AUSTIN, Texas – A Texas House deadline has come and gone, killing many top-priority bills for both parties — among them raising the criminal age of responsibility, Tesla-backed direct car sales, regulating ride-hailing companies and limiting or expanding gay rights.
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Midnight Thursday was the last chance for House bills to win initial, full-chamber approval.
Since any proposal can be tacked onto other bills as amendments, no measure is completely dead until the legislative session ends June 1. But even with such resurrections, actually becoming state law now gets far tougher.
"The reality is, when you file many thousands of bills, the funnel is only so large," said Rep. Tan Parker, chair of the House Republican Caucus.
Regulations for ride-sharing companies passed out of committee, but never reached the House floor, despite strong lobbying efforts that cost both the taxi industry and companies such as Uber and Lyft up to a total of $1 million.
Among the most-watched of the hundreds of bills that didn't survive the final frantic hours of floor debate was one prohibiting government officials from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
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The measure, by Magnolia Republican Rep. Cecil Bell, would have attempted to defy the U.S. Supreme Court if gay marriage is legalized.
But Democrats were focused on keeping the bill from coming up for debate and succeeded by slowing House activity to a crawl, even at the sacrifice of some of their own legislation.
A Democratic-backed bill to enable all minors — even gays and lesbians — to avoid charges of indecency with a child if they are in a consensual relationship also failed to pass. As Democrats bled out the clock, a Republican abruptly scrapped an ambitious $3 billion plan to overhaul the way the state pays for public schools.
Also Friday, 93 of the 98 House Republicans signed a letter stating their commitment to Texas' legal definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman, as stipulated in a 2005 constitutional amendment that voters approved.
The House didn't get to legislation after Bell's bill, including a proposal by Democratic Rep. Harold Dutton to raise the age of who is considered a criminal in Texas from 17 to 18. The measure had bipartisan backing but lacked support in the Senate.
Not raising the age puts Texas county jails at risk of not complying with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, which requires facilities to separate minor-age inmates from those over 18.
Among other bills that didn't make the first round of cuts was one to permit electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors to sell cars in Texas. Identical measures by a House Democrat and a Senate Republican both got stuck in committee after facing strong opposition by car dealers.
Democratic Rep. Senfronia Thompson — one of the House's most senior members currently serving her 20th term — said it was the company's own fault that the bill didn't pass.
"I can appreciate Tesla wanting to sell cars, but I think it would have been wiser if Mr. Tesla had sat down with the car dealers first," she said.
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