Frustrated House GOP takes their ball and goes home

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, The Budget, The Lege at 5:02 pm by wcnews

If it’s not possible to win by playing by the rules, the only other option to win is to get rid of the rules. And that’s exactly what the GOP super majority in the Texas House did yesterday. As did their Senate counterparts earlier in the week. House hits boiling point; GOP bars debate on lawsuit-fees bill.

All week, House Democrats derailed major pieces of legislation on technicalities. Frustrated Republicans pushed back Saturday, using a rare maneuver to prevent debates and amendments as they eventually approved one piece of significant legislation, one that would make it financially riskier to file lawsuits.

With three weeks left in a legislative session that began Jan. 11, piles of significant proposals await action. And aggressive use of legislative rules in the House and Senate could make the always-hectic closing days of the session even more dramatic.

“Every session has a boiling point,” said Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine . “We just hit ours.”

Last week, Democrats slowed consideration of some key pieces of legislation by finding small violations of the House rules, such as imprecise records of committee hearings. So when one of those bills, House Bill 274, returned to the floor for action Saturday, Republicans forced a quick vote on it, preventing their colleagues from debating or amending it.

That vote reflected the impatience of a GOP majority that has seen its legislative efforts slowed despite a 101-49 advantage in the chamber. That majority, thrust into office by a tea party that expects bold action, also knows that time is running short: Thursday is the last day to give House bills initial passage.

Like a petulant child who can’t win by playing by the rules. They have decided to take their ball and go home. Anyone can “win” by changing the rules in mid-stream. It’s easier and takes much less skill and acumen to do by changing the rules. No wonder the GOP has chosen to do it this way.

The reality is that the GOP in the Senate has been thinking about doing away with the 2/3rds rule for at lest the last two sessions. And most certainly in the House, since electing a super majority this session, knew all along they had this ploy in their back pocket. What that means is that they never dealt in “good faith” with the Democrats because they always knew they had this option to fall back on.

But the Democrats should not change a thing. Let the GOP move forward, changing decades of rules, and ramming through their bad policies without debate. Highlighting their extremism. As Patricia Kilday Hart writes today, Texas conservatives have skewed definition of ‘essential’ services.

While the Senate last week adopted a budget slightly less austere than the House, it’s worth examining the House plan to see which programs the conservative coalition has deemed non-essential.

It cuts state Child Protective Services “intake” offices so severely that officials predict 85,000 calls about abused children will not be answered.

It shortchanges school districts for the 80,000 new students expected to show up next year.
It cuts Medicaid reimbursement rates to nursing homes so drastically the industry predicts 75 percent of the state’s facilities will shut down, leaving 60,000 elderly Texans without care and 47,000 employees without jobs.

It slashes funding for medical school residency programs.

And the House plan slashes Early Childhood Intervention, which provides rehabilitation for infants and toddlers with severe birth defects or life-threatening illnesses at a crucial time in their cognitive development. The program will now serve 4,000 less infants.

So, according to Texans for a Conservative Budget, that makes Early Childhood Intervention a non-essential program.

Many believe that once these policies are implemented and Texans feel the pain there will be a backlash. That’s likely true. It’s just too damn bad is has to come to that before there will be a backlash. The “emergency” bill the GOP rammed through yesterday is payback to their massive corporate benefactors.

This legislation threatens Texans with the possibility of having to pay the bloated legal costs of big insurance companies or multinational corporations like BP or Wal-Mart. The lobbyists call this “loser pays,” but really it is “families pay” because only individuals – not corporate defendants – would be forced to pay. What’s worse is that you could see your life savings wiped out not only if you lose a valid lawsuit, but even if you just don’t win big enough. In other words, you can win… and still lose.

Florida’s experience with a similar legislation was so bad that lawmakers there repealed it just five years later. In fact, commonly known as “British Rule,” this sort of legislation was rejected by our founders more than two centuries ago because it guts individual liberties. Now, even the British themselves are considering abandoning it in favor of our American system.

If we don’t act now, this dangerous bill aimed at protecting big insurance companies and polluters at the expense of families and small businesses will become law. Tell your state representative that Texas families can’t afford HB 274.

It’s easy to follow the rules and pass bills when legislation is good public policy. It’s when bad public policy - protecting the rich and powerful over average Texans - is being forced through, that decades of tradition have to be tossed aside.

For the GOP to say the Democrats made them do this may be true. But playing by the rules is hard, and the GOP is showing that if the Democrats are going to make them play by the rules, then they will just change them. That’s the choice they have made. They are taking the ball and going home.

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