Saturday, April 28, 2007

WHEN ONE VOTE MATTERS ... OR THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST


There's a famous quote, coined by a famous person, that says: Half of life is just showing up.

If I had a copy of Bartlett’s Famous Quotations, the handy reference guide compiled by former Dallas Congressman and Mayor Steve Bartlett (the only person, to my knowledge, to ever beat – at least in a political race – Kay Bailey Hutchison) I would look it up and give you the name of that famous person who uttered that famous quote. But Billy Clyde would like to see his warm and cuddly readers do their own independent research now and then.

Anyway, your House of Representatives got into dangerous territory yesterday afternoon. Phil King has been trying to bring Troy Fraser’s electric bill to the floor for almost a month now. And Robert Talton keeps having it sent back to committee. People following that bill have the kind of whiplashed neck you get after watching a grueling five-set match at Wimbledon.

Talton raised a few more points of order, and the chair said “no mas.” So debate proceeded and so did the members. Proceeded back to their districts, that is. En masse. Gotta beat that nasty Friday traffic.

So debate ensued for a while, amendments were offered, and Billy Clyde learned something he never knew – but should have. Pine trees are HUGE emitters of NOx. This wasn’t just thrown out as a theory. The green lib types and the dirty air advocates and everyone in between all agreed. Having grown up in a pine forest, I better get one of those medical lung test things.

(Parenthetically – thus the reason for the parenthesis – if Al Gore starts trying to cut down the pine trees in East Texas, I will kick.his.ass.)

But that’s not the point. Some amendment (BC was just waiting around for announcements) was offered and debated and voted on and the vote was 86-11. Burt Solomons wanted to prove that his tenure as Financial Institutions chairman has made him really good at math. So he went to the back mic and pointed out that 86 + 11 = less than a quorum. Billy Clyde quickly pulled out a pen and pad and did the math his very ownself. And damn if Burt wasn’t spot on.

So everything shut down while they verified the presence of a quorum. Lots of people got excused on account of important business in the district, and some others showed up on the floor, and apparently the math up on the dais got real complicated, but in the end it turned out exactly a hunert members were present and verified.

Man, talk about cutting it close.

With a big ol’ stack of amendments still on the Speaker’s desk, King of Parker decided that, as far he was concerned, they were all susceptible to Arthur, whoever he is. That, obviously, was smart on Chairman King’s part. Although that little devious devil in my head was hoping that the Sargent would be asked to shut all the doors and lock down the House. For some reason, Billy Clyde always gets a kick out of it when a bunch of grown men and women in high elected office are, in effect, put in a sorta lawmaker jail.

The last time I recall that happening was a few years ago when those Democratic House members bolted to, of all places, Ardmore, Oklahoma, to break a quorum. The members who showed up at the Capitol got locked down in the House Correctional Facility, while the guys on the lam got to big dawg it in a life of freedom and luxury at the Ardmore Holiday Inn.

On the Monday when that happened, a few hours went by with nothing happening and the folks on the floor wanted to go to their offices or to lunch or do a little sight-seeing or whatever. So the leadership decides to parole them from the Chamber and gives them what amounts to a hall pass. It was a basically a red strip of paper that looked like a long movie ticket with words on it. Something like: “Representative Octavious Rothschild “Scooter” Clampett IV may roam the halls or eat lunch or do other stuff – long as he comes back when told.

Old timers say that calling a lack of a quorum – usually just because gin rummy games or perhaps more nefarious endeavors were forcing members to be, uh, temporarily unavailable – used to be fairly common.

A lot of the old timers were at the Capitol on Thursday for Speaker’s Reunion Day. Were Billy Clyde’s clairvoyant powers working properly, he would have asked a few of them about their favorite lockdown/escape stories. And inquired about legislator hall passes in the good old days.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

King of Parker should have taken a page out of Sir Rodney's book. Why accept others' nefarious, bill-gutting amendments when you can just invite 'em all back to the ranch for barbeque and arm-twistin' over the weekend before 3rd reading? (Can't believe you haven't opined on the "journalist shield" bill yet, BC.)

I know the Senate ain't near as fun as The People's House, but there is some action over there. Why, they even almost had a point of order last week!

Winston Smith said...

When I was a wee lad, DPS used to make the rounds of all the Austin Whore Houses to collect the "members" for a quorum call. Also, Ardmore was nothing compared to the original Killer Bees episode. I was privileged to ride around East Austin on one side of Gonzolo (blocking the window view of him from the fuzz with my anglo profile). What fun!

Anonymous said...

BC - enjoy reading your posts. Don't have time to give the full description but in the olden days some pretty funny things happened. In the 70s, Susan Gurley McBee placed a call on the Elections committee around midnight. A member-who-will -remain-nameless (initials HB) escaped from a dps agent (or was it a capitol cop?) and I saw another member leap into a moving El Camino.

One night, a member, JW, walked out on a chamber window ledge to get away. And there was the time that E. Glossbrenner was in her office the whole time. No one bothered to call.

But my all time favorite doesn't involve a call. It involves a vote verification. Betty Denton hid in the women's restroom standing on a toilet.

Billy Clyde said...

Dear Anon:

Not a point of order. A challenge of the ruling by the Chair. Karina (who I love) frightens me, so I shall not comment.

Dear Winston:

(1) Senator Word once told me that the definition of amnesia was two Senators running into each other at the brothel on Lacaca and 15th.

(2)I thought the Killer Bees hid out at a house in Tarrytown -- not East Austin. Plus, Barrientos wasn't in the Senate at the time.

Dear Anon II:

Great stories. Former Ways and Means Chairman Bob Davis has told me about him escaping a call by fleeing through the House windows and running around on the ledge.

Charlie Wilson once told me a story about a Capitol Copy interrupting him during, uh, an affectionate encounter. The law enforcement agent was kind enough to allow them to finish before returning Senator Wilson to the chamber.