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Will Texas Senate Keep Its Two-Thirds Rule in 2015?

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Bryan Winter/KUT News
The Texas Senate will vote whether to keep or scrap the two-thirds rule after Jan. 20, 2015.

Texas senators have long honored a tradition known as the two-thirds rule, which means two-thirds of the chamber’s 31 members – or 21 of them – have to agree to bring a bill up for a vote.

The full Texas senate will have a vote to decide whether to keep this rule or scrap it in the 2015 session, but Texas senators will have to wait until after the Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick, R-Houston, is sworn in before they vote whether to keep the two-thirds rule.  

Patrick, who gets sworn in on Jan. 20, is a vocal opponent of the rule.  He’d like to lower the bar to 60 percent of senators, or 19 of them in agreement, to bring up a bill. Right now, there are 20 Republicans in the Senate.  In a video interview with the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, he says Democrats have abused the rule.

"It’s one thing to use the 21-vote rule to try to leverage to improve a bill to get a bill passed that you can support. It’s another thing for 11 or 12 senators to go like this," said Patrick, crossing his arms there in what appears to resemble stubbornness.

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said, however, that the rule is not about preventing votes, but about forcing senators to build consensus with their colleagues and improve legislation.

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