The Texas Senate adopted its procedural rules Wednesday afternoon, including a revision of the number of votes required to bring a bill to the floor, and new rules governing health and safety practices in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the changing nature of the pandemic, the rules are considered temporary and will be revisited in March.
On partisan lines, the Senate voted 18-13 to change the majority vote needed to bring a bill up for discussion from three-fifths (19 votes out of the 31-member Senate) to five-ninths (18 votes). The change was supported by the Republican majority after the partisan makeup of the Senate went from 19-12 to 18-13 after the November elections. In order to block a purely-partisan bill from consideration, Democrats would need to convince at least one Republican to join them in opposing the bill.
COVID-19 testing will be widely required for members, staff, and the public attending any Senate activities. In order to enter the Senate gallery or a Senate committee hearing, a member of the public must have a negative COVID-19 test from the same day. Senators and Senate staff who enter the Senate chambers must also be tested daily; other Senate staff must be tested at least once at the beginning of each week. (A person with proof of COVID-19 vaccination is allowed access.) Individual senators can determine whether they will require a negative COVID test for public access to their offices.
The House is expected to adopt rules on Thursday.