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Deuell Backs Changes to Two-Thirds Rule

Also, the Texas Farm Bureau refrains from making runoff endorsement, Dewhurst releases interim charges on governmental transparency and Barry Smitherman hosts a fundraiser — as railroad commissioner.

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State Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, tells Texas Weekly that he’d support changes to the “two-thirds rule” in the Texas Senate to lower the threshold to 60 percent for bringing legislation to the floor.

Deuell, who is facing Bob Hall in the SD-2 GOP runoff in May 27, said that he’s long backed a modification of the rule, a longtime Senate tradition, as an alternative to doing away with the rule entirely.

Changing the “two-thirds” rule to a “60 percent rule” would mean that 19 votes would be required to bring up a measure, as opposed to the current 21 votes.

As it happens, there are 19 Republican senators right now, and the party is fighting hard to turn the Tarrant County-based SD-10 — the chamber’s only swing district — red.

He later joked that he might come to regret the decision should Democrats gain a majority in the chamber. But he added that he felt confident that he could protect the rural interests of his district under a “60 percent rule.” Deuell’s colleague, Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, has said repeatedly that rural lawmakers have the most to lose by abandoning the “two-thirds rule.”

Deuell won 48.5 percent of the vote in the March 4 party primary, falling just short of the majority needed to win outright. He told TW that several factors worked against him, including poor weather and a drop-off in turnout in his home county by about 3,000 voters.

In addition, he said that he had not anticipated the strength of the third candidate, Mark Thompson, who took 12.7 percent of the vote.

He said that he was working hard to contact his voters to come back out to support him May 27. Also, he said he expected more scrutiny of his opponent in the weeks to come, citing as an example the story in the Thursday edition of The Dallas Morning News examining a 20-year-old allegation of assault against his former wife.

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The Texas Farm Bureau announced this week that it isn’t endorsing the May runoff elections for agriculture commissioner. Spokesman Gene Hall said this was the first time that the TFB has refrained from endorsing.

The group’s endorsee in the GOP primary, J Allen Carnes, finished in fifth place after a campaign dominated by talk of hot-button social issues.

"I never thought I'd see the day where a sonogram bill factors in an ag commissioner race," Hall said.

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Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst this week released another set of interim charges, this time to a number of standing committees on the topic of governmental accountability and transparency.

•    To Senate Health and Human Services, Dewhurst asked members to take a look at prescription drug abuse.

•    To Senate Jurisprudence, Dewhurst asked members to review new requirements from the Texas Supreme Court on statewide electronic filing.

•    To the Senate Committee on Open Government, Dewhurst asked members to look at how to balance full transparency of public records and keeping private information of primary and higher education students “from improper public disclosure. Also, Dewhurst asked the committee to recommend ways to make information about expenditures and contracts on state websites more transparent.

•    To Senate Transportation, Dewhurst asked members to look at the role of Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDA) and Design/Build methods in addressing traffic congestion.

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One “save the date” announcement got our attention this week, this one an invitation to an April 9 reception honoring Barry Smitherman. He might have come in third in a three-way race for the Republican nomination this month, but he’s still chairman at the Railroad Commission.

And as such, he still holds the ax over the heads of the oil and gas industry. Expect this one to be well-attended.

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