Rules Fight Looms Over Texas Legislature's Latest Special Session

Jun 28, 2013

Gov. Rick Perry is fond of special sessions. Since 2000, he's called for 11 special sessions as governor. And, after the legislative fireworks in the final hours of the last special session, Gov. Perry called yet another special session, bringing lawmakers back to Austin to address transportation, criminal justice and abortion regulations not covered last session's call.

While speaking at a convention for the anti-abortion group National Right to Life Conference in Dallas, Perry said the confusion at the Capitol on Tuesday won't derail efforts to complete legislature's to-do list. 

"This is simply too important to a cause to allow unruly actions of a few to stand in its way," Perry said. "And that is the reason that I have announced that I am bringing lawmakers back to Austin, Texas to finish their business." 

But one potentially problematic issue in the upcoming session revolves around what's called the two-thirds rule in the Texas Senate. 

In the Senate all bills are brought up in the order they get through committee and reach the senate floor. The first bill in line is called a blocker bill. If you want to get to something behind the blocker you have to suspend the Senate rules, which takes a two-thirds vote. And Democrats have enough votes to keep abortion skipping to the front of the line. In the first special session, the rule wasn’t in play because there wasn’t a blocker bill.

Before the first special session, Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, questioned Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst about a hypothetical second session, and if a blocker bill would be allowed. Watson asked if it would be appropriate to place a blocker bill on the call, if redistricting is passed in the first session.

Dewhurst said Senators should follow tradition and keep the two-thirds rule out of the first session because the legislature needed to pass redistricting. He then said they didn’t have to follow tradition in keeping the rule out of any future special sessions.

So, with redistricting maps passed, lawmakers might just see a few stumbling blocks in the form of blocker bills in the second special session.