The Texas Tribune reports that State Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock County) will be resigning from the Senate in order to become the next Chancellor of Texas Tech. Admittedly, I heard a rumor about this a couple of months ago and utterly refused to accept it until I saw it confirmed. I do not especially care about the wonky higher education implications of this, and considering that I do not even talk about the (albeit fascinating) inside politics at the UT system on this publication, I will not bore you with the Ivory Tower tales from Lubbock, Texas (Editorial note: Carl, this is not elitist against your alma matter, it is a general comment that details of inner squabbles with universities, even involving my own college, are not meant to be published here).
Rather, I think the implications of someone like Duncan leaving the Texas Senate are quite significant for two key reasons. First, Duncan is definitely one of the most noble Senators in the upper chamber, and likely the most noble among Republicans. Avid followers of the chamber will surely remember Duncan for his kindness, integrity and all around good graces toward those on both sides of the aisle. However, much more pressing is that he was a foe to ideologues and partisan-over-policy attitudes, especially those in the Tea Party and other fringes of the right wing. In fact, early this year, Duncan strongly repudiated the so-called “race to the right,” a move that garnered him some positive press from an op-ed of mine in The Daily Texan.
But the Senate is losing much more than a moderate, click here to find out what!
I promise you that this is very significant. State Senator Bob Deuell (R-Hunt County), a long time stalwart of the upper chamber hailing from the east, has endorsed Dan Patrick in the Republican primary for Lieutenant Governor. Patrick (R-Harris County), yet another member of the State Senator, did not always appear to have the most amiable of relationships with Deuell. Not so much for any centrism, but his bipartisanship and general decency around Democrats did him in with the Tea Party. Accordingly, he drew a Tea Party backed, far-right challenger in Bob Hall this primary cycle. Deuell and Hall will face off against one another next month in a runoff election, though polls generally put Deuell at an advantage.
Deuell supporting Patrick in a desperate attempt to improve his conservative credentials should not be seen as surprising in the least, but it is extremely important because of what it means for the future of the Texas Senate. Simply put, Deuell was an invaluable part of coalition I conjured up to combat the reign of terror from Dan Patrick, who –barring an incredibly strange turn of events– will be the next Lieutenant Governor of Texas. The point I made last month was that, assuming Wendy Davis’ Senate seat falls into Republican hands (Dems were too lazy to find a candidate worth their weight in paper), 5 Republicans would have to defect and join with the Democrats to strip Lt Gov Patrick of all his power at the start of the 84th Legislative session in January 2015. As I explained previously, the broad powers that the Lieutenant Governor has as the President of the Senate is by tradition not constitutional mandate. A majority of the Senate could easily strip the Lt Gov of her or his powers.
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Patricia Kilday Hart at the Houston Chronicle expands upon an issue I lightly touched upon last week: if and how Dan Patrick and recent primaries might move the general temperament of the upper chamber significantly to the right. Specifically, she noted at least three examples of those Republicans most amenable to maintaining the current balance of order in the chamber.
As I have expanded upon in the aforementioned previous post, the venerable 2/3rds rule in the Senate has been incessantly under attack by both State Senator Dan Patrick or Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. I wrote about this issue at length in The Daily Texan, but the gist of the matter is that some of the Republican top brass want to make the Democratic minority powerless to stop the proposals of the Republican majority. This would run hand-in-hand with the oft-controversial Patrick taking the helm of power as Lieutenant Governor, which also serves as President of the Senate. However, as I mentioned in my other article (which, I insist, you should really read), a majority of the Senate may strip the Lieutenant Governor of his power. This majority (16 Senators) would require 5 Republicans join with the Democrat caucus, assuming Wendy Davis’ seat falls into Republican hands.
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The Tribune reported that the Senate has passed a payday lending bill that actually has some teeth in it. Unfortunately, that bill has not what came out of the meat grinder of politics a few days ago. The result was, by Senator Carona and LGov Dewhurst, was a bill that not only eliminated the tough local regulations in cities like Austin & Dallas, while doing nothing to cap annual interest, which sometimes exceeds 1000%.
That is, until Steve Mostyn got a hold of the news. According to a Chron column, after overhearing the lobbyist celebrating how they had pulled one over the public, Mostyn returned to Houston and blew the scandal wide open, and now, I am happy to report a good payday lending bill has been amended and passed in the Senate.
The Trib article indicates that this new bill does not overrule local regulations, and does set a max interest rate (I heard it is 30-something%). The bill passed 24-6 (you can guess opposed), and now heads to the House, where passage will be quite an uphill battle.
Eye on Williamson has more.