On Monday, May 9, following months of parliamentary challenges, backroom negotiations, and public accusations, the Texas Senate finally passed legislation that would legalize licensed concealed carry (of handguns) at Texas public colleges. By a vote of 21 to 10, the Texas Senate agreed to add Senator Jeff Wentorth’s (R- San Antonio) “campus carry” amendment to SB 1581, a higher education finance bill authored by Senator Steve Ogden (R-Bryan). SB 1581 passed by a vote of 19-12 and will now go to the Texas House. Texas Governor Rick Perry has repeatedly voiced his support for campus carry and promised to sign the legislation if it’s passed by the legislature.
W. Scott Lewis, Texas legislative director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, commented, “This has never been a question of securing majority support; it’s always been about overcoming the parliamentary hurdles laid out by a handful of Senators opposed to campus carry. Now that it’s gotten past the Senate’s infamous two-thirds rule, campus carry has more momentum than a runaway freight train.”
The language of Senator Wentworth’s amendment is very similar to his Senate Bill 354, which stalled in the Senate last month after two Senators abruptly withdrew support during a floor debate, dropping the number of supporters from 22 to 20. A longstanding tradition in the Texas Senate requires that two-thirds of the Senators present (21 of 31) agree to hear a bill.
After exploring various methods for getting his bill heard on the Senate floor, Senator Wentworth was finally able to attach his amendment to SB 1581 after an earlier amendment by Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) changed the overall subject matter of the bill, allowing Senator Wentworth’s amendment to meet the “germaneness” test laid out in the Senate rules. Senator Ogden supported Senator Wentworth’s amendment despite having previously opposed SB 354.
Lewis concluded, “Despite all of the media hype, all of the fear mongering, and all of the misinformation, a vast majority of the Texas Senators tasked with researching and voting on this issue opted for empirical evidence over emotional rhetoric.”