission shall “be designated for and used only by persons of the same biological sex.”
Another proposal, by state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, mandated that when determining whether a company qualifies as a “historically underutilized business,” often based on ownership by one or more women, “the term ‘woman’ or ‘women’ shall mean the physical condition of being female, as stated on a person’s birth certificate.”
Straus’ ability to keep the amendments from being heard were a “function of the powers of the Speaker of the House,” Schaefer said in an interview, who said he had been informed hours before by the House parliamentarian’s office that the amendments were not considered on point with the bill.
He said he was determined to try to get a vote on SB 6-related language, which he said he was confident would pass the House. But Straus, as recently as Friday, said the bathroom bill is a “contrived” answer to a “manufactured” problem that could undermine Texas’ job creation success. The speaker has said he sees “no fervor” in the House to bring the legislation to the floor.
Debate over the Railroad Commission legislation got a jolt earlier when House members adopted language mandating businesses working in the oil patch verify their workers are in the U.S. legally.
State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, had offered an amendment calling for the verification, known as e-verify, as a way of pointing out what he called Republican hypocrisy on immigration issues.
“I wanted to call out hypocrisy of the people in the GOP who wanted only to attack immigrants and not go after employers,” he said.
Lawmakers essentially called his bluff, however, adopting e-verify in the oil patch — though not before stripping out language calling for executives of any company that does business with the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas operations, to confirm, under the penalty of perjury, that the company “does not knowingly employ any person not lawfully present.”
Anchia said his amendment was a response to Republican efforts to penalize communities that call themselves sanctuary cities.
“When it comes to powerful industries you want to give them a free pass, but when it comes to vulnerable immigrants, that’s who we want to get tough on,” he told his fellow lawmakers on the floor before his amendment passed. “What does that say about you guys?”
Lawmakers ultimately gave preliminary approval to the bill, which allows the Railroad Commission to continue to operate.