Senator Dan Patrick may be just a tad bit more vocal than was Jimmy Stewart’s character in the classic movie. But the comparison is hard to resist. Regardless of one’s life experience, the first stint as an elected legislator is always an educational one. In politics there is tradition and protocol and bureaucracy to deal with that most of us are blissfully unaware of in our non-political worlds. On the opening day of the Texas Senate, while the more seasoned Senators watched in amusement, Senator Dan Patrick proposed to end the time-honored tradition of requiring a 2/3rds approval of the Senate in order to consider a bill. His proposal went down in flames in a vote of 30-1. Welcome to Austin, Senator Patrick.
Many respected conservatives like the Blocker Bill. It ensures that when Democrats are in power that bad legislation will be blocked. And that is a good thing.
What the senior Senators may be ignoring, at their peril, is the power of the people. Unlike Jimmy Stewart, Sen. Patrick did not come to Austin to seek funding for a Boy Scout camp. He came to Austin to shake things up. .And with the power of a radio station at his disposal, he is well equipped to do just that. While Stewart had an army of Boy Scouts to support his efforts in Washington, Patrick has an army of listeners in Texas. The conservative base of the party is largely in favor of abolishing the 2/3rds rule in the senate. The State Republican Executive Committee passed a resolution in favor of abolishing the rule. The people are on Patrick’s side.
The Senate is a collegial body that likes to remain above the fray. Senator Patrick will force them to vote to block consideration on any number of issues. Just today he filed a trigger bill to outlaw all abortions in Texas, contingent on the overturning of Roe v. Wade. He filed a bill to tax out-of-country wire transfers which will raise tax revenue from the underground economy of illegal workers. Bravo, Senator Patrick! Will these bills be blocked from consideration by the 2/3rds rule?
Of course, a vote to block consideration of a bill is tantamount to voting against the bill, but the Senators are able to spin it by saying they never voted against that particular issue. If 2/3rds of the Senators agree to shut Patrick down, it’s possible that no bill that Sen. Patrick puts forth will see the light of day.
While Dan Patrick has already ruffled feathers around the state with the targeting of legislators by his radio program, especially those who opposed appraisal caps, that is nothing compared to the feathers that will fly in Austin. How often have we seen conservatives arrive in Austin ready to conquer the world, but by the time their fellow legislators and lobbyists finish with them, they get beaten down. They lose their boldness. Will Patrick be an effective Senator? Will his enthusiasm and determination last? Will Lt. Governor Dewhurst put a muzzle on him? Will Patrick’s radio audience march on Austin? Time will tell. But this frustrated grassroots conservative is rooting for him. Welcome to the legislature, Senator.