Texas Senate changes rules so Republicans can still bring bills to floor without Democratic support

Texas Senate changes rules so Republicans can still bring bills to floor without Democratic support

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

In a 18-13 vote, lawmakers voted to decrease the edge of help that laws must make it onto the Senate flooring. In previous classes, the Senate required a two-thirds supermajority, or 19 votes, to convey laws to the ground. However after the defeat of Sen. Pete Flores, R-Pleasanton, lowered the variety of Republicans from 19 to 18, lawmakers lowered the edge 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 decreasing the edge final January, later contending in December that the 2020 election proved voters help conservative candidates and that he deliberate on “transferring a conservative agenda ahead.”

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

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

Whereas the process might sound like parliamentary arcana, the impression may spell hassle for Democrats. The change basically permits Republicans to proceed deciding which payments are introduced up for consideration with out the minority occasion’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 in addition ensuring now we have to speak to at least one one other because it pertains to important laws,” West stated. “And we discuss 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 decreasing the edge would make the Senate “much less deliberative.”

“Why are we actually altering the foundations? Is it as a result of the Democrats gained yet one more 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 reducing the edge. In his first session as lieutenant governor in 2015, the Senate lowered the edge from two-thirds to three-fifths of the chamber, giving his occasion 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 means of their frequent use of the varied 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 occasion.

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

In contrast, earlier Wednesday the chamber additionally adopted a number of guidelines relating to 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 destructive COVID-19 check that day; all Senate employees have to 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 function within the Tribune’s journalism. Discover a full record of them right here.

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