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After testy exchange, Senate adopts 2017 rules

The Texas Senate on Wednesday approved its rules for the 2017 session after Republicans turned aside an attempt to change a rule that diminished the power of Democrats.

As introduced by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, the resolution made only minor changes to rules adopted early in the 2015 session – but kept intact a provision requiring support from 19 senators before a bill can get a vote on the Senate floor, down from a 21-vote rule that had been in place for decades.

Republicans hold a 20-11 advantage in the Senate, unchanged from 2015.

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, proposed an amendment reinstating the 21-vote rule, engaging Hancock in a sometimes testy exchange that received a bang of the gavel and an admonition from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick not to talk over each other.

The rules change reduced the power of every senator to have meaningful input on every bill, not just Democrats, West argued.

Hancock, however, said the change allowed only 28 bills to be voted on with support from less than 21 senators in the previous session. Those bills were written by senators from both parties, he said.

“That knife cuts both ways,” Hancock said.

West’s amendment was defeated 20-11 on a party-line vote, and the rules contained in Senate Resolution 3 were approved 29-2.

The resolution, which also expanded the Criminal Justice Committee from seven to nine members, was the only piece of business taken up by the Senate, which adjourned until 11 a.m. Tuesday.

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