As the 86th Texas legislative session ends, lawmakers feel the pressure (Ep. 11)
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As the 86th Texas legislative session ends, lawmakers feel the pressure (Ep. 11)

We’ve been going on for a whole lot of
years almost 200 years about a lot of these bills so we’ll probably last two more years without them, we’ll see. You know at the beginning of a session
you file a bill, you’re full of hope you’ve got all kinds of time.
Everything’s possible and as the session begins to wind down and gets busier you
lose time on the clock. The mood now is one of a feeling of immediacy. How’s my stuff doing and what’s moving in and who do I go talk to. You know I know we’re almost done is – the amount of shirts that I have this session, if one more round of
dry-cleaning and I’m gonna make it to the end This place, it’s a lot about not
giving you something that you want or need but denying you something that you
might want to need at the end. We live in such a big diverse state, but yet the legislature only meets once every two years for a hundred and forty days. It’s very difficult. Six thousand bills are being talked
about and yours is just one of them. There’s not really much you can do. Members see the end of the session coming and begin to do all of the things
in legislative ER to save their bills that they can. I mean bills are dying they’re dying.
They’re dying right now. You have to be realistic about
what you can do in the time that you’re going to do it. This is an awful way to put
it but you have to kind of pick your favorite child and say this is the one
that we’re gonna save and the rest of them we’re not. I gotta go. It’s not designed to pass bills, it’s designed to kill them and most bills die. And the end
of a session is where you find out for sure this bill lived or that one died. Recently I have seen and been made aware
of some of the most concerning behavior I have witnessed in my time as a
legislator. I am saddened by the acts of a few individuals that have stolen the
conversation about legislation that I deeply care about. The Constitutional Carry bill was filed this session by state representative Jonathan Stickland, a Republican from
Bedford. He’s championed this issue before. Constitutional Carry is a
proposal to let Texans carry firearms without a permit. Up until this most
recent episode it was it was still languishing in the legislature and I think that that was fueling a lot of the angst that you saw. We were hoping that it
was going to be be a little bit better chance of it you know getting some traction in
this session that with a new speaker, speaker Bonnen. So I did want to
leave one of these on his house just so that way he knows that, you know, we’re
we’re out here. Chris McNutt, vocal supporter of Constitutional Carry – in the words of I think some local media was intercepted by DPS officers in the vicinity of the House Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s residence, and at least
according to Bonnen, this was a step too far. McNutt claims that he did nothing to threaten these families and was not, you
know, looking to intimidate to anyone. I was just exercising First Amendment rights to promote a bill and hold politicians accountable. The whole episode with
McNutt basically dealt a death blow to the chances of constitutional carry at
the Capitol. After it was reported Stickland, the author of the bill came out
and basically said that he was going to be abandoning his push for it. There is a
right way and a wrong way to influence the legislative process. It’s never okay
to target their homes or personal businesses. We would have heard
Constitutional Carry but for a group of individuals that decided it was more
important to act unsettling for lack of a better word and then threatening if you
want to put the worst spin on it. Especially as we get toward the end of
the session we need to exercise civility, we need to exercise good judgment, good
prudence. At the end of any legislative session nerves start to fray, then you
see that in the form of some of the activism surrounding the Chris McNutt
episode both inside the Capitol and outside the Capitol there’s definitely a
growing sense that it’s crunch time as people realize what realistically is
going to be passed. Paid sick leave was supposed to be a slam
dunk in the republican-dominated Texas Legislature last year the City of Austin
passed an ordinance mandating that private businesses provide paid sick
leave to their employees and Republican lawmakers made it pretty clear that when
they came back to Austin in January, they were going to override those from the state level. Two identical bills were filed in House and the Senate, but before the Senate version got a committee hearing it was completely overhauled –
kind of turned on its head and one provision which protected local
non-discrimination ordinances was taken out of the bill. A non-discrimination
ordinance or an NDO is basically a local law that says you can’t treat people
differently based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. You can’t
fire me because I’m gay, you can’t refuse to let me rent this house because I’m
transgender. So that got advocacy groups really concerned that this bill could actually threaten these really important protections for their communities. We urge the legislature to oppose all discriminatory legislation and instead
focus on policies that benefit all Texans. What happened, what’s happening
with paid sick leave? They went in and stripped that language. Now why would you strip that language other than you want to do away with non discrimination
ordnances. The bill’s author and the business groups that have kind of backed this from the beginning have been clear that it was never their intention to
threaten those local non-discrimination ordinances, but nevertheless the concern
about it from these advocacy groups was enough to kind of poison the original
version of the bill. Some of those concerns early on were just not based on
reliable information. Case law says that unless it’s unmistakably clear that
cities are precluded from advancing non-discrimination ordinances then it’s
arguable that they’re allowed to continue to do so. That bill was
basically going to die so what happened then was the author of the bill broke it
into smaller pieces thinking that would be easier to pass and apparently that
worked out because those bills have now passed. Bills changed all through the
process. We decided to break them up as a strategy to get some reconsideration and
that worked. I asked him questions specifically on the floor about what his intent was. And I pointed out well if you really want your intent to be sure it
conforms with the law then all you have to do is put those words in your bill
and he refused. The scope narrowed into specific issues and it made the non-discrimination ordinance language unnecessary. Senator Brandon Creighton, the
author of the four bills, says that they have no impact on local
non-discrimination ordinances, but advocacy groups and the lawyers they
have consulted say that these bills do still present a threat to local
non-discrimination ordinances. Yeah those legal experts never approached me so
that’s always interesting when opinions fly around the building establishing a
narrative that never was my own. When you get to this point in session I think you
have to be creative and how you’re going to get bills across the finish line
especially when certain bills draw lots of criticism early on in the process

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