The issue of powdered alcohol bubbled over in the Texas House on Thursday.
A proposal by Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, to ban the sale of the controversial new product, known as Palcohol, drew the ire of Tarrant County colleague Jonathan Stickland.
Stickland, who has pulled colleagues’ bills from the local and consent calendar before, was ready to do that this week.
“I was making a point on [Thursday’s] calendar,” said Stickland, R-Bedford, an outspoken Tea Party conservative who has been described as a “bomb-thrower.” “There are 57 bills that weren’t local … but had statewide impact.
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“There’s a lot of bad stuff flying through that calendar lately.”
A photo posted on social media said House colleagues “talked an angry Stickland out of stopping local & consent calendar.” Stickland responded that “no one talked me out of anything” because he wanted only one bill off the calendar.
The local and consent calendar is designed for bills that are unopposed or deal with single local communities.
The one measure that Stickland said he was determined to remove from the calendar was Geren’s powdered-alcohol ban. Any member can move a bill off the calendar by talking about it for 10 minutes on the House floor.
But he went to Geren first.
“He was courteous and said he was going to talk for 10 minutes,” Geren said. “I said, ‘No you’re not. I’ll pull it off. Nobody wants to listen to you that bad.’
“I didn’t see any reason to waste 10 minutes,” he said.
Geren said he expects the bill to reach the House floor again as soon as next week on the general calendar.
No more ‘Kumbaya’
A month ago, Stickland proclaimed that “the Kumbaya is over” and said it’s time for lawmakers to get to work on more than 8,000 bills filed this session instead of passing congratulatory measures and resolutions.
They have until June 1 in this 140-day session to complete their business, and Stickland has several high-profile measures he would like considered.
His proposals include legalizing constitutional carry, the unlicensed open carrying of handguns; ending the use of red-light cameras; and repealing a law that lets illegal immigrants pay in-state tuition at public universities.
Last month, he drew attention after putting a sign on his office door identifying himself as a “former fetus” on the same day Planned Parenthood lobbied at the Capitol. He said he wanted to make sure that “organizations that murder children” know they aren’t welcome in his office.
Geren removed the sign; Stickland said it was ripped down and thrown in his staffer’s face.
Geren heads the House Administration Committee, which makes sure that all Capitol rules are followed. He said he removed the sign and others because they violate State Preservation Board rules.
Last week, Stickland began talking bills off the local and consent calendar, and he appeared ready to do that again this time.
“Quite a few bad bills on today’s local and consent calendar,” he posted on Twitter. “We can’t have that.”
Geren said Thursday that Stickland was “well within his rights” to move his bill off the calendar.
“We will revisit it next week,” he said.
The issue of selling or possessing powdered alcohol comes to a head in Texas a month after it won federal approval.
The creator of powdered alcohol, Mark Phillips, hopes to sell his product before legislators nationwide ban it.
Some states, including Alaska and Louisiana, have already banned the product, and others are considering such proposals, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
When a packet of Palcohol is added to water or another beverage, it produces vodka, rum, Lemon Drops, Mojitos, Powderitas and Cosmopolitans.
On their website, Palcohol officials pitch the product as a convenient and lightweight way to make adult beverages more available to everyone from campers to travelers. A ban would create an automatic black market for the product, they say.
Lawmakers have said they fear that it could give rise to underage drinking and could be sneaked into sporting events or bars, creating safety problems and cutting into tax revenue on alcohol sales.
Geren has said powdered alcohol is a bad idea, which is why he filed House Bill 1018 to ban it.
“I think the potential abuse is big,” he has said. “We need to do something about it before it happens.”
“The product isn’t for sale yet,” he said. “I don’t like the idea of banning things statewide when we don’t even know what it is … or what it’s going to be used for.”
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610