DALLAS (AP) — Republicans lost their 102-member supermajority in the Texas House early Wednesday, opening the door for Democrats to slow or block the majority’s conservative agenda or demand compromise.
Democrats have won more than 50 seats in the 150-member lower chamber of the Legislature. That means Republicans can no longer suspend the rules to push through legislation over the objections of minority Democrats.
Last year, Republicans had enough lawmakers to form a quorum without any Democrat showing up for work. Now Democrats could shut down state lawmaking if they wished.
Democrats added seats mostly through redistricting, which occurs every 10 years when the new U.S. Census is released. Texas added more than 4.3 million people between 2000 and 2010 and 89 percent of them were minorities.
Democratic leaders have said they will use their increased strength to block conservative bills and demand compromise on public education and health care issues.
Republican lawmakers point out that they remain the majority party and will continue to demand less government spending and lower taxes.
Next year’s legislative session, which begins in January, will be contentious with state spending, health care and public schools taking center stage. Lawmakers will immediately need to make up a $4.7 billion budget deficit that they created last year by not setting aside enough money for Medicaid.
Voters replaced many moderate Republicans with tea party-backed conservatives and the incoming Texas House will have more freshmen lawmakers than usual. That could lead to more partisanship.
Right-wing activist groups, such as FreedomWorks and Empower Texas, also are pushing to remove House Speaker Joe Straus, whom they consider too moderate. Straus may need to rely on Democrats for re-election, creating even more rancor among conservatives.
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