January 14, 2014
Welcome back. How was the break? Good? Nice time with your friends and family?
Did you keep up with the political craziness in the capitol and around Texas?
If so, you feeling OK?
If not, rest assured that the Season of Giving gave us more than enough politics. And I’ve been in this world long enough to know that folks don’t call election years the “silly season” for nothing.
Still, some things are sillier than others.
Over the weekend, the Dallas Morning News ran a story about how the Republicans running for Lieutenant Governor – all four of whom have served in or presided over the Texas Senate – want to blow up one of the Senate’s most prized, bipartisan traditions.
It’s called the Two-Thirds Rule.
The Two-Thirds Rule basically requires that two-thirds of senators must sign off on a bill before it can be brought for a vote on the Senate Floor. It’s a critical tradition, encouraging legislators to work together, negotiate and find compromise.
And working together, negotiating and finding compromise help keep Austin from being engulfed in the dumb dysfunction that dominates Washington, DC. But don’t take my word for it. Check this out:
“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.”
Who publishes such pinko propaganda? None other than the Texas Legislative Reference Library – which is, yes, the official library of the, yes, Texas Legislature.
It seems that the dudes running to be the next Lieutenant Governor could stand to spend some more time in that library:
“All four Republicans running for lieutenant governor say they want to scale back traditions that have given Democrats a say and kept the Texas Senate from going hard to the right in recent years on volatile issues such as immigration, guns and school vouchers.
“Political consultants say many of the staunchly conservative voters who control GOP primaries are upset that their party has large majorities in the Legislature but can’t pass some laws they favor. Among those are measures to let concealed handgun licensees tote a firearm to college classes and to ban “sanctuary city” policies that keep local police from asking about residency status. …
“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.”
Think of that in more recent terms: It’s like refusing to invite family to the table of a holiday meal, just to make sure you don’t have to share and can get even more turkey.
These same guys speak ill of Washington pretty much every chance they get (and yeah, it should be easy to get two-thirds agreement that we don’t want the Texas Capitol to look like the nation’s capital). But then they pile onto this proposal that would put us on that road.
I’ll admit that they’re efficient – they do a good job of talking out of both sides of their mouths.
Here’s what passes for civility, bipartisanship and compromise in that primary right now: per that Morning News story, the candidates “have said they’ll support reducing the threshold of support needed to 60 percent, or 19 votes. If that happens, Republicans on a straight, party-line vote could push through any bill without support from Democrats.”
In other words, they agree there should be a threshold – something more than a majority – to bring a bill to the floor. I guess that’s in the name of “building consensus” and such. But they choose the number 19 – because right now there are 19 Republican senators.
It’s terribly cynical to redefine “building consensus” as going along with whatever people in power want to do and forgetting those who might have a different view.
At least they’re being transparent in their power grab.
Look, the absolute best way to make governance in Texas look like dysfunction in Washington DC would be to eliminate the Two-Thirds Rule. It’s the single best mechanism for building consensus and helping Texans.
A vote against it is a vote against common sense.
Want proof? Look no further than last year. The regular session, when the rule was in place, was widely and rightly praised for the bipartisan, constructive legislation that came out of it.
And then there were the special legislative sessions, when the rule wasn’t in place and the Capitol became an internationally infamous mess of political dysfunction and red-meat legislation.
Who on earth would want to go back to something like that if they didn’t have to?
I mean, besides the four Republicans who want to be in charge of the Senate next year …