An insidious phrase has been circling the Texas political landscape in the last few days: Sunset and Sine Die. This phrase is the not-so-subtle rallying cry for those who view the obstructionism that ruled the recently-concluded regular session as an example of good government. What does “Sunset and Sine Die” mean? Simply that some members in the Texas House of Representatives and the left-leaning press corps would prefer the House pass the first item on the special session call – a bill continuing several state agencies, including the Texas Medical Board (TMB) – and sine die (meaning to go home). When the President of the Senate (Lt. Governor) or the Speaker of the House adjourns his respective chamber Sine Die (Latin for “without day”), they are dismissing their chamber from the current legislative session and signaling their work is done.
The problem with adjourning sine die after passing the Sunset bill is that Governor Gregg Abbott has laid out 19 additional agenda items for the special session important to Texas. Four of these priorities are Pro-Life measures. Adjourning after passing only one of the 20 items on the agenda would be a nail in the coffin of the remaining conservative priorities. As a reminder, many of these 19 measures were killed by management in the Texas House of Representatives during the regular legislative session. Even more troubling are the many public indications that Speaker Straus may be seriously considering this strategy of essentially ignoring Governor Abbott’s directive.
Indeed, the actions of the Texas House caused the death of the must-pass TMB sunset bill during the regular session; under the leadership of Representative Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) who was the chair of the Sunset Committee, management in the House was so fearful of the potential for Pro-Life priorities to be added to the bill as amendments that they refused to bring the measure to the House floor. For months, the Texas Right to Life legislative team were repeatedly told by House members and staff that the threat of placing protections for unborn children and vulnerable patients on to the Texas Medical Board bill had the Republican-controlled chamber refusing to move the measure.
At the last minute, House management attempted to course-correct by passing a “safety net” bill, which would have extended (without reforming) the agency, bypassing the ability for potential Pro-Life amendments. The House also failed to properly execute this backup plan, and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick refused to bail out the House, which had killed so many other conservative, grassroots priorities the Texas Senate had accomplished during the early days of the legislative session.
By adding these priorities as agenda items to the special session call, Governor Abbott has now stepped in to give these priorities a second chance. In response, however, Speaker Straus told The New Yorker, “we’re under no obligation to pass anything,” giving further credence to the speculation that he may cut bait following the House passage of the Sunset bills.
Adjourning prematurely and skipping town would be especially brazen, but recent comments by Straus comparing the upcoming special session to “a room full of horse manure” have suggested that he may feel emboldened to lead such obstructionism. Left-wing journalist Scott Braddock went so far as to tweet a picture of a “Sunset and Sine Die” cufflinks, and agreed that this move would be “impressive.”
With the obviously biased media cheering the Speaker’s obstructionism of the Special Session Agenda, Texans need to make their voice heard. Tell your Representative to VOTE AGAINST Straus’ obstructionist motion to Sine Die before the Special Session Agenda is passed, including Pro-Life priorities.
Special sessions are limited to 30 days and the Pro-Life movement has no time for error. Without engaged voters committed to holding the House accountable, Pro-Life priorities could be killed (for a second time this year) in the blink of an eye. Please tell your House members: “Not on my watch.”