A week ago today we worked hard at the Capitol to build support for SB 1214, which was on the House Calendar for debate on the very last day that Senate Bills could be heard in the House. We worked hard and contacted every member of the House, and it appeared that we had strong support for this bill that would require UIL to allow private schools to compete against public schools in extracurricular activities. Unfortunately when midnight came SB 1214 was still 30 bills down the list, and, therefore, the bill died.
This was the second time that a UIL participation bill had been killed by waiting too long to take action on it. Rep. Rob Eissler, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, delayed the consideration of HB 2322, the House companion bill of SB 1214, in spite of the written support of a majority of the committee. While Representative Eissler told me that he supported the bill, he continued to delay the bill’s vote in the committee. In fact, those close to him said he decided to finally allow the bill out of committee when it was obviously too late to make it to the floor.
When Rep. John Garza, the House author of HB 2322 and the House sponsor of SB 1214, told Eissler that SB 1214 was on the House Calendar, Eissler was shocked, saying that he was surprised because it had been “tagged” in the Calendars Committee, meaning that someone opposed it. He went on to tell the bill’s sponsor he would do whatever he could to help pass the bill.
So this is how your “friends” kill your bills. SB 1214 passed the Senate three times, once as a stand-alone bill and then as amendments to two other bills the last time with 28 votes. HB 2322 was voted out of committee with only one “no” vote, as was SB 1214. Our work with the members of the House indicated broad support, and therefore, the opponents’ best tactic was simply to delay the bills until it was too late to get them to the floor of the House for a vote, which they accomplished.
Yesterday the governor announced he was going to call the legislature back for a Special Session starting this morning. He did so because a Democratic Senator killed the Budget Bill by filibuster in the Senate. In a Special Session the Governor sets the agenda, and we have asked him to add the parental rights issue (HB 2557) and the UIL issue (HB 2322) as well. This is a new session and a new opportunity to protect parents and children and end the discrimination against private school students in UIL. As my friends used to tell me, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Stay tuned!