This post was published on April 1, 2016 as part of BOR’s annual observation of April Fools Day. Posts published on this day are satirical and in no way report actual events (except for how closely they resemble actual events).
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The buzz may have died down, but the most overused buzzword at this year’s SXSW Interactive conference has made its way to all the way to the governor’s office. Yesterday, Governor Greg Abbott announced that he will propose a constitutional amendment that would “disrupt” the Texas Legislature and “place Texas at the forefront of 21st century democracy.” His office expects the amendment to be adopted by the Legislature next spring and to be on the ballot in November 2017.
The amendment is a relatively simple one, especially when compared with recent constitutional amendments regarding property taxes and road funding. As proposed yesterday, the word “characters” will be substituted for “days” in regard to the duration of the biennial legislative session. This change will require that the legislative session take place within in 140 characters, instead of the 140 days as currently mandated by the Texas Constitution. In a series of tweets, @GovAbbott said his amendment ” wld streamline the lege process by eliminating the costly & tiresome public hearings #freedom.” @GregAbbott_TX retweeted the announcement with the introductory comment “& lengthy floor debates! #freedom,” noting later that both resolutions and amendments could be handled in @replies. Legislation would pass the Texas House by reaching 76 likes with no DMs of order. Proposed rules for the Texas Senate were not available.
Sources close to the governor say that the change would also put an end to the cycle of “primarying” that has elevated certain Republican lawmakers to statewide office when they no longer hold a comfortable seat in the Texas House from which to make their Austin deals. It was unclear if the amendment would also contain language changing the legal name of the Texas Legislature to @TXLege2point0. The simpler @TXLege twitter handle is already taken.
“This is an idea that’s been kicking around for at least a decade or two,” said longtime Texas Republican operative Grass McDarby. McDarby, who helmed several statewide campaigns in the late 1980s, remembered, “a crew of us came up with a whole lot of ways to keep the Lege from meeting back at The Cloak Room, sometime in mid-May, 1987. What the governor’s done by substituting the word ‘characters’ for ‘days’ is to drive an old idea onto Information Superhighway.”
Some on the left saw the governor’s move as an attempt to tap into Travis County Republican Party chairman Rob Morrow’s use of Twitter to engage and enrage younger Republican voters. Joe Deshotel, communications director for the Travis County Democratic Party, tweeted, “@GovAbbott ready to take #txlege to the next level. Good plan cuz the only ppl who care about this stuff are reading this tweet. #freedom.” Longtime Abbott watchers were not surprised that the governor found a way to keep the Legislature from meeting, given his lack of experience and interest in the legislative process in general. One tweet summed it up best: “Sine die, sine die. #freedom.”
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick could not be reached for comment on the governor’s proposal. He is currently out of state in Wisconsin working on the Cruz presidential campaign. Patrick has recently been made the sole, on-stage panty gatherer, a position that signals his new level of intimacy within the inner Cruz circle.