Final day of 85th legislative session ends in shouting match

AUSTIN – Both houses of the legislature adjourned Monday afternoon, well ahead of the midnight deadline, following a rough day that included a near fist fight among Texas House members.

On Monday morning, demonstrators protesting recent passage of the sanctuary cities law shut down the house for a short time by drowning out legislators with chants from the House gallery.

The demonstration prompted a shoving match between legislators, when Representative Matt Rinaldi-(R) Irving said in a Facebook post that he called I.C.E after he saw some protesters holding signs that said, “I am illegal and here to stay.”

“Democrats encouraged the protesters to disobey law enforcement,” he said. 

According to several Hispanic representatives, Rinaldi then came on the floor he’d called immigration officials to arrest demonstrators.

“He said he made a phone call to I.C.E. that he was happy that many of these people were going to be deported,” said Rep. Ceasar Blanco-(D) El Paso, “..And they don’t know if those folks were American citizens or not. They were just brown.”

In his Facebook post, Rinaldi said Rep. Pancho Nevaras, of Eagle Pass, had threatened his life, which prompted Rinaldi to threaten to shoot if attacked.

Afterward, Nevaras said, “You know I may have put my hands on him. I’m sure I did. But again, it’s a shame it had to happen on (the) House floor, that he felt the need to pop off the way he did, that he’s that hateful and spiteful,”

While tension between members flared in the house, tensions between the House and Senate could bring legislators back for a special session. 

 Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has openly called for a special session to take up two of his priority bills.

One bill limits bathroom use for transgender Texans and the other is a property tax bill. Both were rejected by the House.

Forcing the issue, Patrick on Sunday rejected a House fix for a bill that must be passed to prevent five state agencies, including the state board that licenses doctors, from shutting down.

Houston Rep. Dan Huberty believes the chance of a special session is better than 50-50.

“We’ve got the sunset bills that didn’t get done. Those are critical. The medical board functioning is critical. Those sunset bills have to get done,” Huberty said.

The fight highlights the long simmering tension between Patrick and House Speaker Joe Strauss.

“I’m really hoping that we don’t, cause it will cost the state a whole lot of money and the only remaining issues are the lieutenant governor's pet issues that nobody really wants to deal with except the lieutenant governor,” Gene Wu, D-Houston, said.

It’s up to Gov. Gregg Abbott if a special session is needed. He said Monday he will make that decision this week.