Two of the legislative session’s highest-profile bills were temporarily derailed by technical glitches Tuesday — one to allow Texans to openly carry holstered handguns and the other to limit local restrictions on hydraulic fracturing.
Opponents of both measures say any delay gives them hope that they can kill the bills. But supporters dismiss that as wishful thinking, saying this is not even close to a death sentence for the proposals.
“It’s just delaying the inevitable,” said state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth. “I think both will still pass, according to the mood of the floor.”
Both bills were sent back to committee and quickly reapproved. They are expected back on the House floor as early as Friday.
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At issue Tuesday was how part of the legislative process was handled.
Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, questioned whether witnesses who testified on the bill to allow licensed Texans to openly carry handguns were properly registered and recorded.
Some witnesses who signed up to testify changed their mind during the hearing, and changed their position, he said, but that wasn’t reflected in electronic records of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.
Others say a glitch in the system affected more than 100 bills, misrepresenting witnesses’ positions.
House leaders sent the bill back to committee to address the issue and did the same thing with the fracking measure, House members said.
Speaking about the open-carry bill, Martinez Fischer said, “My aim was to confront that legislation by any means possible.”
Lawmakers, who adjourned in the House before 1 p.m., moved on to committee meetings.
With more than a month left in the 84th legislative session, many lawmakers agreed that Tuesday’s maneuver won’t stop the bills from passing.
“This just delays them,” said Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie. “This is about the process and making sure the legislative rules and processes are followed. But it’s still early enough in the legislative session for any bill to pass.”
Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth, said: “It’s just a temporary delay. It’s like stopping at the gas station.”
Martinez Fischer wouldn’t say whether he plans to try to thwart the open-carry bill when it returns to the House floor.
House Bill 910 would let Texans openly carry holstered handguns if they have a license.
Supporters say the measure is long overdue and would bring the state in line with much of the rest of the country. Opponents say it’s a bad idea because openly carrying handguns could intimidate many Texans.
Conservative lawmakers are following the lead of Gov. Greg Abbott, who has said he will sign open carry into law, by addressing the gun bills as quickly as possible to show they are a top priority.
The push comes 20 years after lawmakers made it legal for Texans to carry concealed handguns in most places. Texans may openly carry long guns, but the open carrying of handguns has been illegal for more than 125 years.
Local co-sponsors of the bill by Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, include Reps. Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake, Bill Zedler of Arlington, and Krause, Craig Goldman and Stephanie Klick, all of Fort Worth.
Emotions have run high on the issue.
In recent years, supporters of the movement have taken to the streets with semiautomatic rifles and black powder pistols, which are legal to openly carry, hoping to draw attention to their cause.
The other bill delayed was HB40 by Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, which would prevent local governments from banning hydraulic fracturing, as Denton did last year.
Darby’s bill is geared toward whittling down the influence of local governments on urban drilling and, in particular, preventing bans on drilling.
The bill has already been adjusted to let local governments maintain control and regulate issues such as noise that are tied to gas and oil activity.
City officials have said they worry that the bill would dilute their powers, leave them unable to regulate related issues, and undo ordinances that many cities crafted to protect communities and the industry alike.
Goldman said Tuesday’s delay “does not hurt the bills at all.”
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610