The Texas Senate Special Committee on Constitutional Issues met on August 9 to take up SJR 1 (Birdwell) Proposing a constitutional amendment relating to the determination of a quorum of the senate or house of representatives. SJR 1 was voted out at the end of the hearing. A video recording of this hearing can be found here.
This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics taken up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the discussions but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.
SJR 1 (Birdwell) a constitutional amendment relating to the determination of a quorum of the Senate or the House of Representatives.
- Birdwell – Highlights statements from founding fathers supporting majority quorum, warning against supermajority quorum; Texas’ quorum standard has been exploited a number times & cannot allow a minority of lawmakers to impede work
- SJR 1 proposed constitutional amendment lowering standard to simple majority, will put Texas in line with federal constitution and 46 other states with simple majority
- Hinojosa – Right now, US Constitution applies to Congress and US Senate, requires majority; applies across board
- Birdwell – Correct, Constitutional standard that applies regardless of which party is the majority party in either body
- Hinojosa – 2/3 standard could allow a minority to stop the majority from conducting business
- True, while most quorum breaks are a partisan break, you could have a quorum break for urban/rural; not solely partisan
- Would keep a minority from crippling legislature
- Hinojosa – Both Republicans and Democrats have broken quorum across the US; would apply only to future situations, on ballot in Nov 2022?
- If passed by both chambers with 2/3rds, would be on the May ballot, at a minimum in Nov 2022; deadline for Nov 2021 has passed
- Hinojosa – This issue has been discussed since the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and in the Federalist Papers
- Birdwell – Jefferson was concerned that if you make the quorum by rule of each chamber, it could fluctuate and disable the legislature routinely; he thought quorum standard should be Constitutional as opposed to within chamber rule
- Lucio – Supports SJRs generally on the will of the people, important to allow constituents to weigh in; took part in a walk out in 2003, but important part is people have right to voice how their government will work
Michael Belsick, Self – For
- Elected representatives are chosen to debate and come to final resolutions, and vote on any and all issues
- January 6 were labeled insurrectionists because they delayed the legislative process; Democrats that abandoned the state did the same thing
- In favor of changing the quorum
- If Democrats ever gained full control, they would not want the Republicans to do the same thing
- Lucio – I would hope we make this as nonpartisan as possible; important to recognize that both parties do this, important to allow people to decide
SJR 1 voted out 5-0