Image: Senator Bob Hall (left), Republican of Edgewood, had the strongest voting record on major votes of any member of the 86th Texas Legislature. At left, is President Donald Trump.
Austin, May 28 – Among the ten most significant votes in the 86th Texas Legislative Session, which adjourned sine die yesterday in Austin, one could make the argument that one vote, defined the challenges faces Texans and their representatives in Austin more than any other, the failure of the taxpayer-funded lobbying ban to pass the Texas House of Representatives. The Golden Hammer presents its first ratings of the Texas Legislature and focuses on ten (10) major votes, which will largely define State policy during the coming two years until the next session.
This newspaper chose ten votes, which occurred in both the Senate and the House. Let’s put the cards on the table: this newspaper is biased in favor of lower government spending. That’s our purpose. That’s our goal. That’s the reason the newspaper came into existence two years ago. The Golden Hammer serves to protect and inform the governed, not the governors.
The rules for our ratings are:
- A Senator or Representatives receives a + for a proper vote. What defines a “proper” vote is the “NAY” or “AYE” under the bill number and the topic in the first row of each rating chart below.
- A Senator who successfully authors a bill, which passes both houses of the Legislature, receives a ++ for his work in guiding the legislation to passage, as long as an “AYE” vote is proper for the bill. A Representative who successfully authors a bill, which passes both houses of the Legislature, receives a +++ for his work in guiding the legislation to pass, as long as an “AYE” vote is proper for the bill. Clearly, it is much harder to pass legislation through the Texas House of Representatives for a number of reasons. The House is not known as “the place where bills go to die” for nothing.
- The maximum score is a “10.” Only one member of the 86th Legislature received 11 +s, Senator Bob Hall of Edgewood. Nevertheless, we count his score as a “10.”
- The choices of the ten bills reflect major policy and also avoid overlap. For example, House Bill 3, the public education legislation, largely reflects the policies of House Bill 1, the State Budget.
- All votes – with one exception – reflect the votes on Third Readings, because that’s when bills pass or fail. The one exception was the vote in the House on House Bill 1495, because the bill came out of the House-Senate Conference Committee substantially stronger and quite broader than when it had originally passed the House.
Clearly, the defining vote in the 86th Texas Legislature was Senate Bill 29, the proposal to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying, which passed in the Senate but failed in the Texas House and barely even made it to the floor of the House in one piece.
The three perfect 10 scores are Senator Bob Hall Edgewood, Senator Kelly Hancock of Fort Worth, and Senator Bryan Hughes of Mineola, all three of whom are Republicans. Nine (9) Republican Senators received scores of “9.”
The lowest score of any Senator was Senator Beverly Powell, Democrat of Fort Worth.
The average score was 6.39. The sole Republican who scored below the average was Senator Kel Seliger of Amarillo.
The average Republican score was 8.57. The average Democrat score was 2.92.
Here are the ten (10) defining bills. The ratings charts follow:
House Bill 1. State Budget for the next biennium. NAY vote appropriate. The two-year budget is $250.7 billion, a 16.7% increase in spending from two years ago. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick created a major problem at the beginning of the Session with his promise to give a $5 billion pay raise to teachers rather than devoting the entire State surplus to property tax relief. The Budget passed the Senate 31 to 0. It passed the House 149 to 0.
Senate Bill 2. Property Tax Reform. AYE vote appropriate. This bill does actually contain some important transparency provisions to the assessment of property taxes. The bill will require a voter referendum before cities and counties increase spending more than 3.5% in one year. The bill passed the House on a 109 to 36 vote. It passed the Senate 18 to 12. Authors: Bettencourt, Creighton, Hancock, Paxton, Taylor.
Senate Bill 11. “School Safety” in name with enormous assertion of State control over school curricula, counseling, and student mental health evaluations. NAY vote appropriate. The bill passed the Senate on a 29 to 2 vote. It passed the House on a 135 to 7 vote. In the conference committee, some conservatives successfully were able to remove some of the more offensive “mental health” provisions.
Senate Bill 21. Raise smoking age for cigarette to 21. NAY vote appropriate. Passed the Senate 20 to 11, passed the House 110 to 36.
Senate Bill 22. Prohibit state and local governments from partnering or contracting with agencies which provide abortions. AYE vote appropriate. Passed the Senate 20 to 11, passed the House 83 to 63. Authors: Bettencourt, Birdwell, Buckingham, Campbell, Creighton, Fallon, Flores, Hall, Hancock, Huffman, Hughes, Kolkhorst, Lucio, Nelson, Nichols, Paxton, Perry, Schwertner, Seliger, Taylor.
Senate Bill 29. Prohibit taxpayer-funded lobbying. AYE vote appropriate. Passed the Senate 19 to 12, failed in the House 58 to 84. Easily the defining votes of the 86th Texas Legislature. Author: Hall.
House Bill 1495. Taxpayer-funded lobbying disclosure requirements for cities and counties statewide, add enforceable local government code of ethics in two Counties (Montgomery, Chamber). AYE vote appropriate. Passed the Senate 27 to 4, passed the House 116 to 11. Author: Toth.
House Bill 1631. Ban red light cameras. AYE vote appropriate. Passed the Senate 25 to 6, passed the House 109 to 34. Authors: Stickland, Collier, Burrows, Senfronia Thompson.
Senate Bill 1640. Restore “walking quorum” prohibition to the Texas Open Meetings Act after the Court of Criminal of Appeals earlier this year said the current language in the statute was unconstitutionally vague. AYE vote appropriate. Passed the Senate 31 to 0, passed the House 145 to 1. Authors: Bettencourt, Watson.
Senate Bill 1978. Religious liberty bill which prohibits government discrimination against businesses, such as “Chick-Fil-A,” based upon religious beliefs. AYE vote appropriate. Passed the Senate 19 to 12, passed in the House 79 to 64. Authors: Hughes.