On Election Day, Republicans misplaced a essential benefit within the state Senate. Will Dan Patrick push to vary the principles?


9 months earlier than the November election, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made headlines by suggesting that if Republicans misplaced their supermajority within the Senate, he would pursue a daring procedural transfer: additional reducing the edge that’s required to convey laws to the ground.

Now that the election has come and gone — and the GOP certainly misplaced its supermajority — it stays to be seen how severe Patrick is in regards to the thought, which might strip Senate Democrats of the one device they’ve to dam laws they unanimously oppose.

The lieutenant governor, who presides over the Senate, has not made any identified public feedback because the election in regards to the potential rule change, and senators are being tight-lipped or saying they haven’t heard something. The uncertainty comes lower than a month and a half earlier than the Legislature gavels in for the 2021 session — and every chamber takes up its guidelines as one of many first orders of enterprise.

Proper now, Senate guidelines require 19 members, or three-fifths of the physique, to vote to convey laws to the ground. With the reelection lack of Sen. Pete Flores, R-Pleasanton, this November, Republicans are set to start the session with 18 members.

Patrick already led the cost to lower that threshold from 21 members — two-thirds — throughout his first session as lieutenant governor 5 years in the past.

Because the election, Patrick’s workplace has not responded to requests for touch upon whether or not he plans to push a rule change that will decrease that threshold so Republicans can maintain steamrolling Democrats. Such a change would occur at the start of the legislative session and solely require the assist of a easy majority within the chamber, or 16 members.

4 GOP senators’ places of work stated Tuesday they have been unavailable to debate the subject of Senate guidelines going into the session.

Sen. Paul Bettencourt of Houston, chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus, stated Tuesday he’s finishing his time period as chairman and can’t remark “upfront of the caucus taking a place or not” on a rule change. The caucus is holding a retreat this week.

One other GOP senator, granted anonymity to candidly talk about inside caucus workings, stated they anticipated the problem to come back up after the election however haven’t heard something but.

To make certain, it has been an uncommon runup to the session up to now. The traditional preparations have been overshadowed by still-pending discussions about how precisely lawmakers will conduct their enterprise amid the coronavirus pandemic. And in terms of the hot-button points that might profit from a guidelines change, state leaders have largely held again on detailing their agendas in the intervening time.

Whereas talking at a January convention hosted by the Texas Public Coverage Basis, the Austin-based conservative assume tank, Patrick first raised the potential for dropping the present three-fifths rule.

“If we lose one or two seats, then we’d must go to 16 subsequent session,” Patrick stated. “We would must go to a easy majority as a result of we is not going to be stopped in main on federalism in the USA of America.”

Democrats denounced Patrick’s January feedback, saying the rule change would convey a Washington, D.C.-style gridlock to Austin. On Monday, the chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Sen. Carol Alvarado of Houston, stated Democratic senators have mentioned the attainable procedural transfer because the election, however they haven’t acquired any “communication from the lieutenant governor or his workplace if that’s nonetheless one thing that they wished to do.”

“We’ve simply talked amongst ourselves, and our place stays the identical,” Alvarado stated. “Like I stated again then, we just like the rule that’s in place and protecting the custom of the Senate of bipartisanship and constructing consensus. That’s vital for good authorities.”

The supermajority loss was not completely surprising. Flores captured his Democratic-friendly seat in a particular election upset two years in the past, and his reelection bid was all the time anticipated to be an uphill battle. Nonetheless, he got here nearer to hanging on than most anticipated, shedding by 3 share factors to state Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio.

Senate observers word that not all hope is misplaced for Republicans with 18 members below the present rule. Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville has beforehand sided with the GOP on some points, notably socially conservative measures opposed by different members of his occasion, and is probably going who the Republicans will flip to in the event that they want a nineteenth vote. Patrick was marketed as giving a “particular visitor welcome” Tuesday at a digital fundraiser for Lucio, who received reelection final month after beating again a main problem from his left.

Gutierrez stated Wednesday that he has not heard something about Patrick shifting to drop the three-fifths threshold, together with in a post-election dialog with the lieutenant governor. Gutierrez stated he was “gonna give all people the advantage of the doubt … that we’re gonna transfer ahead with the prevailing guidelines.”

“It is my hope he does not do it,” Gutierrez stated, describing such a transfer as “completely dangerous for the establishment.” “I believe there’s a whole lot of points proper now on this explicit session which might be going to be much less about partisanship and [more about] getting the enterprise of presidency carried out, notably the pandemic, price range and redistricting.”

At the moment, there’s one emptiness within the Senate — the seat of former Sen. Pat Fallon, R-Prosper — although it is going to be crammed in a Dec. 19 particular election runoff through which each candidates are Republicans. The session begins Jan. 12.

As the times tick down, it has not gone unnoticed outdoors the Capitol as nicely that Patrick’s January float of ditching the three-fifths rule has not gotten a lot of a public airing post-election.

TPPF’s govt director, Kevin Roberts, stated the assume tank will work with anybody to implement its agenda this session no matter any modifications to the principles, “nevertheless it has been noticeably quiet” in terms of revisiting Patrick’s January float.

“I believe that when the speaker’s in place and the lieutenant governor and speaker and governor have had a chance go to about coverage priorities,” Roberts stated, “every kind of guidelines will probably be revisited.”

Disclosure: The Texas Public Coverage Basis has been a monetary supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan information group that’s funded partially by donations from members, foundations and company sponsors. Monetary supporters play no position within the Tribune’s journalism. Discover a full checklist of them right here.

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