Buzz Dulls on Marijuana Legalization Bill; Floor Action in Doubt

A House committee Wednesday night voted 5-2 to approve a proposal to legalize marijuana in Texas — but that might be as far as the measure gets.

A House committee Wednesday night voted 5-2 to approve a proposal to legalize marijuana in Texas — but that might be as far as the measure gets.

Todd Hunter, chairman of the House Calendars Committee — which sets the daily schedule of bills to be discussed by the lower chamber — told The Texas Tribune on Thursday that “it’s going to be very tough” for any bill to make it out of his committee and onto the House floor because of congestion and looming deadlines.

The Republican said he’d have a better idea of the pot bill’s prospects on Monday.

Hunter was one of two GOP members on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee to vote for the legalization measure on Wednesday. The other was the bill’s author, state Rep. David Simpson of Longview.

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A bill that would make texting while driving a misdemeanor across Texas was temporarily stalled this Thursday when state Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, used a procedural tactic in an attempt to prevent a committee vote on the measure.

Ahead of the Senate State Affairs Committee meeting, Huffines placed a "tag" on the bill, preventing the committee from taking it up for 72 hours. But following negotiations between Huffines and the panel chairwoman, state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, the tag was removed.

HB 80 by state Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, would make texting while driving punishable with a fine of up to $99 on first offense and up to $200 for additional infractions. State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

The bill was left pending in committee and is expected to be taken up Monday morning.

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The House on Thursday overwhelmingly gave its support to expanding options for the sale of raw milk or raw milk products. Allowing greater access to this product is a goal of some libertarians and urban farming advocates.

HB 91 passed on second reading today on a 122-14 vote. The bill was set to return for a final vote Friday. It does not have a Senate companion or sponsor so its long-term prognosis is iffy.

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The House and Senate this week named their conferees to hammer out a compromise on SJR 5, which would ask voters to approve dedicating a portion of the state’s sales tax revenue for building roads.

The Senate negotiators are Robert Nichols (chairman), R-Jacksonville; Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler; Bob Hall, R-Edgewood; Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; and John Whitmire, D-Houston.

The House negotiators are Joe Pickett (chairman), D-El Paso; Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas; Patricia Harless, R-Spring; John Otto, R-Dayton; and Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton.

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And, on a closing note, House Calendars has axed a planned Saturday calendar. Instead, those bills are being added to Friday’s calendar to create an eight-and-a-half-page mega-calendar.

They did something similar last week. No doubt, the idea of ruining Mother’s Day plans spurred the course change this go-around.