With the tea party wins in the Republican primary and primary run-0ff elections, some are predicting that the bi-partisan spirit that seemed to work well during the last Texas legislative session may evaporate. The rhetoric of Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) during his successful campaign for the Republican nomination for Lt. Gov. are part of the reason for concern. Based on recent Texas elections, Patick is the odds-on winner for the post and will likely be presiding over the senate in January.
Patrick has promised to throw out the State Senate two-thirds rule and also suggested that the senate didn't need any Democratic committee chairs. If Patrick follows through on that rhetoric, indeed the Texas Senate would operate in a very different environment than the historical precedent. Columnist Enrique Rangel, writing in the Amarillo Globe News, has put pen to the concerns that have been expressed orally by other Austin insiders about Washington style gridlock.
There is no question the 84th Texas Legislature will be more conservative the the 83rd, but I think gridlock is unlikely. There may be more tense moments from time to time, but the fact is that all Texas Republicans are conservative (even some of the senate Democrats are somewhat conservative – this is Texas!). There is little diference in what conservative and more conservative Republicans want to accomplish.
While the tea party agenda seems to major in social issues and smaller government, it's unlikely the less conservative Republicans would oppose legislation on those issues. The difference might be more one of focus than conflict. With the possible exception of how to deal with undocumented workers, the Republicans will likely be able to reach concensus on most proposed legislation. Changes in the senate will likely mean the Republicans will get more legislation passed on social issues than in the past, but gridlock can be avoided.
Patrick has proven to be a fast study as a senator. He was elected to the senate with concerns over his rhetoric, but he quickly adapted to the collegiality of the senate and earned a reputation of being reasonable on legislation and making compromises when necessary. He treated his fellow senators with respect and seemed to value their opinions. That's an important trait for any Lt. Gov. who presides over the senate. Patrick will likely recognize that completely ignoring Democratic senators could be counterproductive in moving legisaltion through the senate. He will also likely work with Speaker Straus to move important legislation through the legislative process.
Straus has made it clear that he believes the legislature should address infrasturcture issues such as roads, water, education and energy. While those issues have not been a part of Patrick's campaign, he knows the Texas infrastructure must be addressed and he is unlikely to be a roadblock to practical solutions to difficult problems.
When people are elected to leadership positions, they usually respond to the responsibilities of office. I expect tea party supported leaders will do the same.