Texas lawmakers set rules and gear up for House vs. Senate session

Texas Republican Senator Kelly Hancock from North Richmond Hills debates Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, on the Senate rules. (KXAN Photo)
Texas Republican Senator Kelly Hancock from North Richland Hills debates Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, on the Senate rules. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Wednesday, Texas lawmakers set the rules for the 85th legislative session. They will operate under these rules every day as they try to pass bills impacting Texas lives.

The Senate set up a structure that will allow its Republican majority to fast track their bills. The house, however, did the opposite: setting up a tougher threshold for passing controversial measures.

Nearly every day at the Capitol some group will announce they love or hate something. Wednesday, it was “Texas Welcomes All” loathing the upcoming “bathroom bill.”

“That is designed to discriminate against our fellow citizens under the guise of privacy,” said Phil Jones from Visit Dallas.

Many believe Texans voted for bills like that by electing their lawmakers. Hours before Democrats in the Texas Senate protested but eventually lost a fight on the Senate rules. Senator Royce West, D-Dallas, tried to change the amount of senators it would take to bring a bill up for a vote. In 2013 senators needed two-thirds of the chamber to agree to vote. In 2015, they needed three-fifths of the body, which took control out of Democrat hands.

To pass a bill they’ll need 19 votes. There are 20 Republicans. “You have a voice in this Senate to represent your district in any way you choose to represent it. It doesn’t mean you get to win,” Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, said trying to console the Democratic members.

The rules passed 20 to 11, a party line vote. In the House, several conservative members tried to pass rules to speed up the process to pass hot button bills.

“You’re chewing off the clock while all the rest of your bills are dying off the back of the calendar,” complained Rep, Mike Schofield, R-Katy.

They were rejected at every turn. “We actually may want to open up our rule book members. Go ahead and crack that open. Listen to it. Listen to it,” expressed Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, holding a House rule book.

It sets the stage for a stressful few months, between a quick-acting conservative Senate and a deliberative, compromising House.

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