State SenateNew Members, New Dynamics for Texas Senate in 88th Regular Legislative Session

A large group of freshmen senators is changing up the political landscape in the upper chamber of the Texas Legislature.
January 10, 2023
As lawmakers and staff have been making preparations for the gaveling in of the Legislature’s 88th session on Tuesday, those interested in better understanding the midterm election’s impact on the political dynamics of the Senate will need to view the chamber and its 31 members through the lenses of partisanship, personalities, and procedures.

Voters across Texas elected six new lawmakers to join the upper chamber of the Texas Legislature, a change that has not only further solidified the Republican supermajority’s control but Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s as well.

Procedurally, there are a few important facts to know about how the Senate operates.

While a simple majority in the Senate is 16 votes, it takes a greater threshold to pass a bill.

The “blocker bill” as it’s known is the first bill passed from a committee to the Senate floor for consideration, where it remains. The rules of the upper house require bills to be considered in the order they are passed; however, a supermajority may vote to suspend this rule and allow other legislation to be considered out of order, giving the leaders of the chamber greater control over the legislative agenda.

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The present threshold to bring a bill to the floor is 18, or five-ninths of the entire chamber. After that, it may pass by a simple majority.

Republicans gained one vote this cycle with former representative Senator-elect Phil King (R-Weatherford) defeating Sen. Beverly Powell (D-Fort Worth), who conceded early in the District 10 race. That raised the number of GOP senators from 18 to 19, allowing them to comfortably control the business of the chamber without Democratic interference.

This is good news for Patrick, who released a list of legislative priorities and reserved the first 30 bill numbers for priority issues, which typically receive a low number when filed.

Patrick’s control of the chamber will be improved not only in partisan makeup but with the changes in his own caucus as well.

Outgoing Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), who represented a more moderate wing of the GOP, frequently clashed with Patrick, from voting against his fellow Republicans on key votes to threatening to hold up legislation by refusing to bring it to the floor.

After both Patrick and former President Donald Trump endorsed a primary challenger to Seliger in Midland businessman Kevin Sparks, Seliger opted against running for reelection.

Only one of the new members joining the Senate this session is a Democrat, after Morgan LaMantia narrowly defeated Republican Adam Hinojosa in a tight race that even went to a recount.

LaMantia will be succeeding Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) for the District 27 seat.

Two more of the incoming Republican senators are leaving seats in the Texas House of Representatives beside King, including Senator-elect Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston) who will succeed retiring Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) for District 11, and Senator-elect Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), who is replacing Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) in District 12.

Gov. Greg Abbott recently appointed Nelson to serve as Texas secretary of state.


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Matt Stringer

Matt Stringer is a reporter for The Texan who writes about all things government, politics, and public policy. He graduated from Odessa College with an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Leadership. In his free time, you will find him in the great outdoors, usually in the Davis Mountains and Big Bend region of Southwest Texas.

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