The Brief: Top Texas News for Dec. 17, 2010

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston.

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

The Tea Party just got a little bit more organized. And the Democrats, already woeful, just got a little bit more irritated. 

On Thursday, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, announced that 48 state legislators have joined him in creating the Tea Party Caucus, whose formation Patrick promised last month after Republicans won huge gains statewide with an assist, in many cases, from Tea Party groups.

"The Tea Party movement is the most important political movement of our life time," Patrick said in a statement that listed only one other state senator, Brian Birdwell, among the caucus' initial membership, which otherwise includes House members of various conservative stripes, including many freshmen.

Patrick said the caucus will work to pass conservative legislation and will do so with the help of an advisory board made up of 14 state Tea Party leaders. "This is a grassroots-up, not a Legislature-down caucus," Patrick said.

But as the Houston Chronicle's Texas Politics reports, Democrats, currently looking to maintain relevancy after the GOP claimed a supermajority in the Texas House this week, didn't take kindly to the announcement. Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said in a statement that "the new tea party caucus should ensure that the racial animosity and troubling extremist elements of the movement are not brought onto the floor of the Texas Legislature." 

And a statement penned by five Democratic representatives — including Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, Jessica Farrar of Houston and Pete Gallego of Alpine — attacked the new caucus for playing politics during trying times for the state. "Texans have too many urgent problems to entertain ideologically-driven proposals from the far right," the statement said.

CULLED:

  • At a Republican event in Arlington on Thursday, House Speaker Joe Straus downplayed the race for his seat, calling his opponents' attempts to unseat him overblown and fueled by a dishonest online campaign. And though he reassured the audience that the House would likely operate under a more conservative agenda, he wouldn't commit to excluding Democrats from the legislative process: "Whether it be under Republican leadership or Democratic leadership, [the tradition] is to have committee chairmen of both parties. I do not want the Texas House of Representatives to be a mirror image of the United States Congress," he said.
  • Four days after a federal judge in Virginia deemed the Obama administration's sweeping new health care law unconstitutional, Attorney General Greg Abbott traveled to Florida on Thursday to argue on behalf of Texas in another federal suit, filed by Florida (and joined by Texas and 18 other states), against the law. "This is the biggest encroachment upon our freedom that Congress has ever levied and if Congress has the power to force Americans to go out and buy something, Americans will lose their freedom," Abbott said, according to KVUE News.

"So fast it'll make your head spin." — Gov. Rick Perry on how quickly a voter ID bill will pass in the Legislature in light of the new Republican supermajority. Perry added that he thought such a bill would pass with Democratic support, too.

MUST-READ: 

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