In a fiery speech at his Inauguration last week, the new Lieutenant Governor for the Lone Star State said it several times…
“What day is it?? It’s a new day in Texas.”
This is what Dan Patrick proclaimed shortly after ascending to the state’s second highest office. But under his leadership, it may be the state’s highest office in actuality. The old dynamics of the Perry era– a “showboat Governor” at the helm with a more passive, pensive Lieutenant Governor on the dyess– have been turned on their head. In the new guard of state leadership, there is no question that Governor Abbott has the cooler head.
Only hours into his new post, the Lieutenant Governor is wasting no time to implement his fringe Right agenda. Via Texpatriate, Patrick has begun his reign over the State Senate by decimating Democratic leadership…
Making good on two longstanding committees, Patrick both consolidated the number of committees and significantly reduced the number of Democratic chairs for those committees that remained. Three committees (Government Organization, Jurisprudence and Open Government) got the ax, and a further two committees (Economic Development and Natural Resources, respectively) were merged. This had the overall effect of slashing the total number of committees from 18 to 14.
All three folded committees had been chaired in the 83rd session by Democrats, as did a further three committees. Thus, 1/3rd of the committees had Democrats at the helm, roughly the proportion of the chamber controlled by the minority party. Patrick kept State Senator John Whitmire (D-Harris County), the dean of the chamber, in charge of the Criminal Justice Committee, a position he has held for many years. He also tapped State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Cameron County) as the chair of Intergovernmental Relations, a rather low-ranking post. Reportedly, this was an olive branch extended to the upper house’s most centrist Democrat. Lucio was the one Democrat this past week to vote for the elimination of the 2/3rds rule, as well as for the omnibus anti-abortion bill HB2 (the one Wendy Davis filibustered) in 2013.
Yes Texas… your new Lieutenant Governor has axed the Open Government committee. Anyone see the irony here??
The committee shake-ups come less than one week after the Senate scrapped one of its oldest traditions of requiring a two-thirds majority to deem a bill filibuster proof. This prevents any other Democrat from creating moments like Wendy Davis did in 2011 and 2013.
One thing can be said in earnest for Patrick though… he has stayed true to his word. So far, he has honored each and every promise he made to swing Texas government even further to the fringe Right than once thought possible. Democrats will have no place in the Senate in 2015, unless they can beg Republican friends for support.
So yes, we can all agree with our new Lieutenant Governor… it is indeed a new day in Texas. The question is… what challenges will that new day bring?
Hang on everyone. Looks like we’re in for a bumpy ride.