What is a filibuster? This is everything you need to know as Carol Alvarado launches effort to stop voting bill

Democratic Texas State Sen. Carol Alvarado Houston, together with her fellow Texas legislators, speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Democratic Texas State Sen. Carol Alvarado Houston, together with her fellow Texas legislators, speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

HOUSTON – State Sen. Carol Alvarado has announced she would filibuster the GOP’s voting bill, but what does that effort entail and is it allowed?

Take a look at some of the questions you might be considering and the answers provided via the state’s information on the filibuster. This includes how it works as well as a look at some of the lengthiest in Texas’ history.

RELATED: Texas Sen. Carol Alvarado to filibuster GOP elections bill, adding fuel to Democratic fight to block the legislation

So what is a filibuster?

A filibuster is the prolonged discussion of a bill by an individual, intended to delay legislative action. Filibusters can happen at the state and federal levels of government.

Are filibusters allowed in Texas?

Filibusters are permitted in the Texas Legislature, but only in the Senate -- not in the House of Representatives.

In 2013, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, led a filibuster of SB 5, a bill related to regulations on abortion providers in Texas, on the last day of the special session (Photo by Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images) (Getty Images 2021)

Are there any rules for a filibuster?

Filibusters are governed by the Senate rules and by precedents interpreting the rules, according to the Legislative Reference Library of Texas.

Rule 3.02 prohibits eating or drinking in the Senate chamber.

Rule 4.01 requires a member of the Senate to stand at his or her desk to address the Senate. The member speaking may not sit, lean, or use a desk or chair in any way. Bathroom breaks are not allowed.

Rule 4.03, which governs the interruption of a member who is speaking, allows other senators to raise objections if a speaker does not confine his or her remarks to the issue under consideration or if his or her voice is inaudible.

Is there a way to end a filibuster?

The Legislative Reference Library of Texas says if a point of order is raised that the senator speaking has violated the rules for decorum or debate, the presiding officer will warn the senator twice; after a third violation, the Senate may vote on the point of order. If it is sustained, the senator speaking must yield the floor.

What is the longest filibuster?

Senator Bill Meier holds both the state and national record for his 43-hour filibuster on SB 1275 during the 65th regular session in 1977. Senator Meier objected to a provision of the bill which would have prevented public inspection of the records of the Industrial Accident Board, the Legislative Reference Library of Texas notes.

How common are filibusters?

Filibusters are not officially recorded in the Senate Journal, and they can be difficult to document, but they are not uncommon. The Legislative Reference Library has identified more than 100 filibusters in the last 72 years, including several record-breakers. Here are the longest on record.

65th R.S., 5/2/1977, Bill Meier, SB 1275, 43 hours, Houston Post, 5/5/1977 “Filibuster sets record, but bill passes anyway”

62nd, 3 C.S., 6/27/1972, Mike McKool, SB 1, 42 hours, 33 min, Houston Chronicle ,6/28/1972 “McKool, glassy-eyed, but strong of voice, breaks filibuster record”

62nd R.S., 5/29/1971, Don Kennard, HB 303, 29 hours, 22 min, Dallas Times-Herald, 5/31/1971 “UT-Dallas bill gains nod despite record filibuster”

See a full list of record-holders here.


About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, social media news and local crime.