The Brief: Top Texas News for Jan. 21, 2011

Governor Rick Perry, Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst after their first weekly breakfast meeting saying they will work together on the state budget.
Governor Rick Perry, Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst after their first weekly breakfast meeting saying they will work together on the state budget.

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Usually dormant for its first two months, the Legislature could get cracking as soon as next week.

And for that, thank voter ID, the controversial legislation requiring Texans to show a form of identification before they vote. On Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry added the issue to his list of "emergency items," which the Legislature can take up right away instead of waiting until after the first 60 days of the session.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst then announced that the state Senate, over which he presides, would take up the issue Monday. Dewhurst spokesman Mike Walz said deeming the issue an emergency — a move that essentially fast-tracks a governor's pet project — would clear the way for lawmakers to deal with other issues.

"It's advantageous to pass voter ID now and allow the Legislature to continue to work on important issues like the budget and redistricting over the course of the rest of the session," Walz said, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

And fast it will go, as the issue, which previously tied up the 2009 session after Democrats stalled, looks likely to pass in light of Republicans' new supermajority in the House, which Democrats now appear to be accepting begrudgingly. "The only positive aspect I can see is that this will be off the table and we can focus on the important business of solving our economic problems and finding solutions," state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, told the Statesman.

On Thursday, the governor also called on lawmakers to pass legislation pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would, like Texas' Constitution, require a balanced budget. Texas has no say in the matter, essentially, but states could collectively pressure Congress to pass an amendment, which would then require ratification by the states.

CULLED:

  • Speaking of David Dewhurst: The lieutenant governor, widely viewed as the (very) early front-runner for Kay Bailey Hutchison's expiring U.S. Senate seat next year, made the rounds in Washington on Thursday to, as Dewhurst spokesman Mike Walz told Politico — "meet with members of the Texas congressional delegation about EPA air permitting, energy and redistricting issues." Walz wouldn't get any more specific about Dewhurst's political intentions in D.C., only offering that the lite guv "was encouraged by his meetings with members of the delegation." And what will happen, by the way, if Dewhurst runs for Senate and Gov. Rick Perry makes a play for, oh, say, the presidency? The Trib's Ross Ramsey toys with the hypotheticals.
  • Could a fight over Texas' budget cuts end up at the U.S. Supreme Court? One already has — sort of. The court will decide whether California has the legal right to reduce the rates it pays health care providers who accept Medicaid — just as Texas' first round of budget cuts recently prescribed.

"I am going to look like an idiot, and they are going to have fun at my expense … and that’s okay." — State Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, who said he was interviewed for a Daily Show segment on anti-Semitism in the speaker's race. The episode is set to air Thursday.

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