The Texas Senate approved its rules on Wednesday, including a change to previous rules that will reduce the number of senators needed to bring legislation to the floor from 19 to 18.
Republicans lost their supermajority of 19 members in November when then-Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton) was defeated by then-Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio).
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick advocated the change to help Republicans last month during the Senate District 30 special runoff election, at which time then-Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) said that he would support the rule change.
The reduction to a five-ninths requirement follows a similar reduction to a three-fifths requirement, which Patrick also led in 2015 to help Republicans.
Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) introduced the Senate resolution (SR) that included the five-ninths provision, SR 2.
Hughes acknowledged that Republicans losing a seat in the body was a driving factor in the rule change.
The resolution was divided into two votes, one with the general rules and another with the specific five-ninths rule.
Senators approved the five-ninths rule along partisan lines in an 18 to 13 vote.
The other sections of SR 2 were approved unanimously.
Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) introduced SR 4, which outlines the Senate rules related to the upcoming redistricting process.
SR 4 included a provision to hold regional hearings through a virtual method out of precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic, though that provision was limited to the redistricting process and Huffman said it was not intended to establish a precedent for future legislative sessions.
The Senate also approved a caucus report that establishes COVID-19 protocols for the body.
Most notably, senators, staff, and the public will be required to test negative for COVID-19 on the day of or show proof of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination in order to enter the Senate floor, gallery, or committee hearings.
Based on the report, individual senators will decide if they want to require members of the public to test negative prior to entry of their own offices.
Patrick thanked the senators for unanimously approving the coronavirus protocols, which he said will help save lives, and added that he believed they “should test for the entire Capitol, for anyone to come in.”
The caucus report requires members to wear masks on the floor “except when alone at their desk,” but makes no mention of a mask requirement for staff or the public on the floor or in the gallery.
However, masks are currently required for entry to the capitol.
After adopting the Senate rules, the body adjourned for a two-week period.