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LRL Home - Legislation - Redistricting - Congressional redistricting 2001 - 2003 - The two-thirds rule

The two-thirds rule

Senate Rules

Under the rules of the Texas Senate, senators are required to take up bills and resolutions for debate according to the "regular order of business."

Rules 5.09 - 5.12 govern the regular order of business in the Senate. Among other things, these rules state that bills and resolutions shall be considered on second reading and shall be listed on the Daily Calendar of Bills and Resolutions on the President's table in the order in which the committee report was received by the Secretary of the Senate. They also state that bills and resolutions shall be considered on third reading in the order in which they were passed on second reading.

Senate rules also provide a means of getting around the regular order of business requirement. Rule 5.13 states that a bill, joint resolution, or resolution affecting state policy may be considered out of its regular calendar order if two-thirds of the members present vote to suspend the regular order of business.

Senate Tradition

For almost half a century, blocker bills have routinely been placed at the top of the Senate's Daily Calendar, which in effect forces a suspension of the regular order of business on every bill. Blocker bills are bills that are introduced and passed out of committee as early as possible in a legislative session in order that they may occupy the first positions on the calendar. They are not intended to be worthy of serious consideration or passage. The sole purpose of a blocker bill is to ensure that at least two-thirds of the membership have an interest in debating a measure before it can come to the floor. Bills that do not enjoy substantial support cannot make it past the blocker bill.

Though it has been set aside on rare occasions, this practice -- known as the "two-thirds rule" -- has been an honored tradition in the Senate. Among other things, it is generally acknowledged that the Senate's two-thirds rule fosters civility, a willingness to compromise, and a spirit of bipartisanship.

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