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Minimum Wage Deja Vu?

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A seemingly insignificant question on the Texas House floor Thursday ignited a firestorm of questions, feelings of betrayal, and misconceptions that sent ripples throughout the grassroots in Texas.  A request by the Vice-Chair of the Business and Industry Committee, Freshman Rep. Hugh Shine (r) HD55 for the Chairman Rep. Rene Oliveira (d) HD37 to suspend the five-day posting rule for HJR56, which deals with raising the state minimum wage, had Republican supporters of those who voted for the motion calling for heads to roll.  For a more in-depth look into what happened see Cain Launches Conservative Surprise Attack.

As history shows, increasing the minimum wage in the state of Texas has been on the minds of Democrats and they are continuing to bring this priority to the forefront in the 85th.

Last session, there were several bills in both the House and the Senate that addressed the subject.  Out of these, HJR41 was voted out of committee by a vote of 4 to 3. Reps Oliveira (d), Collier (d), Romero (d) and Villalba (r) voted aye. Reps Simmons (r), Rinaldi (r), Fletcher (r) voted nay. This HJR would have amended the state Constitution to raise the minimum wage from its current amount to $10.10 an hour.

This bill was heard in the Business and Industry Committee on 4-7-15. Voted out on 4-23-15. Received in the Calendar Committee on 4-28-15 and heard on the house floor on 5-14-15, 16 days later.  This bill was heard on the last day that the house could consider consent house bills on 2nd and 3rd reading and house joint resolutions on the Supplemental Calendar. This day was the deadline that all bills had to be out of the House by 12:00 midnight and there were over three hundred bills on the calendar waiting to be heard.  The bill’s history bears out that the bill was read earlier in the day and postponed until the afternoon with three subsequent postponements which means that a lot of time was spent on this piece of legislation.

Bills that were waiting in line behind this HJR and other Democrat priority legislation were Republican priority bills. The Democrats were accused of chubbing to kill vast amounts of Repulican bills that were waiting in line to be heard.  Many Republican priorities died that day and conservatives haven’t forgotten that in a Republican controlled House the Democrat minority party ruled the day. 

Speed forward to this session.  We now have 10 minimum wage bills in the same House Business and Industry Committee that will be heard tomorrow, March 20th.  Members of the committee are Reps Renee Oliviera (d), Chair, Hugh Shine (r), Vice Chair; Nicole Collier (d), Ramon Romero (d), Jonathan Stickland (r), Jason Villalba (r), and Paul Workman (r).  The four that voted HJR26 out in the 84th session have remained and the three that voted against it were replaced. 

The bill is being heard in committee on 3-20-17, which is 18 days earlier than last session.  Will HJR56 travel as the same path as the one from the 84th and end up being heard on the last day that legislation can be voted out of the House?  This remains to be seen, but with the debacle of last session still fresh in the memory of conservatives in the Texas House, some seem to be on high alert to the tactics that can be used to kill the majority party’s legislation by the minority.

Representative Cain has received some backlash for his question and opposition to suspending the rules to allow HJR56 to be placed on the calendar for tomorrow. Many have said it is customary and a courtesy for members to do this for each other, but Representative Cain was completely within his right to question what bill the Vice-Chair was referencing when asking for the suspension and to voice his opposition to the suspension.

Maybe Rep. Cain is looking down the road and cognizant to the fact that conservative legislation again is moving very slowly through committees in the House.  Republican priorities are not coming to the House floor, some House committees have not even had a meeting, and the deadline for bills to be out of committee is looming. Is it possible that Rep. Cain is doing everything in his power to make sure legislation his district does not support is stopped and legislation his district supports moves forward?

Legislators have an obligation to pay attention to what is happening in regards to all matters even seemingly insignificant ones. These men and women are sent to Austin to stand for their beliefs and represent their districts. There are times that this might involve going against tradition and courtesy when, in the past, those courtesies have been taken advantage of in order to further one side or the other’s own agenda.

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

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