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Why The Texas House And Senate Seem To Be Having Their Own Special Sessions

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on the opening day of the special session earlier this month.

From Texas Standard:

Those watching the proceedings at the Texas Capitol this weekend may have noticed a tale of two chambers: the senate working at a frenzied pace, while the house moves much more slowly.

Ross Ramsey, executive editor and co-founder of the Texas Tribune says that normally, it’s the House where legislation moves at a quicker clip. That norm started to change a few years ago, he says, and it flipped dramatically during this year’s regular legislative session.


On how the House’s slow pace could be a stalling tactic:

"The Senate, as you say, is flying through this stuff and the House is moving very slowly. They’ve got a limited time and slow plays lead to death, you know, in a 30-day special session. The Senate wants this stuff to hurry up."

On House Speaker Joe Straus’ role in the pacing of legislation:

"He personifies what the House wants to do. This is kind of a protection racket. The House has 150 members; they say publicly, We want to do this or want to do that. But what they say privately to the speaker on some of these issues — bathrooms is an example — We don’t want to vote on this. In the case of the bathrooms, that’s because they’re torn between business supporters on one side and social conservatives who vote for them on the other side."

On legislative procedure if the House stalls on Senate bills:

"If the House doesn’t take action, nothing happens. There’s one must-pass piece of legislation here, and it’s the sunset bills. …The House is moving on those."

On the Senate’s options for dealing with potential stonewalling by the House:

"Another wildcard here is the Democrats. They don’t have enough votes in either the House or the Senate to change the outcome on most of these issues, but they do have the votes to threaten a quorum. …I don’t think they’ll do it but there has been some talk..."

On Gov. Greg Abbott’s role in the special session:

"The governor has a play at the beginning and the end. He sets the agenda and at the end, he decides what to sign or not sign, and ultimately decides whether to call another special session. But in the middle, he’s kind of a passive player."

On Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s role in the special session:

"[He’s] getting his bills out of the Senate to set up the next piece, which is gonna be the [him] trying to press the House to act on these things, trying force votes in the House."

On why a second special session is unlikely:

"Abbott has made his point, with the special session, that he cares about these issues. …Patrick’s made his point by voting these out, and Straus has made his point by stopping these issues."


Written by Caroline Covington.

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