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Bonnen: Patrick ‘Playing Games’ With Border Security

Courtesy: Bob Daemmrich
The Texas Tribune

A key member of the Texas House’s Republican leadership blasted Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as a Washington-style politician a day after the Texas Senate passed its version of a sweeping border security bill. 

On Monday, the Senate passed SB 3, by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, a measure that expands the powers and staff of the Texas Department of Public Safety. It’s the upper chamber’s version of HB 11, by state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, which passed the House more than four weeks ago. 

Bonnen, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, isn't happy that the Senate stiffed his bill to pass its own. “I think it’s very clear the reason the state of Texas is having to address and step forward on border security is the failure of the federal government. And the failure in the federal government is largely based in the fact that they continue to play politics and political games and don’t know how to accomplish providing solutions,” Bonnen told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday.

“For some reason, Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor, wants to bring the same bad Washington, always-politically gaming concepts to Austin instead of solving problems.” 

Bonnen said his legislation to address border security, which Gov. Greg Abbott labeled an “emergency item,” could be well on its way to Abbott’s desk had the Senate acted on HB 11. 

“[Patrick] sat and stared at House Bill 11 for 32 days,” Bonnen said. “Had they chosen to do what historically happens and pass the House bill over with their changes, we could be quickly moving to a conference committee and getting this bill on the governor’s desk much sooner rather than later.” 

Patrick’s office declined to comment on Bonnen’s remarks, instead referring to a statement his office released after SB 3 passed that indicated the Senate was waiting to move on the legislation until it passed its budget. “Now that the Texas Senate has overwhelmingly passed its state budget, funding border security at historic levels [$811 million], it was the appropriate time to pass SB 3,” Patrick said.  

The Senate’s version includes extending the deployment of the National Guard in the Rio Grande Valley, which isn’t mentioned in the House version. But Bonnen said he wasn’t upset over the substance of the Senate bill and said the upper chamber had a right to make changes. “I want to be very clear about that that’s the way the process works,” he said. “They send us a bill, we send them a bill and we make changes as the body sees fit and I welcome that. I wish that they had done that with HB 11.” 

Bonnen’s HB 11 was introduced as part of a package with House Bill 10, by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, and House Bill 12, by Oscar Longoria, D-Mission. Those measures address human trafficking and codify the duties of the state’s border prosecution unit, respectively. 

Like HB 11, they have been sitting idle in the Senate. Thompson said she wasn’t sure why her legislation, which passed the House on March 17, wasn’t moving. “I don’t know what they think about it,” she said. “I know it’s been over there a long time. I don’t have a clue what the problem may be.” 

Longoria said he was optimistic his bill would get passed eventually.  “I am optimistic that everything is going to get done one way or another,” he said, though he added that could change. “You might want to ask me two weeks from now.” 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune here