Texas Senate adjustments guidelines so Republicans can nonetheless carry payments to flooring with out Democratic assist


The Texas Senate on Wednesday authorized a basic alteration of its guidelines, ending the minority social gathering’s capacity to dam laws it unanimously opposes within the Republican-controlled higher chamber.

In a 18-13 vote, lawmakers voted to decrease the brink of assist that laws must make it onto the Senate flooring. In previous periods, the Senate required a three-fifths supermajority, or 19 votes, to carry laws to the ground. However after the defeat of Sen. Pete Flores, R-Pleasanton, decreased the variety of Republicans from 19 to 18, lawmakers lowered the brink to 18 members — a transfer Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had been pushing for.

Passage of the rule required a easy majority — or 16 members. State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, tweeted that the decision handed on a party-line vote.

Republicans on the ground hailed the transfer. Patrick, who presides over the Senate, first floated the thought of reducing the brink final January, later contending in December that the 2020 election proved voters assist conservative candidates and that he deliberate on “shifting a conservative agenda ahead.”

Nonetheless, earlier Wednesday, Patrick expressed uncertainty about whether or not he’d have the ability to implement such a change. “I solely have 18 Republicans. I want 16 votes,” he mentioned on the Texas Public Coverage Basis’s annual Coverage Orientation, referring to the easy majority wanted to cross the measures. “I by no means rely them until it’s over, however I am hoping they do this. … I pray that we do.”

In introducing the decision, state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, mentioned: “I consider our custom of requiring a supermajority is sweet and we should always retain it, however … it’s my view that there are sufficient large objects that almost all of Texans have requested for that might be blocked with a 19-vote requirement, which might put us in a particular session the place we’ve got no management over the agenda.” (To be clear, solely Gov. Greg Abbott can name lawmakers again for a particular legislative session.)

Whereas the process could sound like parliamentary arcana, the influence might spell bother for Democrats. The change primarily permits Republicans to proceed deciding which payments are introduced up for consideration with out the minority social gathering’s enter.

State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, one of many extra senior members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, charged that the transfer perpetuates party-line voting.

“I’m speaking about defending minority rights and likewise guaranteeing we’ve got to speak to 1 one other because it pertains to important laws,” West mentioned. “And we speak to one another regarding laws, however that two-thirds rule made it actual essential that every member of this physique consulted about laws.”

Different livid Democrats accused Republicans of an influence seize, warning them that reducing the brink would make the Senate “much less deliberative.”

“Why are we actually altering the principles? Is it as a result of the Democrats gained another seat on this final election?” Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen later requested.

“Partisan majority is a giant deal, sure sir,” Hughes responded.

Wednesday was not the primary time Patrick has presided over lowering the brink. In his first session as lieutenant governor in 2015, the Senate lowered the brink from two-thirds to three-fifths of the chamber, giving his social gathering full management.

The gravity of the change was mirrored in an uncommon scene on the Senate flooring: Almost all 31 senators have been of their seats, rapt, because the chamber debated.

This procedural change was a climax to the bitter debate between the events over final management of the higher chamber. Republicans, by way of their frequent use of the assorted roadblocks that Senate process affords them, have routinely steamrolled Democrats whereas mentioning a number of conservative priorities for consideration. Democrats, in flip, have accused Republicans of ignoring the voices of the minority social gathering.

With the rule change, mentioned state Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, who chairs the Senate Democratic Caucus, “I worry that we’re on a path that’s taking us to Washington, D.C., and a poisonous surroundings.”

In contrast, earlier Wednesday the chamber additionally adopted a number of guidelines concerning coronavirus protocols with no debate.

Among the many proposals: Every senator is allowed one staffer on the ground whereas the Senate is in session; to attend a committee listening to or the Senate flooring, a member should have a adverse COVID-19 take a look at that day; all Senate employees should be examined earlier than accessing the chamber or committee hearings; and whereas on the ground, members of the Senate should put on masks besides when alone at their desks.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

Disclosure: 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.

Supply hyperlink