The Brief: Top Texas News for March 4, 2011

The Big Conversation:

A slew of amendments — some serious, some not so much — from Democrats couldn't keep the Texas House from tentatively approving one of the strictest abortion laws in the country Thursday night.

Debate over state Rep. Sid Miller's House Bill 15 — which would require doctors to perform a sonogram on women seeking abortions at least 24 hours before the procedure, making no exceptions for victims of rape or incest — stretched on for seven hours, past 9 p.m. The chamber cleared the bill by a preliminary vote of 103-42, with seven Democrats voting in favor and one Republican against, the Tribune's Reeve Hamilton reports.

Democrats, contending with a Republican supermajority, fired more than 30 amendments at the bill, most of which were tabled largely along party lines. Seizing their moment to make a point, some Democrats went tongue-in-cheek. Criticizing the bill as government intrusion, Rep. Marisa Marquez, D-El Paso, said the state should also allow pregnant women to force promiscuous men to undergo vasectomies. "What's good for the goose is good for the gander," she said to stifled laughter.

"I'm going to have to draw the line at this point and say no more cuts," Miller cracked.

But some were more serious. Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, recounted his wife's high-risk pregnancy as he proposed an exception for women with medical complications.

The bill reached the preliminary vote largely unchanged. It still must be read and voted on once more before it heads back to the Senate, and winds its way to the governor's desk.

Culled:

  • The Houston Chronicle has a look at state Rep. Debbie Riddle's now-notorious House Bill 1202, which would fine and possibly jail Texans who "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly" hire undocumented immigrants but exempts those who hire "work to be performed exclusively or primarily at a single-family residence" (e.g., maids). "I'm not very politically correct most of the time. I'm not too good at it," Riddle, R-Tomball, tells the Chronicle. "What I'm trying to do is inject common sense into government. I'm finding out that's not too easy."
  • President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderón announced Thursday that they'd tentatively agreed to open U.S. highways to Mexican truckers, a proposal that, as the Trib's Julián Aguilar reported in January, supporters say would be a boon for state businesses but unions say could cost American jobs.

"I don't know how you get to $4.3 [billion] with cuts. I really don't know how you do it." — Comptroller Susan Combs, expressing support for tapping the Rainy Day Fund, which Gov. Rick Perry and other conservatives oppose cracking open

Must-Read:

Programming Round-Up:

  • Session '11 (Austin, KXAN, Sunday, 9:30 a.m.): David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association
  • Inside Texas Politics (Dallas-Fort Worth, WFAA-TV, Sunday, 9 a.m.): U.S. Rep Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas

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