And on Sunday, the 139th day of the 140-day regular session of the 2017 Texas Legislature, the blamethrowers came out full blast on both sides of Your State Capitol.
And, as usual, the flames of political rhetoric singed the usual bystanders: me, you and our fellow Texans.
The inevitable bottom line as the session sputters towards its Monday conclusion is that we’re probably headed for a special session. And the bottom line on that bottom line is that that’s good for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and others who failed to win regular-session approval for the so-called bathroom bill they say is needed to keep transgender Texans in the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their birth gender.
Patrick, eager to find a reason for a special session in which the transgender measure could be considered, found a high-value target in the bill needed to keep the Texas Medical Board and several other state agencies in operation.
The House failed to approve that needed legislation but added it to a semi-related Senate bill. Patrick said the fix — a “Hail Mary,” he called it — was insufficient and the Senate wouldn’t act on it. The problem can be remedied in a few days in a special session, he said. Gov. Greg Abbott probably would have no choice but to call a special session to get it done.
And Patrick is banking on Abbott also telling lawmakers to work on the bathroom bill and property tax reform in a special session.
Whose fault is all this? Each chamber points to the other. That’s the way this works — at least when Democrats and Republicans aren’t pointing at each other.
“It is the purposeful inaction by the Texas Senate which puts us where we are today,” said Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock and chairman of the Texas Sunset Commission, adding, “It is the Texas Senate who is playing games with the health and safety of the people of Texas.”
Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, said, “I just want to ask the lieutenant governor one thing: Do you want to jeopardize the senior citizens and the children of this state because there might be some (differences in ) ideology or differences in philosophy?”
That sure seemed like a reference to the battle over transgender Texans’ use of bathrooms and locker rooms in government buildings. Patrick says the version of that passed by the House is insufficient.
And he said Sunday this whole 11th-hour mess is the fault of House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, who, Patrick charged, did a bad job this year of getting the House to pass important measures in a timely fashion.
“The House, under the speaker’s leadership, has been slow,” Patrick said.
And he reacted to Thompson’s comments to him with this: “She’s a wonderful lady, but it’s your own leadership that put you in this position.”
“This is what happens when you wait for a Hail Mary on the last day because you didn’t do your work all session,” Patrick said, absolving his chamber of any blame.
Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano and vice chairman of the Texas Sunset Commission, said, “There’s no way to catch the Hail Mary they’re trying to throw us.”
Truth is, there’s almost always a way to complete a Hail Mary pass in the closing hours of a Texas legislative session. But both chambers have to want that pass to be caught.
It’s clear there’s blame enough to go around on this one. But it’s also clear Patrick wins by not catching the Hail Mary.
See video with this column at mystatesman.com