Tea Party Conservative Derails Legislation Temporarily with Local Calendar Power Play
The following article was written by Mike Hailey editor and publisher of www.capitolinside.com
April 9, 2015
Tea Party Conservative Derails Legislation
Temporarily with Local Calendar Power Play
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
A state lawmaker who’s been a tea party idol appeared to fire a warning shot across the bow of the Texas House leadership team on Thursday when he single-handedly sandbagged a couple of bills that had appeared to have no opposition.
State Rep. Jonathan Stickland – a Bedford Republican who’s been one of Speaker Joe Straus’ most outspoken critics during the past two years – knocked the measures in question off the Local, Consent and Resolutions Calendar with a procedural tactic that’s been used at times for a variety of reasons.
Stickland’s maneuvering prevented proposals that Republican State Rep. Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches and Democratic State Rep. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio are sponsoring from sailing through the lower chamber in expedited fashion in a package that included more than two dozen other bills that hadn’t encountered any apparent obstacles up to now.
The Gutierrez proposal that Stickland temporarily derailed would ban so-called e-cigarettes from public school property. Clardy’s measure that the second-term suburban lawmaker picked off would give Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s office the exclusive authority to approve or to reject energy conservation contracts that state colleges and universities here have negotiated.
The ploy that Stickland employed will impose more of an inconvenience for the sponsors of the the bills that he targeted than a potentially fatal threat. The maneuver will force Clardy and Gutierrez to move the measures to the top of the next general state calendar that the House will consider on Friday or early next week. While the legislation that Stickland effectively rerouted will be expected to clear the lower chamber with overwhelming support, the process that they will have to be channeled through now will leave them vulnerable to a more extensive and protracted debate if additional opposition bubbled up in the wake of the delay.
Stickland threw up the tactical roadblock when he spoke in opposition to the electronic smoking and energy saving contract proposals for almost 10 minutes on each of the two bills. Stickland, a hard-line conservative with libertarian leanings, based his objections to the measures on the grounds that they would intrude on personal freedom and free market protections.
Stickland at one point was accused by some colleagues of straying outside the bounds of the specific subject matter at the heart of the targeted bills in a potential violation of House rules governing debate on legislation that’s been set on the local calendar. But Stickland was allowed to continue the mini-filibusters long enough to force Clardy and Gutierrez to withdraw the measures from the first local calendar that the House has considered in the regular session so far this year.
While none of Stickland’s colleagues questioned the sincerity of the concerns that he raised about the proposals, the procedural power play sparked speculation on whether he was more interested in sending a message to the Straus and the lieutenants on his leadership team than actually trying to kill the measures. Clardy and Stickland are both second-term lawmakers who won House seats initially in 2012 with strong support from conservatives. Stickland was elected in an open race for the House after defeating a former city council member who’d been viewed as a significant favorite in the GOP primary election.
Clardy claimed a seat in the lower chamber that year as well after unseating a Straus ally who’d served several sessions as a Democrat before switching to the GOP after a narrow victory in a re-election race in 2008 in an East Texas district that had grown heavily Republican. Some of Clardy’s most conservative supporters were disappointed when he pledged his allegiance to Straus at the start of his freshman session in 2013.
Clardy has amassed a substantial amount of clout for a second-term lawmaker – landing appointments from the speaker this year to the Higher Education Committee, the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee and the Select State & Federal Power & Responsibilities Committee. Clardy also happens to be the current vice-chairman of the Local & Consent Calendars Committee that had set the schedule that Stickland temporarily disrupted with the tactical strike.
Gutierrez – on the other hand – is based in San Antonio where Straus is a resident and a member of one of the Alamo City’s most prominent families in the political and business arenas. The San Antonio delegation to the House has been relatively close regardless of the individual members’ partisan affiliations. The Gutierrez measure that the conservative torpedoed would force school districts to adopt prohibitions against the use of electronic cigarettes on school grounds and at school-sanctioned events that are held off campus as well. While e-cigarettes are vaporized products that can be used with or without nicotine, some House members have expressed concerns that they are being used to consume illegal narcotics by students in ways that are difficult to detect.
GOP State Reps. Jason Villalba of Dallas and Wayne Faircloth of Galveston had signed on as co-sponsors of the proposed e-cigarette restrictions in House Bill 456.
HB 599 – the Clardy legislation that Stickland managed to sidetrack – would give the comptroller’s office the ability to make the final call on energy saving contracts at public colleges and universities without having to secure sign-off approval from the gubernatorial appointees on the Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Stickland was one of 19 House Republicans who attempted to overthrow Straus at the start of the regular session in January when they pitched their support to GOP State Rep. Scott Turner of Frisco in the speaker’s election instead. Stickland had contended that the legislation he’s been pushing at the Capitol this year has been bottled up in committees without hearings or votes as retribution from the Straus team for his positions in the leadership contest and battles on policy issues.