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Campus-carry issue stalls higher-ed bill

By Mike Ward | Tuesday, May 3, 2011, 03:01 PM

A key higher-education bill was abruptly withdrawn from consideration in the Texas Senate this afternoon after a controversial amendment was tacked on allowing concealed handguns to be carried into buildings and dorms at public universities and colleges. The vote to attach the amendment by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, D-San Antonio, was 19-12.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, immediately withdrew from consideration her Senate Bill 5, a higher-ed bill that addresses various other issues. A week ago, she pulled the bill after Wentworth tried to attach his campus-carry bill as an amendment. His measure, Senate Bill 354, lacked one vote to be brought up for debate.

Zaffirini’s move capped nearly two hours of tense debate that began after she brought up her bill for a vote and, after Wentworth moved to amend it it with his bill, she filed a parliamentary objection to keep it off.

Zaffirini opposes campus-carry.

The Senate parliamentarian ruled that Wentworth’s amendment was not germane, meaning it could not be amended onto Zaffirini’s bill. She then asked for an immediate vote on the bill, insisting that “a five-seconds rule” — getting five senators to second her motion for an immediate vote — allowed her to do so because Wentworth hadn’t asked quickly enough for the Senate to consider another amendment he had filed.

The Senate turned down Zaffirini’s request, 18-13.

Wentworth then asked for a vote on his new amendment, which removed some provisions of the earlier one, to avoid a parliamentary challenge. After a 10-minute huddle at the podium with most senators, the parliamentarian and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Zaffirini withdrew her challenge.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, then moved to amend Wentworth’s amendment to allow individual schools to vote on whether they want concealed handguns on their campuses.

The Senate said no to Ellis, 19-12.

Zaffirini offered a similar amendment. It failed, as well, 19-12. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, then asked that the medical school teaching hospital at the University of Texas in San Antonio be declared a gun-free zone. No, said the Senate again in a 20-11 vote. Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, asked for approval of an amendment similar to the ones offered by Zaffirini and Ellis. Tabled, once again, 19-12.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, then asked to exempt campuses that included primary or secondary schools. Tabled, 20-11. Wentworth accepted an amendment from Ellis prohibiting insurance companies from increasing their premiums to universities and colleges from licensed handguns being allowed on their campuses.

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