Grudge has lawmaker killing off colleague’s bills

By David Saleh Rauf May 21, 2013

USTIN – There are plenty of ways to settle a score at the Texas Legislature. The surest: Kill your colleague’s bills.

That is the path Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, is taking as part of an ongoing grudge with Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston. McClendon spiked three of Huffman’s local bills that hit the House floor Monday, just days after using a procedural move to tank another Huffman proposal.

The retaliatory strikes are in response to Huffman’s efforts to stymie McClendon’s measure to create an exoneration panel to study false convictions. The proposal, House Bill 166, is named after Timothy Cole, who died in a Texas prison after being falsely convicted of rape.

10-minute filibuster

As payback, McClendon has started taking aim at Huffman’s local bills and knocking them off a calendar designated to fast track non-controversial bills, which is likely to doom most of the proposals as the legislative clock winds down. All it takes is a 10-minute filibuster to have a bill scratched from the House’s local and consent calendar.

“Unfortunately, she chose to take this route. It’s not going to be me that suffers,” Huffman said, noting that one of the bills McClendon snuffed would help amputees and two others are aimed at giving prosecutors more tools to crack down on underground drug chemists. “It doesn’t hurt me personally.”

Exoneration cases

The rancor was sparked by a Senate committee hearing last week on McClendon’s bill to set up a state panel dedicated to investigating exoneration cases.

Presiding over the hearing when the bill was brought up, Huffman, a former Harris County prosecutor and state district judge, criticized the proposal, arguing that a panel to “second-guess” the work of prosecutors is not needed. That sparked emotional testimony from Cole’s brother, Corey Session, who called Huffman a “bitch” before storming out of the hearing.

“I’m interested in bills that have been sent over here from a senator who has been rude to the witnesses and not allowed a fair hearing in the Senate,” McClendon said. “The public needs to have a fair chance to have a hearing, and she refused to allow that to happen by tarnishing the bill before it even got to the committee.”

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