Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asks for change to Texas Legislature quorum rules

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has asked Gov. Greg Abbott to add an item to the next Texas Legislature special session to reduce the quorum rules to a simple majority.

A change to the rules would take more than a vote by the legislature -- it would also require Texans to vote. But some experts say lawmakers should remember the tables could always turn.

Right now, majorities in the House and Senate favor Republicans. Quorum requires two-thirds of members be present to conduct business.

But SMU political science professor Cal Jillson warns the change would further erode any need for bi-partisanship. 

"He needs to keep in mind, Democrats have been gaining on Republicans, and if they change the quorum, at some point you will have an unobstructed Democratic party passing laws in Texas," Jillson said.

Friday was Day 5 of the Texas House Democrats fleeing the state to halt passage of a GOP voting bill and many of the members showed no signs of backing down. 

"I know there are search warrants and I'm ready to be arrested, what do you do to a slave if you don't arrest them when they flee?" said Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston).

She likened the proposed voting laws to segregation. 

"When I think about how we had to watch signs that said no dog, no negroes, no Mexicans, when dogs were released on our people, they were beaten, bombed and killed. Haven't we done enough? Haven’t we paid the price enough? What is it going to take for me to be an American in this country?" Thompson said.

Republicans in the Texas House tried to dispel fears about the proposals on Friday.

"It does not overhaul the elections system, does not disenfranchise voters, and does not impair one's right to vote," said Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Kerrville). "The legislation clarifies proper application of the Texas election code, where we have heard of 24-hour voting, universal curbside voting, and non-voter initiated applications to vote by mail."

Also on Friday, Texas GOP senators blamed the Democrats’ absence for everything from violent offenders being released on low bonds to retired teachers not getting bonus checks -- references to other legislation that has stalled during the standoff.

"It will be a darn shame if we end without being able to give teachers this 13th check we now have the money to do," said Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound).

Governor Abbott also reiterated Friday he will continue to call special sessions, so democrats are only delaying the inevitable.


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