86th LegislatureIssuesState SenateTaxes & SpendingSenator Kel Seliger Denounces Lt. Governor’s “Nuclear Option”

Sen. Kel Seliger reignites feud with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick over proposed "nuclear option" to bring property tax reform to the floor.
April 15, 2019
On Monday, Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) took to the microphone to voice his displeasure with suspending the existing three-fifths vote threshold to bring Senate Bill 2 to the floor. Seliger, who is known to occasionally quarrel with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, was responding to Patrick’s threat to use the “nuclear option,” which would only require a simple majority to bring the bill up for a vote in the state’s upper chamber.

This scenario was avoided when Seliger joined his fellow Republicans in a 19-12 procedural vote to bring SB 2 to the floor for debate.

However, the Amarillo Republican stated that he had no intention of voting for the bill once it came to floor. In its current iteration, SB 2 would place a 2.5 percent increase cap on property tax rates enacted by school districts, and a 3.5 percent cap on all other taxing entities. Exceeding these caps would then trigger referendum for voters to either approve or disapprove of the tax increase.

After significant debate, SB 2 passed by a vote of 18-13 — with Seliger joining all Senate Democrats in opposition.

In his floor comments, Seliger lamented the “dysfunctional family” dynamic within the Senate, which he hailed as “the most organized deliberative body that there is.” The rules of order, Seliger stressed, are a significant reason the Senate has gained such a reputation. The Senator then professed that the Senate has the reputation it does “[not because] we’ve had it, but because we [have] deserve[d] it.” Seliger’s stated chief concern is that “contemplate[ing] doing away with the 19-vote threshold [is not] being deliberative.”

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The Seliger-Patrick feud came to a head in January when the Senator was stripped of his chairmanship over the Senate Agriculture Committee after making a bawdy remark about one of the Lt. Governor’s female staffers during a radio interview. Seliger claimed shortly after that some of his recent votes against Patrick’s legislation were the real cause for removal, and insinuated the comment was just the excuse the Lt. Governor needed.

As was illustrated on the Senate floor Monday, the feud between Seliger and Patrick continues — at least, rhetorically.

In the televised scolding — aimed indirectly at the body’s chair — Seliger told his colleagues that “People around the state not only believe this bill is injurious to them, but that it is designed to be injurious to them.” Seliger claimed that among those being harmed are county judges and mayors, to which Seliger assured: “he would conduct himself in such a way to ensure they wouldn’t think [he] sold them out.”

Despite denouncing the property tax bill and the process, Seliger supported that very process with his vote in favor of bringing the bill to the floor — declining to exercise one of the established checks on the Lt. Governor’s power — knowing full well that the bill would pass.

Senate Bill 2 will now make its way over to the House for debate and is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, April 24.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.