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Stickland responds

He says he did nothing wrong.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland

esponding to claims that he improperly registered witnesses at a committee hearing, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland released a statement Monday standing by his actions.

During a Thursday night hearing of the House Transportation Committee, Stickland, R-Bedford, and state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, the committee’s chairman, got into an argument as Stickland presented House Bill 142, which would ban red light cameras. Pickett ordered Stickland to leave the hearing and accused Stickland of listing witnesses who were not in Austin as supporters of his legislation.

“Unfortunately, when I went to lay out my bill, I was prevented from doing so in a very deliberate and dramatic way,” Stickland said in Monday’s statement. “It was what I can only characterize as an ambush by a political opponent. ”

Stickland said that his attorneys had reviewed applicable laws, rules, and legislative manuals and “have been unable to locate anything that commands that a person must be present in the Capitol to register their support or opposition to a bill.”

[…]

State Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin, the chairman of the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics said Friday he plans to investigate allegations that witnesses were signed up improperly to speak at the transportation committee meeting. He said the investigation would not target a specific member or bill.

See here for the background and here for the full statement. It can’t be the case that both Stickland and Pickett are right. Either Pickett overreacted or Stickland really did break a rule (and possibly violate a law), despite what his attorneys say. For what it’s worth, I haven’t seen anyone side with Stickland in the coverage I’ve seen so far. RG Ratcliffe certainly seemed to buy into the idea that Stickland might be in trouble, and this Star-Telegram story strikes a similar tone:

Capitol insiders say this fight over rules and procedure may well go deeper.

“At best, it is the appearance of impropriety,” said Harvey Kronberg, publisher of the Quorum Report, an Austin-based online political newsletter. “At worst, there’s potential for criminal violations.”

Doesn’t sound too good for Stickland to me, but what do I know? I look forward to seeing how the House investigation goes. The Statesman and Trail Blazers have more, while the Observer has what may be the definitive Jonathan Stickland article of our time. Check it out.

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3 Comments

  1. byron schirmbeck says:

    there is a bit more to the story that was maybe touched on but not detailed. On the floor session immediately before the hearing Stickland blocked Pickett’s bill to give Federal Reserve security guards Texas police powers from passing uncontested. Pickett was obviously perturbed and drew stick figures on the bill with a security guard pointing a gun at a stick figure bank robber with the words “good guy” and “bad guy” under each figure and walked it over to Stickland saying he had a visual aide to help him understand his bill better. My feeling is resentment at least played a part in Pickett’s actions. Second, from what I understand there is nothing that actually suggests Stickland walked over to the to pad and registered people to testify that weren’t there. If all we have to do to get a bill tabled is fraudulently sign people up to speak on it then imagine how many bills both camps could get killed. Is that really the right response to the accusation even if true? To punish a legislator by leaving his bill pending? What precedent does that set? Next, the committee originally started at 8am that day. Several people that I personally know showed up at 8am, registered to testify but gave up and went home after hours of waiting. So how is that Stickland’s fault? The one man Pickett got on the phone that Pickett claims proves Stickland did something wrong indicated his wife was there earlier and probably signed him up. Again, how does that say Stickland did something wrong or illegal? I think it would be different if the guy said, “I couldn’t make it so I called Stickland’s office and asked him to sign me up”. I do agree with some of the points he made on allowing more online registration for support or opposition to a bill. More weight will always be given to those there, what’s wrong with that idea?

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