TRANSPARENCY IN THE TEXAS SENATE? NOT SO MUCH

On April 7, the author of a Senate bill that would allow concealed handgun license holders to carry their guns on college campuses brought the bill to the Senate floor.  According to the Texas Observer, on that date, “we saw some unscripted debate and a rare public tiff between two senators.”

During the debate, one Senator publicly changed his mind about the bill on the Senate floor, which left it without the votes necessary to move forward.  “The Texas Senate usually conducts business behind closed doors. What happens on the Senate floor typically has been figured out beforehand,” reported the Observer.

The bill was pulled down and most presumed it was dead for the session.  But, on April 27, the author attempted to add it as an amendment to an unrelated higher education reform bill.  The bill’s author, a Democrat, was visibly concerned at the proffered amendment.  After some parliamentary procedure questions were raised by Senators, an interesting – but not unusual – thing happened.

The dean of the Senate rose and moved that the Senate recess into a “caucus of the whole Senate” to discuss “some procedural issues.”  What does that mean in plain English?  It means that the Senate went behind closed doors, presumably to figure out what to do next.   (After three hours of closed door discussions, the president of the Senate came to the dais and adjourned the Senate until the following day with no further explanation.) 

Wouldn’t it be interesting if a mayor tried to take his or her entire city council behind closed doors to discuss “some procedural issues”?  That won’t ever happen, of course, because if it did, that mayor and every member of the city council would be subject to criminal penalties, including jail time.

It sure would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall during that “caucus of the whole,” wouldn’t it?


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