Texas Legislature Discusses Procedures For Special Session

As the Texas Legislature gets back to work, rules and procedures are in place to prevent a repeat of the final hours of the first special session, when protesters drowned out the abortion restrictions vote.


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Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth filibustered for hours in the first special session, until parlimentary technicalities were used to silence her.  

A question from Sen. Luticia Van de Putte of San Antonio’s prompted hundreds of protesters in the public gallery to react so loudly that work on the bill couldn’t be completed before the midnight deadline.  

“At what point must a female Senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst says if the legislative process is disrupted again, offenders will be removed.  Observers filing into the gallery are provided with a copy of rules warning them they’ll be ejected for any outbursts.  

With this new special session, state Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin tried to pin Dewhurst down on gallery rules:

“Is there a plan to remove people who attempt to speak up or demonstrate on any of the bills that may be heard?”

Dewhurst: “Yes.”

Kirk: “Have there been any discussions regarding the access of of the gallery during Senate sessions on the floor?”

Dewhurst: “I have had conversations with the DPS on strict enforcement of decorum so that all the members can hear. It’s my hope that all of our visitors to the Capitol will follow our request for decorum. If they are unable to, then we would have to clear the gallery in order to proceed.”  

The Senate had until 11:59 p.m. on the final night of the first special session to pass the abortion restrictions bill, but there were questions about when the vote was actually taken.  The computer system initially showed a date stamp of Wednesday, but moments later it was rolled back to read Tuesday.  

The official journal clerk’s handwritten log shows the vote took place at 12:02 a.m. Wednesday.  

Dewhurst was forced to declare the bill dead.  

State Sen. Royce West brought up the question at the beginning of this new special session:

“Parliamentary inquiry.”  

Dewhurst: “State your inquiry.”

West: “Mr. President, what is the official legislative time right now?”  

Dewhurst: “Looks to me to be 2:25.”

West: “And here’s the problem — many of us look at this particular clock as the time. And the reality is that this clock is about two minutes slow, at least by my clock. How do we determine official legislative time?”

Dewhurst: “Senator West, the Senate historically works according to the clock on the wall. Now, I think where you’re going is, ‘is that always accurate?’ And we will make best efforts to make sure that the time on that clock is, in fact, the exact time.”  

The full House reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. 

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