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Texas backs convention that’ll never happen

Profile image for Will Weissert
Will Weissert, Associated Press

AUSTIN -- Boom. Sure. But if Gov. Greg Abbott was really going for dramatic effect, he may want to look for a new type of political dynamite.

Abbott tweeted "Boom" in celebration of the Texas Legislature approving a call for a "convention of states." The idea is for lawmakers in 34 states -- representing two-thirds of the nation -- to bypass Congress and approve convening a gathering to amend the U.S. Constitution, including things like a federal balanced budget amendment.

Somewhat less bombastically, the governor also released a statement calling the approval "an important step toward restraining a runaway federal government." That's more like it. But a step to where, exactly?

Texas is the 11th state to approve the latest round of "convention of states" calls. This also, however, marks the 17th time that Texas has approved calls for a gathering to amend the Constitution since 1899. State lawmakers previously wanted ones for a host of reasons, including prohibiting bigamy and opposing government-mandated busing that integrated public schools.

None of those ever happened, of course. And this one almost certainly won't, either.

In fact, Congress was so quaking in its boots about the prospect of states mutinying and convening a confab to alter the Constitution that at virtually the same time Texas was approving its call, the U.S. House was passing a new health care law without waiting to see how much it will cost -- potentially adding billions to already mountainous federal deficits.

Convention of states supporters say that's the point since Congress won't stop out of control spending until the states force it to. Abbott even declared endorsing a convention of states one of his just four "emergency items" for the Legislature, so getting this far is a win -- even if achieving it will have no effect on anyone, now or for the next 118-plus years.

Here are other issues to watch this week in the Texas Legislature.

House bills deadline

Thursday at midnight is the deadline for the House to pass bills that originate in the chamber.

After that, it can only approve Senate bills or proposals that started in and cleared the House but were later passed by the Senate with modifications.

House lawmakers will work until midnight that night because anything they doesn't pass will die, unless it can be attached to related legislation that's already advancing or live on through a similar proposal drafted in the Senate.

No bill is truly dead until the legislative session ends May 29 -- but Thursday's deadline all-but dooms thousands of would-be laws.

Anti-discrimination bills

A pair of proposals pushed unsuccessfully in previous sessions by House Democrats to prevent employment and housing discrimination statewide based on sexual orientation or gender identity unexpectedly cleared committee last week. But will they make it to a floor vote in time?

San Antonio Democratic Rep. Diego Bernal's bill on housing rules and Dallas Democratic Rep. Eric Johnson's employment regulations passed the Committee on Business and Industry on a 4-3 vote -- but only after Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas Republican, broke with other members of his party to support them.

That happened so close to the House bill deadline, though, that neither may make it onto the House legislative calendar. And even if they do, it's hard to see either prevailing in a vote on the House floor given the GOP's 40-seat majority.