A Convention of States resolution is eligible to be approved by the Texas Senate this week, but comments by one Republican lawmaker have placed its passage in jeopardy.
SJR 2 by State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R–Granbury) would add Texas to the growing number of states calling for an Article V Convention to rein-in the federal government—a major priority of grassroots activists and conservative leaders. Gov. Greg Abbott has aggressively campaigned for the issue and named it an “emergency item” in his State of the State address.
In keeping with his pledge to fast-track the governor’s priorities, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick ensured that Birdwell’s Convention of States resolution received a hearing last week in the State Affairs Committee where it passed on a party-line vote.
However, despite voting in favor of the resolution in committee, State Sen. Jane Nelson (R–Flower Mound) made clear that she was still undecided as to how to vote on the floor.
“I told Senator Birdwell that if this committee approved SJR 38 I would vote today in favor of SJR 2 and SB 21 so that we can move forward this conversation on to the Senate floor, but I want it to be known that I still have concerns,” said Nelson. “I will be working closely with Sen. Birdwell and any who have amendments and I would urge anyone who came to testify today, anyone who is listening to come forward with their ideas on how we can make this a product that will accomplish both our goal of asserting our state sovereignty and yet protecting that very precious document: our Constitution.”
Nelson’s remarks place the passage of the resolution in jeopardy due to the Texas Senate’s three-fifths rule that requires 19 senators to agree before an item can be brought to the floor for a vote.
Given the balance of power in the chamber, Republicans can still succeed even if two lawmakers break ranks and joins with Democrats to oppose the measure. However, one spot is likely already filled by State Sen. Craig Estes (R–Wichita Falls) who torpedoed the resolution last session.
Should Nelson join Estes in opposing Convention of States, advocates cannot sustain any more Republican losses lest be faced with the tall order of convincing a Democrat to join them in order to pass the resolution.
Asked for comment on Nelson’s position, Convention of States directors Paul Hodson and Tamara Colbert were optimistic that she would support the measure on the floor.
“There are more than 3,400 Convention of States activists in Sen. Nelson’s district and we are optimistic that she will continue to support them in this historic effort for Texas to lead,” they said.
***Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the support of 20 senators is necessary for legislation to pass the Texas Senate under the three-fifths rule. That has been corrected to 19.