Patrick: Conservative Reforms Rely On Texas Senate Rules Change

While the Texas House is looking like it will enter a very similar pattern in 2021, the fate of the 87th Texas Senate still relies on two factors:

  • The results of the Dec. 19 runoff in Texas SD 30.
  • Whether Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will sign-off on changes to rules required to pass or block legislation.

Today, Patrick announced while he is up in the air in terms of his SD 30 endorsement (Rep. Drew Springer versus COVID-closing order defiant salon owner Shelley Luther), he is certain on what the rules should be. Patrick said he will begin asking senators to publicly endorse an 18-vote rule change — particularly Luther and Springer, each of whom supported the change via social media today.

“I have not endorsed a candidate in the SD 30 Special Election Run-off. The people of that district will decide which of the two candidates can best represent them in the Texas Senate. But as Election Day approaches, I think it is important voters know where each candidate stands on one of the first issues that their new Senator will vote on – the Senate’s procedural rules,” Patrick said in a press release.

Patrick oversaw a change in the rule in 2015 when the number of votes required to bring a bill to the floor for consideration was changed from a minimum of 21 to 19 — thereby preventing Democrats from blocking key conservative reforms. This altered the traditional “two-thirds rule,” which has been done away with only rarely.

The loss of Pete Flores‘s seat in San Antonio on election night meant that Republicans lost their supermajority status in the Senate. With the Senate Republicans now at 18 in the 31-member upper chamber, Patrick is not willing to take any additional risks on having to peel off a Democrat to pass a bill.

“A simple majority vote of 16 is needed to pass a bill, but we must be able to get that bill to the floor without Democrats blocking it,” Patrick explained.

From the hip: Democrats are (expectedly) livid at the proposition.

“If Dan Patrick is successful, the voices of Texans across the state will be ignored,” Texas Democratic Party chair-human Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “Texas needs Republicans and Democrats to come together and tackle the huge challenges facing working families during this pandemic, Dan Patrick’s latest power play isn’t going to cut it.”

“Texans reaffirmed in the 2020 election that they support conservative candidates and conservative policies and I am committed to again moving a conservative agenda forward,” Patrick countered.

As a final word, and to reframe the situation, here’s what we wrote in mid-November:

Despite Texas voters maintaining Republican leadership for over 20 years, a two-thirds rule usually makes certain that Democratic Senators are at the table for discussions over the fate of key legislation. With 13 Democrats and 18 Republicans projected to raise their right hands and take office in 2021, the GOP is currently one vote shy of the two-thirds majority needed to pass key bills. […]

It may not be for several months until we see not only how effective the 2021 state Senate will be in furthering a conservative legislative agenda. With a Texas House that appears virtually unchanged, the Senate may appear as it did in 2015 and before.

Which may bode well for conservatism in the Texas legislative world. Stay tuned, not only on Dec. 19, but well into the spring to see where this leads.



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