One local lawmaker played a key role in Tuesday’s dramatics the Texas Senate. State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, was among the most visible Republicans who trying to derail Sen. Wendy Davis’ 13-hour filibuster of Senate Bill 5, which would have dramatically affected the laws governing abortion clinics in Texas.
Just after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Williams called a point of order on Davis for receiving assistance from another senator, Houston’s Rodney Ellis, while putting on a back brace. Davis was about eight hours into here filibuster at that time.
Under the Senate’s rules, a member conducting a filibuster cannot sit down, lean on a desk, eat, drink, pause for rest or receive assistance from another senator.
“A filibuster is an endurance contest, and it’s to be made unaided and unassisted,” Williams said in defense of the point of order.
Davis asked Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to decide whether Ellis’ actions violated those rules, even as his colleagues argued that the Senate had a long tradition of bending the rules slightly in respect of a filibuster effort.
The point of order was put to a vote and was upheld by the Senate, giving Davis her second strike of the filibuster.
The moment would play an important role later in the night, as after third point of order was called on Davis, Democrats delayed a vote by arguing about whether the back brace incident should have counted as a strike.
When a vote was finally called on SB5, the crowd in the Senate gallery began a deafening cheer, so loud that it seemingly prevented the senators from conducted their business. There was, ultimately, a 19-11 vote in favor of passing the bill, but after nearly three hours of confusion, Dewhurst announced that the vote had taken place at 12:02, after the official end of the special session.
On Wednesday, Sen. Larry Taylor condemned the way the Senate finished its special session.
“Yesterday was a long, frustrating day that ended in a shocking way,” Taylor wrote on his Facebook page. “Mob rule is no way to end a session and should not be allowed to affect the outcome of any legislation.”
Along with defeating the abortion bill, the midnight deadline also killed bills related to juvenile justice reforms and transportation funding, a cause the Williams in particular has championed.
Taylor called on the Gov. Rick Perry to announce another special session, which Perry ultimately did on Wednesday afternoon.
The Senate will reconvene on July 1 to again consider the issues of abortion, transportation and juvenile justice.