News Column

Guide to Texas' New Special Session

July 2, 2013
Texas state flag

The legislators who make Texas' laws are themselves governed by rules for operating in each chamber. Here, we define some of the terms that arose Monday as the Legislature convened in its second special session:

--Two-thirds rule: Requires two-thirds, or 21 of the 31 state senators, to agree to debate a bill before the full Senate can consider it. The Senate normally operates under the rule during regular sessions but has suspended it in recent years to consider highly partisan legislation, such as voter ID and redistricting, that the minority opposes.

--Blocker bill: A bill placed on the Senate's calendar to block consideration of other bills below it. It requires a two-thirds vote to consider bills out of order.

--Quorum: Two-thirds of the members of each chamber are required to be present to conduct business. That number is called a quorum.

New session, new bills

Because legislators are in a new session, they must begin again with new bills, more committee hearings and another round of floor debate. Here are the new bill numbers:

--House Bill 2: Would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks except when the mother's life is in danger or in cases of severe fetal abnormality; require abortion clinics to meet the same regulatory standards as ambulatory surgical centers; require doctors performing abortions to have hospital privileges within 30 miles of the clinic; and require closer monitoring of drug-induced abortions.

--Senate Bill 2: Would change the sentence for 17-year-olds who commit capital murder from life without parole to life with parole, to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

--Senate Joint Resolution 2: Would redirect about $900 million a year that would otherwise be destined for the state's rainy day fund to the Texas Department of Transportation to pay for road construction and maintenance.

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Source: Copyright Austin American-Statesman (TX) 2013