(The Center Square) – A 6-minute video compilation posted to social media claims Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan was “drunk” while presiding over recent House business.
The video was posted after a previous video had been posted of the speaker appearing to be intoxicated, which prompted Attorney General Ken Paxton to call on Phelan to resign after the video went viral. He also called on the House General Investigating Committee to investigate.
Of the many times The Center Square has called the GIC, no one answers the phone. Calls go directly to voicemail. Voicemails left by The Center Square were not returned asking if it was investigating the allegations made about the speaker. Calls and emails to the GIC’s chair, Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, also were not returned.
The most recent video includes clips of Phelan presiding over members voting related to three bills, including HB 1 and SB 1 – the state’s now $321 billion budget. Many on social media argued Phelan was slurring his words in the compilation video, although Phelan’s style of speaking when at the dais is extremely fast, like a live auctioneer, making it difficult to understand what he says, The Center Square has observed.
Ongoing scrutiny over whether or not the speaker was drunk while presiding over official matters, including the largest budget in state history, also extends to how many in the Texas House are also drunk while engaging in official business.
Less than two months ago, when meeting with legislators to discuss education bills, Mary Lowe, cofounder of Families Engaged for Effective Education, a 501c3 nonprofit based in the Dallas area, took a picture of a bartender serving drinks at an open bar in the Texas House. The bar was set up in the hallway behind the House Gallery where members enter to vote.
The general public is restricted from entering the area with the exception of those who have meetings with members. Down the hall from the bar is the speaker’s office. The photo was taken at 2:47 pm on Wednesday, April 12, Lowe told The Center Square, during the regular legislative session while official business was being conducted and members were in session.
Lowe provided a picture with a date and time stamp to The Center Square and granted reprint permission.
Her initial response, Lowe told The Center Square, was, “What chiefs of staff have told me is actually true. It’s not even 3 pm and they are starting with the booze.” She also wondered, “What else are they doing?
“Are Texas taxpayers funding a fraternity house?” she asked. She also said if the members “can’t save their cocktails until their business day has ended then they shouldn’t be allowed to serve Texans. The capitol is not their private business. It is the state and the people’s business.”
The speaker’s office did not respond to multiple requests from The Center Square for comment.
Lowe, and other Texans, are continuing to ask why alcohol is being served during official business hours in the Texas House.
A former Republican state representative, Jonathan Stickland, tweeted that House members are regularly intoxicated. Linking to a clip of Phelan appearing to be intoxicated, he said, “Anyone who watches the [Texas] House knows many of the members are regularly intoxicated. Watching the Speaker be this wasted is absolutely unacceptable. These Representatives are making laws that impact 30 million Texans. It must stop.”
The House Rules appear to have no prohibitions about members and staff over the legal age of 21 drinking alcohol while conducting official business.
According to Texas penal code Title 10, Sec. 49.02, it is against the law to be intoxicated in public. “A person commits an offense if the person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another,” the statute states.