Could a Texas legislature-style filibuster happen in Nevada?

Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis

Update: Sean McDonald, who runs the Amicus Nevada law blog, has a new post up regarding the material in this blog post. He disagrees with Byerman and says that Senate Rules 80 and 81 do not provide a mechanism to cut off a filibuster. It’s worth a read.

In the words of Nevada Senate Secretary David Byerman, the short answer is no.

In case you’re not following the whole thing on Twitter, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) has launched into an hours-long filibuster of a bill that would restrict the ability of women to get abortions, according to the Texas Tribune. (You can view the floor proceedings here).

So what if one of the state senators from Nevada tried filibustering? According to Byerman, such could not happen due to a process in the Senate Rule 80 and 81. See below:

1. Every Senator who speaks shall, standing in his place, address “Mr. or Madam
President,” in a courteous manner, and shall confine himself to the question before the Senate.
When he has finished, he shall sit down.
2. No Senator may speak:
(a) More than twice during the consideration of any one question on the same day, except for
(b) A second time without leave when others who have not spoken desire the floor.
3. Incidental and subsidiary questions arising during debate shall not be considered the same

The previous question shall not be put unless demanded by three Senators, and it shall be in this
form: “Shall the main question be put?” When sustained by a majority of Senators present it shall
put an end to all debate and bring the Senate to a vote on the question or questions before it, and all
incidental questions arising after the motion was made shall be decided without debate. A person
who is speaking on a question shall not while he or she has the floor move to put that question.

Essentially, Nevada senators can’t filibuster because it’s quite easy to end debate on the senate floor – if someone was to attempt to filibuster, one would only need three senators to call the previous question, interrupting the speaking senator and forcing them to wait until every other waiting senator talk. There are no standard rules for cloture or similar rules that are used by the U.S. Senate or the Texas Senate.

“If someone were to stand and start talking and talking and talking, someone could call the previous question,” Byerman said.

The Nevada Assembly has essentially the same rules, but gives the author of the bill/resolution/move the power to close debate.

I’m not a legal expert by any means, but that’s how I understand it. Byerman said that as far as he knows, no Nevada Senator or Assemblyman has ever attempted to filibuster during the legislative session. Wendy Davis may be getting a ton of media attention, but any Nevada state officials looking to follow in her footsteps would probably get shot down.

Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis