Tuesday, February 20, 2007


It used to be that there were two complicated things Billy Clyde actually understood.

Not gonna fake it any longer. I freely admit I know absolutely nothing about the legislative procedure. But I remain well-versed on the intricacies of the infield-fly rule, so I still got that going for me.

What the hell was all that stuff that went down in the House today? Have House members unionized and now get paid by the hour? Adopting a SCR that everyone acknowledged would be adopted -- whether today or in April -- shouldn't really burn up an entire Tuesday. Strange days indeed; most peculiar momma.

Before BC gets all critical about the House, it's only fair to point out the good news. The People's Chamber has done an outstanding job of reading and referring bills in a timely manner to the appropriate committees, which never meet. So it's not a total meltdown.

I found myself sitting in the House gallery today -- something I rarely do since the invention of Capitol's closed-circuit television network. And I don't usually watch that except to listen to the announcements. But I was really really busy this morning and had a mammoth to-do list. Which I finished by lunchtime. Because BC is terribly efficient, he did everything he had to do and faced this decision: go to the cafeteria and visit with people, go to the House lobby and visit with people, or go to the gallery and visit with people. Due to my superior time-management skills, I did all three.

The gallery part is the focus of this post. Chairman Chisum had this procedural resolution he presented the House. Representative Eiland wasn't big on the resolution. So they debated. Normally a good thing. Debate is healthy in the democratic process, and Chisum and Eiland are two of the best at the mic. They both know their stuff.

But calling this routine debate is like calling The Masters "hitting the links" or The Road To The Final Four a "pick-up game." Billy Clyde cannot recall off the top of his head what the Lincoln-Douglas debates were about, but he's fairly certain they didn't last this long.

I asked three really smart people -- all former House members -- to please explain why internal procedural matters that in the past just sorta pass on their own without anyone really knowing or caring now take up a full day. All three of the smart persons told me "primaries." I nodded my head like I understood perfectly, but I didn't.

So I found a fourth smart person, and asked her about "primaries." She kindly explained that the primary elections in which voters select the party nominees are a concern for many members on all sides of the pie. Now that makes sense. Not in a big-picture way, but BC knows about primary elections. He's personally voted in them.

Maybe the smartest guy I talked to said that several members turned down chairmanships because of their fear about this primary thing. I asked a straightforward question: Since when did holding a leadership position and exerting influence over the process for the benefit of your constituents become a liability? He replied that he hadn't looked at it in those terms and owned up to the fact that this Session is confusing.

So it's not just Billy Clyde. That makes me feel better.

P.S. Remember when a big part of the legislative process was scrubbing bills? You'd sit down with the committee report and look over the posting times and hearing times and room numbers and witness lists and the minutes and the bill analyses and search for potential parliamentary problems. Then you'd give to to a buddy, so a fresh set of eyeballs could review it. If necessary, you gave it to Legislative Council for further scrubbing. All in the hopes that you had a clean committee report that couldn't be taken down by a point of order.

Doesn't seem like that happens any more.


texxasredd said...

a rubber stamp has no need of a spine...

Miss M said...

I used to be a bill scrubber. It made my hands all dry and wrinkly.

dreamer said...

If you concentrate too hard on the procedure stuff, you can sometimes lose out on some of the entertainment value, so be careful about that. And speaking of unions, I was there when your friend and mine Joe Deshotel, of blog post fame, was being talked into joining TSEU. At least the attempt was being made; I'm not sure if the deal was closed or not.

Anonymous said...

What's the point of scrubbing bills if the chair's just going to issue bs rulings like yesterday?

Anonymous said...


Shake here. You might think of this from a football perspective. Suppose the team got together and decided to vote on whether the coach was a dipstick and needed to be canned.

This, of course, would hack off the coach no end, and he would put forward a big effort to hang on to his job and pride. In the end, the coach wins comfortably, but there are a whole lot of players who still don't trust him and hate him for making them run extra laps all the time.

So, they screw with the coach any chance they get, regardless of whether it's productive. And they will continue to dick with the coach until they graduate or his sorry ass is gone.

Tell Barbara Jane that we'll always have Paris, Texas.

Tryin' one...

Billy Clyde said...

... but it don't hurt nothing.

Miss M:
You should try soaking those lovely hands in that green dishwashing fluid.


I haven't researched or even read the ruling. The inner kindness in me wants to believe that it was issued in good faith and wasn't just result-oriented. You may have studied it in-depth and know what you are talking about. I haven't and don't, so I'm operating under the assumption that the Chair played honest cop in the deal.

dreamer said...

Sorry, I wasn't trying to be obtuse. Some legislators, being state employees, belong to the Texas State Employees Union. So yeah, they're unionized, sort of in the sense that the rest of the state is. That hourly doesn't amount to much, though.