The Texas Senate appears to be moving slowly on a pair of border security bills, one of which has already passed the House. Border security legislation was set as an “Emergency Item” by Texas Governor Greg Abbott during his State of the State Address where he laid out his legislative agenda for the 84th session of the Texas Legislature. Approximately thirty days later, the Texas House passed HB 11 relating to border security and forwarded that bill to the Senate.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick referred the bill to the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security on March 25, according to the Senate website. Two weeks later, the bill has not been scheduled for a hearing. The bill, by State Representative Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 130 to 11, according to the House Journal.
The Texas Senate is considering a similar bill, SB 3, by Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury). Sen. Birdwell serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Border Security. The committee heard public testimony on this bill on March 18 and then reported the bill out favorably with a vote of five ayes and one nay. One Senator was present but did not vote. The following day it was placed on the Senate intent calendar meaning it could be brought to the floor for a vote. On March 30, it was removed from the intent calendar but the next day it was placed back on the intent calendar. The bill has not yet been brought to the floor.
The declaration of border security as an emergency item by the Governor means that the Legislature is allowed to consider the bill within the first sixty days of the session. That time period has now passed. It also; however, signals the prioritization of the issue by the Governor and his desire to see early movement in the session on the issue.
Breitbart Texas reached out to the Lt. Governor’s office to find out when this “emergency item” would be moved on by the Senate. The Lt. Governor’s office referred this writer to the Legislature’s online database record, the information from which is reported above. They also referred this writer to Senator Birdwell’s office. A member of the Senator’s staff responded to questions from Breitbart Texas and said they will be moving on the item soon. He said they are working on ironing out details on the bill and want to make certain it is the best bill it can be. “This is a top priority for the Senate, and, of course, for Senator Birdwell,” the staff member responded.
In January, Breitbart Texas reported the results of the first meeting of the Texas Senate Republican Caucus. During the meeting the Senators made clear that border security was the top priority of the Texas Senate for the 84th Legislative Session. Lt. Governor Patrick has repeatedly stated he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Governor Abbott on this issue.
While the Senate has moved quickly on some issues including open carry for holders of Concealed Handgun Licenses and the Campus Carry Bill, the border security measures seem to be moving much more slowly. This despite House passage of HB 11 and the Governor’s proclamation of border security as an emergency item.
The slow movement on border security in the Senate does not appear; however, to be an isolated case. As of the 83rd day of the session, the Senate has reported out favorably 229 bills from committee, according to a report from the Professional Advocacy Association of Texas (PAAT). This represents a decrease of 47 percent from the 2013 session. The House is also falling behind the last session, but only by 7 percent. Passage of bills by the Senate is down by 64 percent from the prior session while the House is behind the prior session by 20 percent. PAAT reports that the number of bills passed by both houses and forwarded to the Governor for review is “not substantially different from the last session.”