Texas Lawmakers Mourn The Bills They Lost | KERA News

Texas Lawmakers Mourn The Bills They Lost

May 29, 2017

The 85th Texas Legislature ended Monday, putting to rest (at least for now) escalating tension between the House and the Senate. Lawmakers filed more than 10,000 bills and resolutions for consideration, approving fewer than 4,000 of them. Of those, only about a fourth were actual policy changes.

Some bills were killed by deadlines, many of them dying in the rift between the two chambers. Plenty of others never even got a hearing.

They may be gone but they’re not forgotten, at least not by the people who wrote them. Lawmaking is full of disappointment. Legislators are mourning some of their favorite bills that didn’t make it this time around. 

El Paso Democrat Lina Ortega fondly remembers one of hers.

“It was a bill to close a loophole for scammers on a certain type of mortgage loan,” says Ortega. “They’re called wrap loans. In our community, we had like about 200 families that lost their homes and lost over $2 million because of that loophole.”

One night this month, she watched, fingers crossed, hoping it would reach the House floor before a looming deadline. 

Ortega recalls, “And I was like six bills away from getting reached and I was really hoping that we would get there.” But the clock struck midnight before her bill came up.

"I worked really hard but it died on what people are calling the Mother’s Day Massacre," Ortega says. That night, a small group of Republican House lawmakers banded together and killed hundreds of bills that were facing the deadline. 

She’s seen many bills get killed this session – and she says sometimes that’s a good thing.

“OK, there were two bills that I was happy to see die,” she admits. “The first one was the full-scale bathroom bill. I think it’s bad for the state of Texas. The other bill that I was very happy to see die was the union dues bill.” That bill would have stopped some union workers from being able to pay their dues through automatic payroll deductions. Unions would have had to collect dues another way. 

Drippings Springs Republican Jason Isaac also lost a bill close to his heart. His medical marijuana bill died, even with a majority of House members behind it. Isaac says, “There’s just still this education piece. People quite honestly get scared of the word marijuana.”

He says his bill would have helped children with autism, epilepsy and cancer who may benefit from medical marijuana. “They don’t have the right to try,” he says. “And that, to me, is heartbreaking.”

Like Ortega, Isaac admits that he was relieved to see some bills die, like the bills that he says threatened one of his top priorities: protecting his district’s groundwater.

“There were several attempts this session to undo that legislation that we worked so hard to get passed last session and several of those died. And so that was good.”

Ortega and Isaac both say they’ll keep working on their legislation in the offseason. They both hope to get their legislation back on the agenda and all the way to the Governor’s desk during the next session in 2019.