Texas Tribune News
Faced with a stalemate on his priority property tax proposal, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Friday that if no deal materializes over the weekend, he plans to take the “nuclear option” on Monday and force a vote — blowing past Senate tradition to pass the bill with a simple majority instead of the three-fifths vote typically required in the upper chamber.
For months, Patrick and his lieutenants have struggled to pass Senate Bill 2, a sweeping reform measure that would require cities, counties and school districts to seek voter approval for any tax levy increases of more than 2.5 percent in a given year, not including new growth. Needing 19 votes to bring the measure to the floor, and having, he said, 18 of 19 Republican votes in the upper chamber, Patrick had to watch the bill stall for more than two months after it was filed.
“I respect our Senate rules, but I do not intend to let a procedural motion stop the Senate from passing this important bill. If using the so-called ‘nuclear option’ is the only choice left to me to pass meaningful and lasting property tax reform and relief on Monday, as Lt. Governor I will lead as the public expects me to lead and exercise that option,” Patrick said in a statement to The Texas Tribune on Friday. “The public doesn’t care about our procedural rules. They want tax relief and they deserve it. Time is running out on our session.”
Traditionally, the upper chamber starts the session by passing what’s called a “blocker bill” — a bill that sits ahead of any other priorities on the Senate’s ordered agenda so that bringing up anything other measure ahead of it requires a three-fifths vote, or 19 senators in support if all 31 are on the floor. Passing that bill would allow Patrick to bring a measure to the floor with a simple majority of senators, just 16.
It wouldn’t be the first time Patrick upended tradition to grease the skids in the chamber he’s led since 2015. That year, in his first term as lieutenant governor, Patrick lowered the threshold from two-thirds to three-fifths, allowing the chamber’s Republicans to bring legislation to the floor without support from any Democrats.