Duncan leaves the Senate

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!

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Deuell backs Patrick

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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Eltife defends Two-thirds rule

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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Lieutenant Governor Patrick?

Let us assume that Dan Patrick wins the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor. Further, let us assume that –no matter what the Washington Post may say–  Patrick wins the general election. What, then, will become of our Texas? Liberals are preaching about a tentative apocalypse that may occur if Patrick takes the dais at the Senate. Tea Partiers are giddy at the prospect of having one of their own in office.

This leads us to examine just what would, in fact, happen if (when) Patrick is inaugurated into office at the commencement of the 84th Legislature in January 2015. An article in the San Antonio Express-News begins to answer that question, but stops shy of the pronouncement I will go on to say. Simply put, the article notes the continuing hostility between Patrick and many of the Republican members of the State Senate. In my opinion, the article focuses too much on the prospect of what the Senate majority would do if State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), the Democratic nominee, is elected, given how quixotic that proposition could be. Instead, I would like to focus on how the Senate majority may react to the –far more likely– result of Dan Patrick being elected Lieutenant Governor.

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Civil Affairs: Primaries

CIVIL AFFAIRS

In mid-January, State Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) took the stage at a local meeting of the Lubbock Rotary Club, where he criticized the “Race to the Right” in Republican primaries, where candidates try to appeal to an increasingly extreme conservative voter base by outdoing one another’s political positions. Duncan, who is not up for re-election this year, took the opportunity to criticize many of his colleagues for what he felt was an insane example of political posturing.

“We have dumbed down our elections,” Duncan said in comments first reported by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “It’s a race to say who’s the most conservative.”

Duncan, mind you, is no rogue liberal holdover in the Republican Party. In past legislative sessions, he served as the president pro tempore of the chamber and currently serves as the chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee. In fact, it was Duncan who served as speaker of the body when Wendy Davis famously filibustered last June.

PLEASE SEE THE FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DAILY TEXAN!

OH MY GOD

It’s just after 1 o’clock in the morning at press time, and we still do not know if SB5 passed or not. Yes, it was that close. Let me run through the timeline, and then I will discuss the current implications as well as the future ones.

At roughly 4:30, I posted my last update about the filibuster. At that time, Senator Wendy Davis (D-Forth Worth) was still going strong in her dilatory measure. This continued until 10:07PM, when Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) made a Point of Order against Davis for an alleged violation of the rules of filibuster following two sustained points (three strikes and you’re out). For what it is worth, the 1st point was for allegedly not being germane to SB5 when she discussed Planned Parenthood funding. The second strike was for allegedly receiving undue comfort when Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) helped her to adjust a back brace. The third strike was for allegedly not being germane to SB5 when making a comparison to last session’s Sonogram Law. At 10:39PM, the Lieutenant Governor sustained the third point of order. This caused a massive eruption of booing from the gallery.

Shortly after this, Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) was able to gain control of the floor on an Appeal of the Chair’s ruling, which is debatable, and thus, filibusterable. After a series of lengthy parliamentary inquiries eat up time, Watson is given the floor at about 11PM. For what it is worth, the Senate rule on ending filibusters only applies if there are 3 violations pertaining to undue comfort OR 3 violations pertaining to non germane material, but not a mixture. Thus, Dewhurst completely ignored the rules.

Watson began his own mini-filibuster. Finally, at about 11:30, the presiding officer (Dewhurst had since left the floor), Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) allowed a motion on the previous question while Watson was still talking. For all intent and purposes, this was an egregious and open defiance of the Senate’s rules on filibusters.

Democrats continued to make dilatory motions until about 11:45, but it looked like passage would be achieved in the next few minutes. Then, a miracle happened. The thousands of people in the Capitol lost their tops. All hell broke loose. The noise drowned out the chamber for the next 15 minutes, until sine die.

However, in the last few seconds of the session, the Republicans made a desperate attempt to pass the legislation. Anyone watching the livestream could tell that this vote took place at 12:02 AM, after the end of the session. In fact, the TLO website said it took place on “June 26th” until it mysterious changed. No seriously, here’s the tweet from the Texas Tribune.

At press time, the Senate still hasn’t adjourned. Here are the facts: (1) there was a vote on SB5 and (2) it occurred after Midnight. However, seeing how many of the rules have been tossed out the window already, I see no reason to think it won’t again.

Obviously, SB23 and SJR2 (Youth Sentencing and Transportation) did not pass, so there is a very good chance that Rick Perry will call the Legislators back into a Second Special Session. As I have suggested before, if SB5 is deemed to have not passed, and if Abortion is once again added to the call, the Democrats shouldn’t even bother showing up to this one.

Also, and I need to say this a few times, but way to go Senator Davis! The eyes of the world were truly upon her tonight and she did fantastic. Also, a little shout out to Kirk Watson. Sen. Watson really helped to save the day at the end, and we all know that he isn’t good under pressure.

I’ll have more on the implications tomorrow morning. Until then, good night and good luck.

Abortion Restrictions Texas

 

UPDATE: And this is 2AM, y’all. Dos Centavos is reporting, via twitter, that SB5 is dead. That it did not pass in time.

Equal Pay in Texas

The Texas Tribune reports that, on Wednesday evening, Senfronia Thompson’s “Equal Pay for Equal Work” bill passed the Senate 17-14 (the Journal STILL isn’t up). HB 950 would, according to the Tribune article, “make Texas law mirror protections of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.” The measure passed the House last month after a very contentious debate.

Two–you guessed it–male Republican Senators added amendments that slightly watered down the measure. Robert Deuell (Hunt County) tacked on a page that clarifies this equality only applies to wages, and not other compensation. Robert Duncan (Lubbock County) made sure no lawsuits about unequal pay could be made retroactively–before the measure hypothetically would take effect on September 1.

These amendments mean the act must now return to the House of Representatives, where there is still a chance of defeat. Additionally, the threat looms very large of a veto from the Governor. With time running out, that would be an automatic pocket veto, and therefore death sentence, for the legislation.

The Tribune reported that Texas would be the 43rd State to have such a law. Way to catch up into the 20th century, Texas.