The Brief: Top Texas News for May 30, 2011

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, reads letters from her constituents on the Senate floor as she filibusters SB1811 on Sunday night May 29, 2011
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, reads letters from her constituents on the Senate floor as she filibusters SB1811 on Sunday night May 29, 2011

The Big Conversation:

A Democrat's last stand may have just pushed the legislative session, set to end today, into overtime — which could start as soon as tomorrow.

In a make-or-break day for the state budget, with the finish line in sight, things broke down Sunday night when Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, filibustered for a little more than an hour, likely killing a school finance and revenue bill, the last remaining piece of the budget puzzle.

Davis, starting at 10:45 p.m. and looking to push debate on the bill past a midnight deadline, ran out the clock by reading aloud letters from constituents and the list of funding cuts to Texas' 1,200 school districts.

"This is a tool we had to make a stand," Davis said at a press conference afterward, adding, "And I'm glad I used it on behalf of the people I represent."

Davis' filibuster, Democrats' last chance to protest the sweeping cuts approved by the Republican-dominated Legislature this session, came a day after both chambers passed a final budget cutting a record $15 billion from current spending levels. The filibustered bill, which doles out the $4 billion in cuts to public education included in the final budget, could come up today in the Senate, but it'd take a hard-to-get four-fifths vote to pull it up again.

Mark Miner, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry, said Sunday that the governor would call lawmakers back for a special session, beginning as soon as Tuesday, if the bill didn't pass. "And when that special session is called, anything that hasn't been resolved is on the table," Miner said, in what could be viewed as a threat to reintroduce the session's most controversial piece of immigration-related legislation, the "sanctuary cities" bill, which Democrats had successfully derailed.

An extended session this week could also include three crucial health-care related bills that saw no debate Sunday night.

The governor had already said over the weekend that he'd likely call a July special session on Texas Windstorm Association funding after negotiations stalled on Saturday.

However it plays out, one thing's for sure: We're not out of the woods yet.

Culled:

  • Need a little perspective on what went down the past 20 weeks in Austin? Here's a round-up of how things played out in every area of government, from the budget to higher education to energy, including a look at what surprised us the most. In another take, the Houston Chronicle looks at the intraparty bickering that defined the session.
  • Seven state lawmakers bucked their parties Saturday in voting for or against House Bill 1, the state budget. They've now explained themselves.
  • Advisers to Rick Perry, who churned the rumor mill again when he said Friday that he'd "think about" running for president, will meet in Austin this week to devise a potential campaign strategy for the governor, The Dallas Morning News reports. Meanwhile, Perry's team is still dismissing the rumors. "He has no intention of running," Mark Miner, the governor's spokesman, said Friday. "He's thought about it, just like he does many other issues." Check out today's Inside Intelligence for a look at whether those in the know think Perry will run and, if not, what he might be doing in 2013.
  • Former Gov. Bill Clements, the Dallas oilman who in the 1970s and '80s helped usher in the current era of Republican political dominance in Texas, died Sunday at the age of 94. In a guest column for the Tribune, veteran political writer Carolyn Barta ponders Clements' legacy.
  • Your state legislators (and favorite intrepid news teams) may be hard at work on this Memorial Day, the last day of the regular session, but you probably aren't. If barbecue and time with loved ones don't float your boat, spend your day off with the Trib's latest news quiz, the puckishly named (and, admittedly, slightly challenging) Sh*t My Legislator Said. Happy Memorial Day!

"As many as she's ever had." — State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, on whether Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, made any friends in the Senate with her filibuster Sunday night

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