The Brief: Top Texas News for Jan. 24, 2013

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, faces Mark Shelton in a District 10 Senate debate at the Tarrant County College Trinity River Campus in Fort Worth on Oct. 11, 2012.
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, faces Mark Shelton in a District 10 Senate debate at the Tarrant County College Trinity River Campus in Fort Worth on Oct. 11, 2012.

The Big Conversation

The 2013 legislative session may have just begun, but for half of the state Senate, the 2014 election season started Wednesday.

Texas' 31 state senators drew lots yesterday to determine who would serve two-year terms and who would serve full four-year terms. The peculiar practice, as the Tribune's Aman Batheja writes, takes place the first session after the Legislature's decennial redistricting process to ensure that the Senate's terms remain staggered. Last year, all 31 Senate districts were on the ballot.

In the chamber, each senator drew an envelope containing a piece of paper with a number, 1 through 31; even numbers meant two-year terms and having to run again in 2014; odd meant four-year terms.

In perhaps the chamber's most consequential drawing, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, landed a two-year term — less than three months after beating back a strong re-election challenge from former state Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth.

"Obviously I was disappointed but will happily run again on the issues that I know are of concern to the district that I represent," Davis told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Republicans relished Davis' fate; she has been elected twice in a GOP-leaning district, both times with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket.

Asked whether he would be interested in running again for the seat, Shelton told the Star-Telegram, "That would be a fair assumption," but he didn't confirm any plans.

The drawing revived speculation that Davis, a rising star in the state's Democratic Party, could instead opt for a statewide run — possibly for governor — in 2014. She said Wednesday that she was focused on running for re-election to her Senate seat but that "to have a two-year vs. a four-year [term] doesn't foreclose any options for me."

Capitol Notes
Compiled from Tribune reports

•    Senators Grill TEA Chief on Testing, School Funding: "In a hearing on Wednesday, senators probed Michael Williams, the new head of the Texas Education Agency, on student assessments and funding for remedial tutoring."

•    The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday kicked off three weeks of budget hearings. After receiving an overview of the economy from the comptroller’s office and a review of the budget situation from the Legislative Budget Board, the committee homed in on education. Representatives with the Texas Education Agency and the Higher Education Coordinating Board testified before the committee. Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said it would be difficult to put new money into public education given the ongoing student finance lawsuit, which won’t be resolved until after the session ends. "I wish the school districts would have sit down and talk with us," Williams said. "It really ties our hands when they file the lawsuit. I think we’re all expecting a special session."

Culled
Texas news from across the state and around the web

•    Austin, Houston and Dallas took the top three spots on Forbes' new list of America's fastest-growing cities. San Antonio placed ninth. As the magazine puts it, "Robust labor markets, unemployment rates under 6% (well below the national average), no state income tax, a business-friendly regulatory environment, and strong population inflows all contributed to Texas towns’ high rankings."

•    Union membership declined nationally, but rose in Texas last year (The Dallas Morning News): "As union membership dropped to a Depression-era level nationally last year, it grew in Texas, the state that created the right-to-work movement. Government data released Wednesday shows that the number of union members in Texas rose to 599,000 in 2012, up from 534,000 in 2011. Union members made up 5.7 percent of the Texas workforce last year, up from 5.2 percent in 2011, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The union rate hasn’t been that high in Texas since 2001."

•    House bill aimed at removing Texas guns from U.S. regulation; experts say idea is unconstitutional (Austin American-Statesman): "State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, filed a firearms-related bill Wednesday aimed at helping the Texas gun industry sidestep federal regulations, but the proposal also could face constitutional challenges."

Quote of the Day: "We danced a jig." — Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Texas Republican Party, to the Star-Telegram on learning that Sen. Wendy Davis had drawn a two-year term

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