The PJ Tatler

Tort reform bill presents critical turn in Texas' political landscape

If I were to believe all of the rumors that reach me in my Tatler lair, I would believe that Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is definitely running for US Senate next year, and I would also believe that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is definitely running for Texas governor in 2014. The latter is predicated on what Gov. Rick Perry decides to do, both this year and next; the former would put the Lt. Gov. in a race where his formidable war chest would put him at the very top of the list of contenders. Dewhurst could run for both offices, but with the 82nd session of the Texas legislature winding toward a close in a couple of weeks, the Lt. Gov. will probably soon have to disprove at least one of the rumors.

Thus far, the 82nd session has been mostly a success from the conservative point of view. By no means perfect, but mostly successful. The lege finally passed a strong voter ID bill, for instance, that will help clean up elections across the state. The House has passed a good loser pays tort reform bill, fighting off a massively funded campaign by Democrat funder and trial lawyer Steve Mostyn in the process. The Senate is taking that bill up now, with the session clock running out. Gov. Perry made this bill one of his priorities and has said he will sign it, but there is a chance that the bill could languish in the Senate. Under the Texas constitution, the Senate is Lt. Gov Dewhurst’s domain. It is this power that makes his office probably the most powerful in the state government. The Democrats, relegated to a rump minority in the House, were able to drag debates on everything long past reasonable limits, and the GOP majority eventually had to clamp down. Will Dewhurst’s Senate, with its strong GOP majority, let the Democrats run wild? That’s a critical question, and one the conservative grass roots will pay a great deal of attention to. If the tort reform bill doesn’t make it to Gov. Perry’s desk, the Lt. Gov. may wind up competitive in neither of the races he is rumored to be running in.