87th LegislatureState SenateDan Patrick Calls to Lower Quorum Requirement to a Simple Majority After Democrat Walkout

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants a simple majority instead of two-thirds of members to constitute a quorum in order to prevent future walkouts.
July 16, 2021
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Amidst the partisan tension in the state legislature over the Democrats’ walkout, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott that he wants to see the state lower the number of lawmakers needed to conduct business in each chamber of the legislature from two-thirds to a simple majority.

“Texans expect their legislature to work and not be held hostage by a few legislators who are exploiting the quorum requirement,” wrote Patrick. “The majority of other state legislatures require a simple majority plus one. For that reason, I am respectfully requesting that you add to the call a change the quorum requirement to a majority through a constitutional amendment.”

Such a change would prevent Democrats — or any other party in the minority in the future — from executing a quorum bust to halt legislation.

In his letter, Patrick also boasted about the state Senate approving legislation regarding “almost all the issues” the governor included on his first call of a special session and expressed agreement with Abbott’s idea to potentially call another session.

While the state legislature can pass any legislation during the regular session that occurs every other year, lawmakers are limited to the agenda items listed on a governor’s call for special sessions during the interim.

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Under the state constitution, a two-thirds majority is required for each chamber to conduct business, though “a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absent members.”

Patrick’s proposal to change the constitution will likely face an uphill battle, as amendments require the support of two-thirds of the members in each chamber.

In the Senate, Patrick would need the support of at least a few Democrats such as the four who stayed in Austin this week. But a larger number of House Democrats, many of which are in Washington after utilizing this rule, would need to join with Republicans in order to approve such a constitutional amendment in the lower chamber.

If the measure is approved by the House and Senate, it would then need a majority of Texans to support it at the polls.

Patrick’s new proposal to the governor is not the first time that he has advocated changing the rules to the advantage of the majority.

At the beginning of the regular legislative session this year, Patrick successfully pushed for the Senate to amend its “three-fifths” rule to the “five-ninths” rule.

With that change, bills could be brought to the floor with one less vote than before, making up for the sole Senate seat that Republicans lost in the November election.

Similar to the debate over the U.S. Senate filibuster, the change may benefit the majority party in the short term but come back to haunt them if the opposition takes control.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.