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Patrick, Senate Fast-Track New Special Interest Bill

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According to reporting from the Texas Tribune, billionaire Warren Buffett met with Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick this past Monday, and the very next day, the “Buffett Bill” was born.

We do not know exactly what was discussed in this meeting, other than that it certainly involved Buffett’s car business and legal roadblocks to his operating in Texas.

SB 2279, by Sen. Kelly Hancock, creates a special exemption in state law for Buffett’s business venture involving recreational vehicle dealerships.

The deadline for filing bills was weeks ago. But by a motion to suspend the rules, the Senate can allow a new bill to be filed beyond that date. The motion prevailed without objection, and the bill was successfully filed. It was immediately referred to committee and scheduled for a hearing without the routine five-day notice to the public.

At the beginning of March, a similar maneuver took place in the House, when Rep. Dan Huberty filed a school finance bill – HB 21 – and scheduled a hearing on it in committee the very next day.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland brought attention to that action by objecting to scheduling a hearing on such a substantive bill without proper notice to the public. A deal was struck and Huberty agreed to a second hearing, for which the public would be properly notified.

Huberty’s maneuver likely would not have made the news had Stickland not shined a spotlight on it. But when activists heard of it, they were outraged.

But without a bulldog like Stickland in the Senate, there was no resistance to Patrick’s move on the Buffett Bill. Most conservative activists learned of the bill’s existence from the Tribune article late Thursday night and early reactions are not positive for Patrick.

From the Tribune:

“The special treatment for Buffett’s bill also lays bare the tensions between the statewide political establishment — led by Abbott and Patrick — and the drain-the-swamp grassroots that have helped put them in their current jobs.

“’I do have a problem with a gazillionaire blowing into Texas and meeting with our officials and suddenly a bill gets fast-tracked,’ said East Texas Tea Party activist JoAnn Fleming.’”

SB 2279 passed through the committee immediately on Wednesday. Traditionally, the bill would have sat in committee for at least a week for Senators to ponder before voting. Clearly, this bill is not traditional, and Senators voted 6-0 to move it out.

The Tribune also highlighted that Sen. Bob Hall’s “Tesla Bill,” SB2093, which would allow vehicle manufacturers to sell directly to the public without a dealership should they so choose, is apparently dead on arrival. It has not received a vote of any kind, nor even been heard in committee.

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