The Brief: Top Texas News for Dec. 13, 2010

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

'Tis the season for team-switching.

On the same weekend a game-changing Longhorn leadership shuffle made headlines, two conservative House Democrats, with an eye on their political future, made a few waves of their own.

State Rep. Allan Ritter, Democrat of Nederland, said Saturday that he's switching parties — a move that would give House Republicans their 99th member, one shy of a coveted two-thirds supermajority, with which the GOP could, for instance, pass constitutional amendments.

"In order to best reflect the views of the majority of the people of District 21, I have decided to change my party affiliation," Ritter said in a statement. "I believe this will allow me to more accurately and effectively represent my constituents while addressing the challenges facing our state."

 

But with rumors about Edinburg Democrat Aaron Peña's side-switching also circulating, that 100 looks more than likely for Republicans. Peña, who said he's taking the matter into consideriation, told the Rio Grande Guardian, "I am who I am, and my intention is to represent my community and to give them the best possible advantage under the current environment."

On Twitter, Peña later wrote: "Hard not to notice the stir back in Texas. Change is always difficult."

And the good fortune doesn't end there for the Republicans. In House District 44, voters will go to the polls Tuesday to select a replacement for late state Rep. Edmund Kuempel among a field of two Democrats, a Libertarian and seven Republicans. Though a runoff is likely, if the GOP ultimately holds onto the seat, and Peña indeed switches over, Republicans could net their 101st member.

CULLED:

  • A federal judge has ruled against a family alleging that the city of Houston has mounted a weak defense of a voter-approved referendum to rid the city of red-light cameras in a dispute with the company operating the cameras.

"Texans ought to get a dose of what they voted for — anti-immigration, this foolishness about opting out of Medicaid. I hope they do. My heart goes out for the people who will suffer, but if they are crazy enough to do that, go ahead." — State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, on the Republican rout in November

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