I kept checking on the streaming video from the House and couldn't figure out why they were still on the Local and Consent calendar, which is usually knocked out in the first hour or so of each day.
Then I got a call from a friend who's down at the Capitol doing some lobbying. He told me what's going on. Here is the Associated Press report, for those of you who haven't heard.
Democrats use 'chubbing' stalling strategy
By KELLEY SHANNON Associated Press Writer © 2009 The Associated Press
May 22, 2009, 1:11PM
AUSTIN, Texas — Talkative House Democrats used stalling tactics Friday to prevent passage of a voter identification bill they oppose that's scheduled for debate this weekend.
Democrats — who'd warned they would put up a fight to stop the voter ID measure — began talking at length on non-controversial legislation to use up the clock. The Legislature adjourns June 1, and a number of bill passage deadlines are arriving in the next few days.
The Senate already passed a Republican-pushed bill requiring voters to show a photo ID or two non-photo ID alternatives when they cast a ballot. Democrats say that would prevent people without those forms of identification from voting and suppress turnout. If Democrats are going to stop the legislation, it will have to be in the House, where the chamber is almost evenly divided by party.
Veteran Rep. Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, said Democratic opponents of the voter ID bill were trying to pressure fellow lawmakers to negotiate the legislation, in turn threatening scores of unrelated bills. The delay tactic, using the rules to eat up time, is known as "chubbing."
"In lieu of the filibuster, the House chubs," Jones said. "It keeps a lot of bills from being considered, which puts a lot of pressure on the members who have bills they want to pass."
The House gaveled into session 30 minutes late Friday. Then, after the usual prayer, pledge and welcoming remarks, legislators started in on a long "local and consent" agenda. It's supposed to be a non-controversial agenda of bills that usually breezes along.
But Democrats made it clear they planned to ask lots of questions on those bills and use up all the time permitted — 10 minutes per bill — to slow down the House's work pace.
One Democratic lawmaker during his questioning about a proposed municipal utility district in Waller County brought up a House leadership scandal from the 1970s. Another, questioning a Republican doctor representatives on his legislation, asked about the best remedies for nasal congestion.
Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, raised a technical point to try to prevent the whole local and consent agenda from being considered so that the House could return to major pending bills, like changes to the top 10 percent college admissions law and, potentially, voter ID, slated for Saturday. He later temporarily withdrew that technical challenge.
"Hopefully we can get back to the people's business and see less chubbing," Miller pleaded, to no avail.
Republicans huddled to talk strategy at the back of the House chamber and in an adjoining conference room, where former Speaker Tom Craddick joined them. The Republicans told news reporters to leave the room.
Rep. Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, said Republicans were taking a wait-and-see approach, for now.
Speaker Pro Tempore Craig Eiland, a Galveston Democrat, presided over the House early Friday instead of Republican Speaker Joe Straus, as is usually done for a local bill agenda. Eiland reminded lawmakers they had a full three minutes to explain their bills if they wanted to take all the available time.
At one point during the morning stalling, Democratic Rep. Mike Villarreal of San Antonio asked Eiland with a smile: "Mr. Speaker, are we going to break for lunch?"
Lawmakers were told there would be no formal lunch break; there was complimentary shrimp waiting for them in the recently remodeled legislators' lounge.
Associated Press writers Jay Root and Jackie Stone contributed to this report.
Unless this ends very soon, the answer to the question posed by this thread is, unfortunately, "yes."