The Brief: Top Texas News for June 27, 2011

The Texas House adjourned until Friday morning after meeting for about a half-hour on Wednesday, June 22, 2011.
The Texas House adjourned until Friday morning after meeting for about a half-hour on Wednesday, June 22, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

Will they or won't they? That's the question lawmakers, who seem to have met for a matter of minutes in the waning days of the special legislative session, face today on a series of controversial measures Gov. Rick Perry added to the call, from the TSA anti-groping bill to "sanctuary cities."

More and more, it's looking like "won't." The House didn't even have the quorum needed to pass less controversial measures on Friday, the result not of subversive Democrats, but of Republican members on vacation or off in their districts. And even if lawmakers are back in full force today, that still might not be enough for Perry's prioirites.

House Speaker Joe Straus, who rarely trashes a bill, has done it to Longview Rep. David Simpson's measure to prohibit overly aggressive airport pat-downs. The Speaker's move virtually assures the measure won't pass both chambers by Wednesday, the final day of the special session.   

There's also been rumbling that the contentious bill prohibiting so-called "sanctuary cities" is dead — some deep-pocketed Republican donors have been lobbying against it. If that bill doesn't get out of a House committee this morning, the clock will likely run out on it — unless it can be attached to something like  SB 1, the special session's fiscal matters bill. (That's looking highly unlikely, according to a post last night by the Austin American Statesman's Jason Embry.)

SB 1 creates its own set of problems for Perry. It's the vehicle for Rep. John Otto's measure to draw down sales tax revenue from Amazon.com, which Perry vetoed in the regular session. Nor does it contain a tax break for Amazon, which Perry wanted.

Meanwhile, there's been little progress on the original reason Perry called a special session — reforming the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. Barring a last-minute break in a firmly entrenched stalemate, it's looking like TWIA could require a second special session.

That leaves one big question for a possibly presidential Perry: If he has to call lawmakers back again for TWIA anyway, what's the political price of vetoing SB 1 — which also includes the state's school finance plan — to take another swipe at Amazon and the Otto amendment?

Culled:

  • Adding fuel to Texas' fiery debate over "fracking," The New York Times investigates whether the natural gas in Texas' Barnett Shale will be as cheap and easy to extract as the companies are saying in their pitch to investors. "...Shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work," one analyst wrote in an email obtained by The Times. 
  • The San Antonio Express News' Peggy Fikac reports that "when it comes to speechifyin'," Rick Perry bears little resemblance to George W. Bush. "His twang, cadence and mannerisms" are similar to Bush's, Fikac reports. "But his miscues are rarely as ear-catching. And Perry's message? It's a whole other story."
  • You'd think the Aggie consultant would be working for the Aggie candidate. But as Ross Ramsey reports, John Weaver is instead working for Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor who served as Barack Obama's U.S. Ambassador to China. 
  • Even Texas teachers who made it through this year's budget crunch without getting pink-slipped may not be able to avoid what's coming for them in the special session — a bill that "gives school boards and administrators new management authority to help districts contend with a $4 billion — or 6 percent — reduction in state aid," reports the Austin American Statesman's Kate Alexander. 

"I guarantee you nobody's going to show up." — State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on how lawmakers will respond if Gov. Rick Perry calls a second special session. 

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