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Emotions, tempers run high as TX Rep. Keel tries to move previous question

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

"I thought that justice was spelled J-U-S-T-I-C-E," said Rep. Paul Moreno (D-El Paso) as Rep. Terry Keel (R-Austin) offered a motion on the House floor today to move the previous question on the second reading of HB 2, the public school reform bill. "Apparently," continued Moreno, "the Republicans spell justice - JUST-US."

Tempers and emotions ran high as Keel offered his motion, which would prohibit the House from debating the more than 70 pre-filed amendments to the bill and set up a vote to move the bill to third reading. After the second member asked to be recognized for a personal privilege speech, Keel took to the back microphone and railed against his opponents, offering a point of order that the personal privilege speeches were outside the bounds of debate of the bill.

His point of order was sustained.

Although Keel's motion to move the previous question failed by a 63-80 vote, the dialogue before the vote was tense.

"This is a mockery. This is a sham. This is a disgrace," said Moreno. "All we ask is to be heard."

Former public schoolteacher Rep. Carter Casteel (R-New Braunfels) rose and offered an apology to the 5,000 students she said she taught in her Texas government classes. "I thought the way I taught government was correct," she said. "Today I have learned I was wrong and I do apologize. To my colleagues who believe in democracy and believe in debate, I urge you to vote against the motion to move the previous question."

"Democracy is sometimes ugly and sometimes moves very slowly," said Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) as his voice rose quickly to a crescendo. "I did not go to Ardmore. I stayed here because people said this is where we debate, this is where we argue, and where we vote. I am here. And now you're going to turn off this faucet and not allow this debate? And then it goes to conference and no one who looks like me is on it?"

Turner said the bill is "too important" to not allow debate. "I don't care how many times we fail and do it again. If it was wrong to go to Ardmore, it is wrong to turn off the faucet on this debate."

Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) didn't mince words. "I can't tell you what I want to say because there are small children in this building," he said. "I am very disappointed. There are amendments in here that deserve debate. This is a school bill. If we don't have time to debate the school bill, we should not be here. This is B-U-L-L-S-H-I...and one more letter." Eiland then slammed a fistful of papers onto the House floor.

"I'm not going to throw papers on the floor and I'm not going to throw a temper tantrum," said Keel in response, "but I'm going to answer some of the indignation that is up here." Keel pointed out the bill has had two days of floor debate, and has been in negotiations for eight months. He said House and Senate conferees met and forged an agreement in conference. He said the bill has already been "exhaustibly debated," adding that the House needs to "honor its commitment" and move the bill. "It doesn't matter how long we stay here or how long some try to block it," said Keel, there will never be a full agreement. "Either way the vote goes, my conscience is satisfied that we're moving the process."