Affordable-housing advocates expressed relief Wednesday after a technical error killed a bill that would have reduced state housing assistance to the poorest Texans.
When the bill by Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena, came up for debate on the floor of the Texas House late Tuesday night, Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, raised a point of order based on the fact that the time on the Urban Affairs Committee report on the bill was incorrect — 12:03 a.m. rather than 12:03 p.m.
Speaker Tom Craddick upheld the point of order. This normally would send the bill back to the committee, but since the deadline for committee action on bills had passed, Talton's bill is dead for this session.
Speculation surfaced immediately that Talton would attempt to add some provisions of his bill to legislation pending in the Senate. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Talton hinted that this might happen but declined to discuss details.
Leaders of nonprofit housing organizations had denounced the bill, saying it would reduce incentives to provide housing assistance to Texans in the lowest income categories.
Talton said the incorrect time on the report was the result of a computer error that had occurred several times before. He said Craddick was correct to sustain the point of order.
Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) has just moved to table his controversial Parental Consent Bill, acknowledging that opponents had a sustainable Point of Order.
King told House members that he did not want to waste time and see other bills die. Rather than formally lay out House Bill 1212, King said he would table the legislation, subject to call.
HB 1212 would have require physicians to obtain the consent of parents before performing abortions on teenage girls under 17 years of age. Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Craig Enoch and the members of the County and District Clerks Association of Texas had criticized the reporting requirements of the bill.
HB 1212 had to be referred back to the Chief Clerk's office on Tuesday after another successful Point of Order. That time, Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) was mistakenly listed as a joint author.
You may think all this is nitpicky, and it is. But those are the rules of the House, and as you can see, in both cases both Speaker Craddick and the bills' authors acknowledged the validity of the objections. Many, many bills die this way every session - that was how Arlene Wohlgemuth pulled off her infamous Memorial Day Massacre in 1997. Complain all you want if you don't like it, but ultimately the fault lies with the authors for not dotting their I's and crossing their T's like they're supposed to.
UPDATE: Dammit. HB1212 is still alive after all.
Just hours after the parental consent bill died in the House, the Senate's State Affairs Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 1150, a similar measure by Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington. The committee recommended the bill be placed on a calendar for uncontested bills.
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, left before the vote, saying, "I'm just trying to see if I need to bring my tennis shoes in to filibuster, to see if he's going to make a bad bill horrible."
Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, raised the successful objection to the House's parental consent bill.
"We had a lot of good support for this bill. We had Republicans and Democrats in support of it," King said, adding at least 90 lawmakers had planned to vote in favor of the bill, enough to pass it.
Villarreal, reflecting the view of many abortion rights advocates, said the parental consent bill is an effort by anti-abortion forces who "really want to limit the reproductive rights of women."
The bill's fatal flaw involved a minor error, King said.
One House rule specifies that all witnesses registering on a bill in committee must sign affirmations with the name of the committee at the top. Of more than 1,000 affirmations, he said, one failed to list the name of the House State Affairs Committee.
"It's easy to miss," King said.