This is the first in an occasional series of articles by The Texas Voice that will provide full context on misinformation or misleading information disseminated by legislators or advocacy groups concerning activities in the Texas legislature.
On Tuesday, the Texas House and Texas Senate considered a routine resolution, SCR 18, granting the legislature permission to adjourn for more than three days. Similar resolutions have passed earlier this session without controversy and are historically commonplace during the early portions of legislative sessions.
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When SCR 18 was offered by Republican State Representative Craig Goldman, Tinderholt took to the back microphone and requested Goldman to yield for questions regarding the resolution. After Goldman yielded to questions about SCR 18, Tinderholt began asking questions about extraneous issues unrelated to the substance of SCR 18, such as suspending the Texas Constitution, and made comments expressing his opposition to adjourning. SCR 18 dealt solely with the issue of adjourning between February 15th and February 21st.
Under the rules of the Texas House, it is out of order for members to engage in debate from the back microphone when they have been recognized to ask questions.
After Speaker Dade Phelan asked Tinderholt to confine his remarks to SCR 18, Tinderholt continued to ask Goldman about matters other than the resolution hand and offered his personal opinions. Phelan then ruled Tinderholt out of order, saying, “In the opinion of the Chair, your remarks are not on the subject of SCR 18. They are dilatory. Please take your Chair.”
Although Tinderholt’s remarks from the back microphone in his exchange with Goldman were clearly out of order under House rules, Tinderholt took to social media to play the victim card.
In a tweet that included a video of the exchange with Goldman and Phelan, Tinderholt stated, “Yesterday, I had a couple of questions for my colleague, Craig Goldman, as to why the Texas House is taking so much time off instead of getting to work for the people of Texas. He and the Speaker are sending a strong message to all Republican freshman that this session, you need to sit down and shut up.”
Tinderholt’s manufactured outrage over SCR 18 ignores the Texas Constitution, the logistical realities of the Texas House, and the work most legislators do when they are not on the floor.
Under Article 3, Section 5 of the Texas Constitution, the legislature cannot consider legislation during the first 60 days of a session unless the legislation concerns a matter designated by the Governor as an emergency matter. There are no such matters currently pending before the legislature. While a legislative chamber can suspend this section of the Texas Constitution, such action requires a 4/5th vote of the chamber. It is highly likely that House Democrats would strongly oppose any effort to suspend the Constitutional 60-day rule.
Committees of the Texas House were not announced until last week, after a process where the Speaker met with members individually to discuss their committee preferences and legislative priorities. The House Administration Committee met for the first time this past Tuesday, where they approved budgets for House committees. Committee chairs could not formally hire committee staff until these budgets were approved.
Additionally, the staff hired by committee chairs must be trained, and that staff training is currently ongoing. The increase in the number of Republican committee chairs has resulted in the hiring of additional new Republican committee staff members who must undergo this training.
During the early portion of the legislative session, when action on non-emergency items is prohibited, many legislators are busy doing legislative work off the floor. This work includes meeting with constituents, researching matters likely to come before the legislature, gathering information from individuals and organizations involved in legislative advocacy, and other work that helps them make informed decisions about votes they will take later in the session.
In his remarks on the House floor, Tinderholt stated that he was concerned that adjourning would potentially jeopardize “individual members’ priorities in their districts.” However, this concern was not shared by practically any other member of the legislature. SJR 18 passed the Texas House by a vote of 146-2 and the Texas Senate by 31-0.