Despite A Halt in the House, Senate Will Pick Up the Pace
Austin - The Senate continued to conduct business as usual although activity came to a grinding halt in the opposite side of the Capitol Rotunda. Fifty-three Democratic Representatives were absent today, preventing a quorum in the House. House rules specify that more than two-thirds of the body, or 100 members, must be present in order to convene. The 78th Legislative Session is soon coming to an close and the deadline for legislation to pass first-round approval by the House is Thursday, otherwise the bills die.
Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst is optimistic that the House will resolve its matters in a timely fashion and that "all of our legislative members will choose to put Texas first and keep the legislative process moving." Dewhurst said that the Senate will keep going forward and will be picking up the pace.
Houston Senator Rodney Ellis, flanked by Austin Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, El Paso Senator Eliot Shapleigh, and Dallas Senator Royce West, read a statement from the absent House members at a Capitol press conference today. In the statement, the members wrote that they refuse to be present any day that the House plans to consider redistricting. The statement refers to the redistricting plan as undemocratic, unjust, and unprecedented. The group wrote that there are more important issues that should be addressed instead, such as balancing the budget, overhauling the school finance system, and insurance reform.
A similar incident occurred in 1979 when a group of twelve state Senators, nicknamed "the Killer Bees", hid out in a garage apartment for four days to prevent a quorum. The group fled when then-Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby was pushing a bill to require a separate presidential primary. The measure would have allowed conservative Democrats to vote in the Democratic primary for most races, then vote in a Republican presidential primary.
The Senate today approved of a measure by San Antonio Senator Jeff Wentworth that would allow the Texas State University System to charge students at Southwest Texas State University an environmental service fee. The majority of the student body must first approve the $1 fee sanctioned in Senate Bill (SB) 1230 before it can be enacted.
Another education measure was passed by the Senate today. SB 1652, by Plano Senator Florence Shapiro, would provide a guide for the administration, operation, governance, and financing of Texas higher education institutions.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, May 13, 2003, at 11:00 a.m.