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Texas Senate to Become More Like D.C. Without Two-Thirds Rule

by: Chaille Jolink

Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 02:32 PM CST

The longstanding "honored tradition" in the Texas Senate known as the two-thirds rule will be nothing more than a memory in the event that any of the four Republicans running for Lieutenant Governor take charge of the chamber in 2015.

The Dallas Morning News reported on Friday that all four Republicans have gone on record saying that they would change the longstanding Senate rule in some way. Recall last summer that the lack of the two-thirds rule in the Senate was the only way sweeping anti-choice legislation was able to pass at all during a couple special called sessions.

During the regular session, none of the bills that came to make up the egregious omnibus anti-choice bill that was HB 2, not one of them ever got to the Senate Floor, thanks to the two-thirds rule.

Click below the jump to read more about how if this rule goes, so does the decorum in the Senate.

The Dallas Morning News wrote:

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, a Republican, said it would be "a horrible mistake" to jettison the rules and traditions that have fostered cooperation and compromise on important legislation in the Senate.

"It would be the first step toward the kind of vicious partisanship that goes on in Washington, D.C.," Ratliff said.

"There is no question the candidates are running scared of the radical right."

The Legislative Reference Library had this little section regarding the two-thirds rule, which is enforced with what is called a blocker bill:

For almost half a century, blocker bills have routinely been placed at the top of the Senate's Daily Calendar, which in effect forces a suspension of the regular order of business on every bill. Blocker bills are bills that are introduced and passed out of committee as early as possible in a legislative session in order that they may occupy the first positions on the calendar. They are not intended to be worthy of serious consideration or passage. The sole purpose of a blocker bill is to ensure that at least two-thirds of the membership have an interest in debating a measure before it can come to the floor. Bills that do not enjoy substantial support cannot make it past the blocker bill.

Though it has been set aside on rare occasions, this practice -- known as the "two-thirds rule" -- has been an honored tradition in the Senate. Among other things, it is generally acknowledged that the Senate's two-thirds rule fosters civility, a willingness to compromise, and a spirit of bipartisanship.

Senator Kirk Watson told this to the Dallas Morning News regarding the longstanding rule:

"The very best way to make governance in Texas look like dysfunction in Washington, D.C., would be to eliminate the two-thirds rule."

Clearly all the Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor, including the current Lieutenant Governor, are not looking out for the best interests of all Texans and sound policymaking, but for the limited attention span of Republican primary voters.  

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