On Thursday, Speaker of the House J.D. Mesnard lost control of the chamber momentarily when Democratic lawmakers injected the topic of the passage of the Empowerment Scholarship Account bill in every debate during the floor session.
It wasn’t until Republican lawmakers Rep. Travis Grantham and Rep. Eddie Farnsworth complained about the off-topic arguments that Mesnard regained control. An agitated Mesnard told Democrats that if he heard one more word about ESAs, he would stop debate completely.
Democrats had been reading letters in opposition to ESAs during debate on topics ranging from teenage texting to the accelerated depreciation for broadband infrastructure.
Grantham complained that the Democrats were cheapening the debate.
“This is silly. We look silly – to stand up and debate a bill that has already been voted on,” said Farnsworth. “I understand that you do not like the ESA bill, but if you don’t like it; write another bill and get your votes. This is junior high stuff.”
Finally Mesnard stopped the debate. “I am very disappointed by what has occurred here and it has occurred on both sides of the aisle. I don’t want to change the rules, but I will. If one more person uses Third Read to talk about ESAs I will end debate.”
Mesnard has been courting the Democrats this year in an effort to keep the peace and keep up the appearance that he is in control. His decision to cater to the Democrats kept the peace to a certain extent until the passage of the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) bill.
Since then, during the opening moments of floor debate, Democrats have been exercising their personal privilege to hammer Republicans. In response, Mesnard ordered that members had to exercise that privilege at the end of each day’s floor session.
After the House’s business was completed on Thursday, Democrats remained on the floor to exercise their personal privilege. Many Republican lawmakers left the floor and headed home for a three day weekend.