January 22, 2011
The Senate will mostly operate as it did in 2009, retaining the traditional 2/3 rule and the exception for voter ID legislation.
Though there was still some heated discussion around the matter, which will likely continue as long as Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, is in office.
Though he lacked the votes to do away with the “2/3 rule,” Patrick still rose to express his opposition to its existence. He would prefer a simple majority or a compromise of a “3/5 rule” because the 2/3 rule is “inhibiting” the rule of the majority. “I don’t stand alone,” Patrick said. “I stand on the shoulders of our founding fathers.”
Interestingly, the first person to rise in support was Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, who famously stood against hs party when they passed the voter ID exemption last session. “I stand somewhat in contrast to my position two years ago,” he said. The reason: a flood of calls from constituents, he estimated between 150 and 200, supporting the rule.
In response, the longest-serving member, Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said, he was “disappointed” that, after two sessions, Patrick had not developed an appreciation for the rule, which he said “requires us to sit down and talk.” He cited an apocryphal story of Thomas Jefferson comparing the purpose of a senate to the same reason coffee is occasionally poured into a saucer before being consumed — to cool things down.
Minor tweaks were made to the rules dealing with the referral of local bills and allowing more time to consider budget changes proposed in conference committee. The Republicans all voted in favor of the rules, and Democrats — still opposed to the voter ID exception — voted against.
Congratulations to Robert Miller for calling this correctly. As I’ve said before, I’m not going to justify this either way. The various anti-majoritarian rules that exist here and in other bodies are great when you’re the one using them to stop something you don’t like, and they suck when the shoe is on the other foot. Admit it and deal with it, because it is what it is. The main reason why the Texas Senate 2/3 rule still allows that body to function in something resembling a workable fashion – i.e., completely unlike the US Senate – is because the minority party only uses it to stop stuff it really hates, and not as a de facto veto for every bill under the sun. There’s also no question that if Senate Dems got a bit too stroppy, David Dewhurst would get the blocker bill cleared off the calendar faster than you can say “I’m running for the Senate in 2012″.
Anyway. The one difference from before for the Senate was the adoption of a Kirk Watson amendment to allow for more time before voting on the budget.
The Texas Senate today approved a change in its rules to allow for a 48-hour period before the state budget can be voted upon, time for the public and lawmakers to understand what’s in it.
No such time delay exists now.
The vote was 18-11.
State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, had proposed a five-day viewing period, but some senators argued that such a change would place the Senate at a disadvantage in negotiating a final version of the budget with the House that has no such delay in its rules.
Good for Sen. Watson for getting this done. I hope it helps.