State Senate District 10 GOP candidates say chamber rules need to change

01/28/2014 7:47 PM

01/28/2014 7:48 PM

Republicans seeking to reclaim state Senate District 10 say they are tired of the rule that lets a minority of senators block a bill from being considered on the Texas Senate floor.

That’s why each Republican in this race said Tuesday they will work to eliminate or water down the long-standing so-called two-thirds rule, which requires at least 21 votes before a bill can reach the floor for debate.

“It really doesn’t make sense that we as Republicans hold such a large majority in the Senate and House and allow Democrats to dictate what we do and don’t do,” said Arlington school Trustee Tony Pompa, one of five candidates in the GOP race. “I want to pass conservative legislation … we as Republicans want.”

Others candidates at a forum sponsored by the Reagan Legacy Republican Women’s Club agreed. They were Konni Burton of Colleyville, a longtime leader in the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party; Colleyville chiropractor Jon Schweitzer; former state Rep. Mark Shelton of Fort Worth; and Mark Skinner, a businessman who is a former Colleyville councilman.

“If we are Texans and we are conservative, we need to take every advantage we have in the Senate to pass conservative legislation,” Skinner said. “We are blocked by a minority of Democrats.”

Current lawmakers have resisted changing the rule, which protected Republicans when they were in the minority, because they say it forces them to build bipartisan support on most bills.

But Republican candidates in other races, including those hoping to be the state’s next lieutenant governor, have also called for ending the rule.

The race for state Senate District 10 is expected to be one of the most watched and most expensive races in the state.

The winner of the March 4 Republican primary will face the winner of the Democratic primary, which pits Libby Willis, a longtime neighborhood leader, and Mike Martinez, a local energy executive.

A controversial rule

The two-thirds rule the candidates want to eliminate — or to lower to a 60 percent requirement, which would be 19 votes — is exactly why the race for state Senate District 10 is so important to both parties.

The district has been represented since 2009 by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who is not seeking re-election because she is running for governor.

If the rule doesn’t change, if Democrats lose the seat, and if all other Senate seats stay the same, Republicans are closer to clinching a supermajority in the chamber.

Burton said the law as it exists today “has been very aggravating.”

Shelton said, “It’s real important we do what it takes to make sure our agenda gets through the Texas Senate.”

And Schweitzer said it will be one of his priorities and he “will talk with the lieutenant governor” about it once he is elected.

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