By Gary Gillen
What Are They Doing in Austin?
As I sit here watching the Texas House of Representatives elect their Speaker, I’m reminded that in the next 140 days these men and women will see constituents from their districts, delegations from business and many other interests while attending committee meetings to hear testimony on the seven thousand to nine thousand bills that will be introduced. It is a huge job and a short time during which to accomplish the business of Texas.
But little will happen to those bills during the first weeks of the session. Texans have a strong mistrust of government. Our Constitution limits the speed at which bills move through the process to slow legislation down. In the House the only requirement is to pass a biennial budget. That budget is usually made public in the first week of the session. But that bill creating the budget is traditionally introduced by the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. This session begins without an Appropriations Chairman so HB/SB 1, traditionally the Bill number of the budget, may not be filed immediately. It is expected that the Speaker of the House, Joe Straus, will have named committee chairs by the first week of February. Once a Chairman of the Appropriations Committee is named, the budget will be the hot button issue of the 84th Legislature.
During the period that the Speaker is deciding on Chairmen for committees, the House determines rules by which they will operate and settles many housekeeping issues. But, I believe the real reason for the delay in appointing committee chairs is to slow the process. With few committee chairmen in place there are fewer committees meeting. With fewer committees meeting less testimony is heard and fewer bills are considered in those committees. That means fewer bills make it to the calendar to be heard on the floor.
But that may be best. With bills pushed farther back in the session it is less likely that a frivolous bill will survive the gauntlet our legislature creates for them. With seven to nine thousand bills introduced each session the process is intended to make certain that every bill the legislature passes has been thoroughly considered and the public has had an opportunity to testify to the committee hearing it or has been able to express his or her opinion on the topic to their Representative and Senator.
By spending time at the beginning of the session debating rules and carefully adopting procedures that insure the minority is heard and important issues facing Texas are addressed, the Legislature is doing what Texans want. By pushing committee appointments back a few weeks thereby moving bills later in the session, the process keeps our Legislature from “over-Legislating”.
It may seem an inefficient (because it is) and a cumbersome (because it should be) way to make laws, but these traditions and rules enable the Legislature to address the truly important issues we face without allowing enough time for the creation of laws we do not need.
Still, it is a major sacrifice our representatives make when they are elected. And while we may not always agree with them we do owe them our respect and gratitude. I wish the US Congress followed the same schedule!
Gary Gillen owns and operates Gillen Pest Control and Gillen Political Strategies in Richmond. He is the only person in history to have served on both the Richmond City Commission and the Rosenberg City Council. He was the Chairman of the Republican Party of Fort Bend County 2006-2007. He can be contacted at Gary@GaryGillen.com
By Gary Gillen
Senate District 18
The voters of the United States dealt a devastating blow to the Democratic Party and repudiated
the policies of President Barack Obama by increasing the Republican control of the United States
House of Representatives and sweeping the Democratic leadership from their control of the US
Senate by handing Republicans control of that body as well. Before the election President Obama
famously stated that while he was not on the ballot his policies were. The voters showed him just
how they felt about those policies. The Obama administration’s over-reaching drive to intrude
into every area of American life helped convince voters to elect even more Republican governors.
The states have long been the laboratories of democracy. This administration’s efforts to
federalize every issue has backfired with the voters.
In Texas voters again placed Republicans in every statewide office including Senator Glenn Hegar
who was elected State Comptroller. Republicans increased their numbers in both the Texas House of
Representatives and the Texas Senate. Voters may feel they have done their job but there is more
to do. As a consequence of the election of Hegar to the office of Comptroller he resigned his
Senate seat and the Governor called a special election to elect a candidate to complete the
remaining two years of Hegar’s unexpired term.
As this column went to press three candidates had announced their intentions to run for the
office. State Representative Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham explained that “Texas Senate District 18
includes roughly half of Fort Bend County and all or parts of 20 more counties.” From the Gulf
Coast at Corpus Christi to Caldwell in central Texas the 18th district is large and diverse.
While the election is open to any candidate from any party, the sheer size of the district will
require a formidable candidate with a well funded campaign to be able to reach voters.
In an interview, Kolkhorst explained the role her faith plays in her office of State
Representative. “My faith serves as a compass that guides me each day. I strive to make every
decision in the Legislature with the knowledge that He is guiding me and I often use my daily
devotion for inspiration.”
Kolkhorst has chaired the House Public Health Committee and in the 83rd Legislature fought the
expansion of Obamacare in Texas by teaming up with Governor Perry and Senators Cornyn and Cruz to
resist President Obama’s push to expand Medicaid in Texas. She also led the battle to stop the
Trans-Texas Corridor. Known for her history of fighting to protect property rights from eminent
domain abuse by government overreach she felt the project unduly harmed property owners and
Kolkhorst has an impressive campaign fund and has been easily raising funds for this race. Gary
Gates, a business man from Richmond has the ability to fund his campaign personally. While
controversial, he has good name recognition from his past unsuccessful races for various offices.
He has run in the past for State Representative twice, school board twice and this is his second
run for Senate. Also running but with less name recognition is Charles Gregory of Simonton.
This race will be hard fought and very quick so name recognition and money will certainly be a
benefit. With Kolkhorst’s past experience as a State Representative, large war chest and
indefatigable spirit, she is a formidable foe for Gates and Gregory.