Austin, May 21 – The Texas House of Representatives considered two controversial pieces of legislation during the first six hours of floor debate on Monday, May 20, 2019, as the 86th Texas Legislature is only six (6) days from coming to a close.
Protecting religious freedom: Senate Bill 1978
The Texas House of Representatives voted on an almost straight party-line vote, 79 in favor to 62 opposed, to pass the so-called “Chick-Fil-A” bill, which the Texas Senate had previously passed. Representative Matt Krause (Republican of Fort Worth) was the House sponsor of the bill, which seeks to prohibit a governmental entity from taking any adverse action against any person based wholly or partly on the person’s membership in, affiliation with, or contribution, donation, or other support provided to a qualifying religious organization and to provide for relief if a governmental entity violates that that prohibition.
The bill gained the nickname “Chick-Fil-A,” because it arose when the City of San Antonio prohibited an airport concession to Chick-Fil-A, because of the restaurant chain’s financial contributions to support the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Atheletes, among other Christian-based charities.
Several liberal members of the Texas House unsuccessfully attempted to “chub” the legislation by amending it to death. Rep. Jessica Gonzales (democrat of Dallas) offered an amendment to protect LGBTQ, since those categories are not legally protected groups. Krause spoke against the amendment. The amendment failed 65 to 76.
All five members of the so-called “LGBTQ Caucus” – democrats Julie Johnson of Dallas, Erin Zwiener of Austin, Jessica Gonzales of Dallas, Celia Israel of Austin, and Mary Gonzales of El Paso – passionately opposed to the bill, telling their stories of claimed discrimination. If the bill had prohibited racial discrimination, would they have opposed it for failing to provide legal protection to LGBTQ people?
Prohibiting taxpayer-funded lobbying: Senate Bill 29
The Texas Legislature came the closest ever in history to banning taxpayer-funded lobbying in the 86th Legislative Session. The Texas Senate had passed the bill on a straight party-line vote on April 17, 2019, 19 to 12, with only Senator Kel Seliger (Republican of Amarillo) voting against the legislation.
Ending taxpayer-funded lobbying was one of five Legislative Priorities of the Republican Party of Texas, which the Delegates to the State Republican Convention approved last June, 2018, in San Antonio. Arguably, ending taxpayer-funded lobbying was the most important single piece of legislation in the 86th Texas Legislature, because passage of the proposal would have brought the dominance of the Texas Municipal League, the Texas Association of Counties, and the Texas Association of School Boards, three ultra-liberal lobbying groups almost exclusively supported from tax dollars, to a close.
Representative Mayes Middleton, Republican of Houston, was the primary author of the legislation. 43 members of the Texas House were sponsors or co-sponsors of the bill. All three Representatives from Montgomery County – Cecil Bell, Will Metcalf, and Steve Toth – were co-sponsors of the legislation.
The first problem arose when the House State Affairs Committee passed a substitute bill which greatly restricted the ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying. During four-and-a-half hours of floor debate, the legislation suffered two amendments, which passed, and several other attempts to amend the bill. Members also raised at least three points of order, which stalled the debate and would have killed the bill.
The bill died in the Texas House on a 58 to 85 vote. All three Montgomery County members voted for banning taxpayer-funded lobbying.
Soon after the bill died, The Golden Hammer conducted an exclusive interview of a very-frustrated State Representative Steve Toth, Republican of Conroe, who said, “We spent one-and-a-half hours debating the religious anti-discrimination Chick-Fil-A bill. We just spent four-and-a-half hours debating a ban on taxpayer funded lobbying. It seems as though democrats and Republicans are here to serve the lobby.”