Live at the Lege

The Chronicle counts down to sine die

Photo by Mary Tuma

It's 2:45pm. Both chambers are adjourned, waiting word on a special session. We're checking out for the day. See this week's "Lege Lines" in the paper for a breakdown of the weekend, and Mary Tuma's Twitter feed for more from the anti-SB 4 protest.


The Senate just adjourned sine die. All that's left now is an announcement on the special session – and a resolution on today's drama: Here's Rep. Matt Rinaldi on his earlier dustup, via his Facebook page:

Today, Representative Poncho Nevárez threatened my life on the House floor after I called ICE on several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery which said “I am an immigrant and here to stay.” Several Democrats encouraged the protestors (sic) to disobey law enforcement. When I told the Democrats I called ICE, Representative Ramon Romero physically assaulted me, and other Democrats were held back by colleagues. During that time Poncho told me that he would “get me on the way to my car.” He later approached me and reiterated that “I had to leave at some point, and he would get me.” I made it clear that if he attempted to, in his words, “get me,” I would shoot him in self defense. I am currently under DPS protection. Several of my colleagues heard the threats made and witnessed Ramon assaulting me.”

We haven't seen any colleagues corroborate his story . . . Nevárez minced no words in response:


The anti-SB 4 protest on the South Steps is underway. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro spoke earlier (see below).

Greg Casar is expected to speak at 2:30pm, just before Living United for Change in Arizona Communications Director Abril Gallardo, United We Dream's Alejandra Coreas and Alfonso Muñoz, Roberto Valadez-Peña from the New Mexico Dream Team, and others.

Music from ​Cecilia and the Broken Hearts & Kiko Villamizar rolls until 4pm.

It's not only fiery speeches. A band breaks into cumbia music to protest against the law.


Here's Mary Tuma from the SB 4 protest:


Richard Whittaker is in the House, where Speaker Joe Straus just declared his desk clear and gaveled out. Sine die now in the House.


Mary Tuma tweets a little perspective on Rinaldi's antics: "In calling ICE on protesters, Matt Rinaldi proves how dangerous the law is; how it leads to racial profiling, false assumptions."

Tuma's outside getting ready for the SB 4 protest (see below). Inside, the House is rolling through a few menial resolutions. Senate stands in recess until 1:30.


The Mexican American Legislative Caucus called a press conference after learning that Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, apparently told a group of Hispanic lawmakers that he called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on anti-SB 4 protesters this morning. Richard Whittaker was in attendance:


Richard Whittaker from the House: One sore point coming up in conversations with representatives this morning is the Senate's deliberate capsizing of the school finance bill, House Bill 21. The result of two years of careful negotiation, it was sabotaged by Patrick in the Senate. First, the Senate version threw out all the carefully crafted hold harmless provisions that would at least keep school districts solvent. Second, it demanded a voucher program, which the House had already rejected.

Then, the Senate cut the $1.6 billion required for the hold harmless to $530 million. And on top of all that, it didn't even create a funding mechanism. So that $530 million was actually a phantom. Funding its dedicated spending, including the $200 million set aside for school vouchers, would further cripple basic school funding.

As a result, lawmakers on the floor have been discussing not if, but when school districts will start going bankrupt, and which ones. The even darker conspiracy is that this is another stage in destroying local public education, and handing the shreds over to charters and private schools.

Meanwhile, Rep. Rafael Anchia's feeling feisty:


Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, was just named president pro tempore in the Senate a few minutes ago. Mary Tuma reports from the Senate:

A protest is planned for the South Steps of the Capitol at 1:30pm. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro will speak then. Austin City Council Member Greg Casar will address the crowd at 2:30.

And Gov. Greg Abbott has chimed in with a statement on the death of local ridesharing regulations. The governor signed HB 100 this morning. Via email:

"Texas has longtime been the home for innovation and economic growth, but a patchwork quilt of compliance complexities are forcing businesses out of the Lone Star State. My goal as Governor is to remove the barriers of government to encourage competition, and empower consumers to choose. This bill increases economic liberty while still ensuring customer safety, and I thank Representative Chris Paddie for his work on this legislation."

11:40 Update

The Senate's working its way toward selecting a president pro tempore for the interim period, while the House rolls through its proclamations. Nobody appears in too much of a rush to get anything accomplished. Meanwhile:

From 10:45 this morning: Today (Monday) marks the final day of the 85th Legislative session – if we’re lucky. The threat of a special session looms: This morning during a public signing of House Bill 100, blocking local ridesharing regulations, Gov. Greg Abbott said he’ll make a decision on a special session later this week.

Chances are we’ll see one. Staff writer Richard Whittaker detailed why that’s the case in a post published earlier this AM. He’s down at the Dome today, along with colleague Mary Tuma, tracking developments as lawmakers inch toward sine die – midnight tonight.

The House gaveled in this morning at 10am. The Senate’s set to follow with an 11am gaveling. But already a grand assembly of protesters have assembled inside the rotunda. Tuma reports “a major protest” against the anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4, signed into law earlier this month, and a reappearance of the pro-choice advocates depicting characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” there to protest against anti-abortion package SB 8.

Tuma has more on the bathroom bill and its potential impact on a special session:

The long simmering tension between House and Senate leadership came to a very public head this weekend. With just a few days left on legislative calendar, right-wing Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, unwilling to compromise with more moderate Republican Speaker Joe Straus, made clear via a pair of press conferences that the House’s version of the anti-LGBTQ “bathroom bill” wasn’t discriminatory enough and its take on property tax reform, too diluted.

“It’s absurd that bathroom bills have taken on greater urgency than fixing our school finance system,” responded Straus, highlighting his decision not to take the anti-LGBTQ proposal any further. Without the power himself to call a special session (only the governor can do that) and pass his priority bills, Patrick signaled he’d sabotage the process by forgoing a vote on five necessary “sunset” bills – legislation necessary to pass to keep state agencies open – to force a special and revive his property tax bill and target transgender residents. While the House is accusing Patrick of “purposeful inaction,” the lite guv blames the possible special on the lower chamber’s slow bill movement (but with that, fooling no one). In the end, it’s taxpayers who’ll foot the deadlock’s tab: Special sessions can cost up to $800,000.

And here’s a bit more of the anti-SB 4 scene down at the Capitol.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More 85th Legislature
Last Day at the Lege
Last Day at the Lege
Sine die arrives as threat of a special session looms

Richard Whittaker, May 29, 2017

Numbers Don't Lie, Film Rebates Work
Numbers Don't Lie, Film Rebates Work
Which films and TV shows quit Austin over lack of rebates?

Richard Whittaker, May 25, 2017

More by the News Staff
State Offers Exciting New Incentives Package to Retain Public School Teachers
State Offers Exciting New Incentives Package to Retain Public School Teachers
Tough times for teachers, but the Texas GOP is here to help

March 31, 2023

The Lege Opens, Here's What Happens Next
The Lege Opens, Here's What Happens Next
Not all of the bills are bad! Our analysis of the just-begun 88th Texas Legislature.

Jan. 13, 2023


85th Legislature, Dan Patrick, Joe Straus, Greg Abbott, 85th Lege

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle