Politics & Government

Federal Reserve proposal starts Texas-size fight in Legislature

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford
State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford Star-Telegram

It was a proposal designed to give Federal Reserve officers authority similar to that of peace officers in Texas — the ability to arrest, search and seize.

The plan seemed straightforward, but it sparked a war of words last week between Reps. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, and Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, that continued Wednesday until the House voted 112-31 to approve the measure.

“This bill deserves to die on the floor today,” Stickland told members, arguing that Federal Reserve officers shouldn’t have the same authority as Texas peace officers.

Facing a deadline to pass bills, the two nonetheless argued on the House floor, consistently talking over each other about the bill and everything from concerns about the officers’ training to whether Stickland doesn’t like the Fed.

As the dispute grew louder, Pickett continued to explain the bill and added, “I will say it slower for you.”

An analysis of the bill shows that Fed banks have put in security standards “to address threats posed by terrorism” and that officers there “have become much more aware of suspicious activities taking place near bank property.”

Pickett said the officers don’t have the authority to act and instead must call 911 and wait for local law enforcers. This measure, he said, would let them take action in the face of a problem.

“It does not give them authority to go after your account,” Pickett said. He had already told Stickland that “it won’t matter what answer I have to your questions. It won’t satisfy you.”

Stickland urged House members to reject the proposal.

“This bill has a lot of problems,” he said, adding that federal agents shouldn’t have the same authority as Texas law officers. “It is a dangerous thing.”

The 31 “no” votes included Stickland and a few Tarrant County Republicans — Reps. Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake, Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth and Tony Tinderholt of Arlington. House Bill 2346 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The dispute comes a week after Stickland temporarily derailed the bill from consideration. It had been on the House’s local and consent calendar, but Stickland had it sent back to the Calendars Committee.

That same night, as Stickland prepared to present a bill to ban red-light cameras to a House committee, Pickett — the chairman of that committee — began calling people who allegedly turned in witness cards but weren’t present.

He kicked Stickland out of the hearing and referred the witness registration issue to the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee, which has turned the matter over to the Texas Rangers.

All scream for ice cream

Not long after the bill passed the House on Wednesday, Pickett and Stickland appeared to have reached a cease-fire.

The two returned to the House floor together, saying they had an announcement to make. “You’re getting married,” someone yelled as laughter filled the House.

“Not until the state of Texas recognizes it,” Pickett joked.

Turns out the two wanted to announce that ice cream from Hey Mikey’s in Galveston had been delivered to the members lounge.

“Is the ice cream for the [wedding] cake?” one member asked.

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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