State Rep. JT Wilcox shares his perspective on House Republicans’ united front during last week’s debate over the charter schools “fix” bill.
First, we passed a charter school bill that saves eight schools and restored the faith of over 1000 kids, but in a broader sense, we showed how a Republican Majority in the House conducts itself. Thanks to 48 Republicans who are disciplined and motivated and a handful of Democrats, including some of the finest among them, House Republicans controlled the floor in order to pass this bill, which was opposed by a strong majority of Democrats.
Along the way, these important things happened:
- The minority Democrats proposed 27 amendments (several withdrawn later), some intended to improve the bill, some designed to cripple it or score political points. Although several were out of scope and object, we chose an open debate rather than attempting to squelch them.
- House Republicans and their Democratic allies accepted more than 1/3 of the remaining amendments, showing that we are absolutely committed to listening to the other side and improving legislation.
- One amendment was initially on our list to reject, however after listening to the debate, the Republican leaders of the debate decided that a strong case was made and asked our caucus to accept, which they did. This is such a rare, and refreshing occurrence that I was later asked at the press table about it.
- House Republicans behaved throughout the debate with perfect decorum, refusing to be baited by provocations from the other side and showing courtesy and respect in every word and deed.
- House Democrats experienced the frustration of a powerless minority, something House Republicans are very familiar with. You could see the exasperation that on a few occasions expressed itself in speeches not related to the bill and impugning which we mostly ignored, but once responded to with a point of order.
- Because of the critical and unique nature of the legislation, both Reps. Drew Stokesbary and Hans Zeiger came in to vote and speak, within hours of becoming fathers.
The debate on final passage was marked by some of the strongest speeches seen in years in this chamber, in particular by Democrat Eric Pettigrew and Republican Kevin Parker.
As you can probably tell, last Wednesday night in particular, I was proud to be in this place and proud to be a House Republican. A Republican majority, as evidenced by this debate, would be characterized by good policy, openness to ideas from the other side and respect for decorum and the effective functioning of government as laid down in the constitution.