The strong arm of the Speaker’s chair was revealed through Floor debate on an otherwise-mundane bill to sunset the Railroad Commission. A sunset bill is usually very broad and deals with all the rules and functions related to the agency. Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) filed an amendment to require that, within Railroad Commission facilities, an individual must use the restroom corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificate. The amendment was pre-filed on Monday at 10 am ahead of the bill being debated by the full House on Tuesday morning.
As is usually the custom, an amendment is brought to the Floor and, if a member finds the amendment is not germane (related) to the bill, they can call a point of order on the bill. If the Speaker rules the amendment is not germane to a bill, he will publicly announce that ruling and explain the reason he made that ruling.
As the House neared the end of the list of filed amendments, Rep. Schaefer was called to the Speaker’s desk for a private discussion. After only a moment of discussion, Rep. Schaefer was seen quickly walking to the back microphone for a parliamentary inquiry. It was revealed that Speaker Straus ruled that Rep. Schaefer’s amendment was not germane to the Sunset bill, refused to allow the amendment to be brought up, and would not explain the grounds for the ruling. Upon further questioning from Rep. Jonathan Stickland, Speaker Straus made it clear that there was no route for opposing or appealing the ruling of the chair. As representatives Schaefer, Stickland, Cain, Rinaldi, Tinderholt, and Biederman gathered around the back microphone in opposition to the Speaker’s unilateral ruling, members from both sides of the aisle could be heard shouting and mocking those opposing the Speaker’s decision.
All other amendments related to the use of restrooms in the Railroad Commission, including one other from Rep. Schaefer and one from Rep. Tinderholt, were privately deemed non-germane to the bill. Rep. Briscoe Cain made a motion to hear said amendment by Rep. Tinderholt and Speaker Straus not only refused to hear the amendment but announced that Rep. Cain was not even recognized to make that motion.
To view archived video of the exchange click here and go to the 3:00 mark.
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