Democratic stall tactic stalls 'open carry,' fracking bills

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A technicality House Democrats raised Tuesday succeeded in stalling - at least for a few days - two of the Texas Legislature's top conservative causes, proposals that would allow the "open carry" of handguns and prohibit local ordinances banning hydraulic fracturing.

With Republicans controlling the Legislature and widely supporting both measures, outnumbered Democrats often resort to delay tactics, betting that the longer it takes to pass bills they oppose, the less total such proposals become law.

Legislators had braced for hours-long debate on both issues. But just a few minutes into discussion on the bill authorizing licensed Texans to carry their handguns holstered or otherwise in plain sight, Democratic Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer objected, citing House rules. He argued that three witnesses who testified on the bills while they were still in committee were incorrectly recorded in the official record.

Republicans convened immediate committee meetings to advance corrected versions of the bills. Both now will be eligible to return to the floor on Friday, though the exact timing hasn't yet been set.

Martinez Fischer, of San Antonio, said afterward of open carry that his "aim was to confront that piece of legislation by any means possible."

Its sponsor, Sherman Republican Rep. Larry Phillips, called the error a "procedural glitch" that occurred because the committee was hearing two bills at once.

Martinez Fischer's efforts succeeded in derailing a House vote to overturn Texas' post-Civil War ban on the open carry of handguns - as the state strides toward becoming America's largest to legalize the practice.

A similar measure already cleared the Senate. More than 800,000 state residents have concealed handgun licenses.

Phillips, who noted the measure still has 80-plus House co-sponsors, said approval would still come as quickly as possible.

"When they don't have the votes," he said of Martinez Fischer's maneuver, "they look for every other way to kill it."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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