The Brief: Top Texas News for June 24, 2013

The Big Conversation

The last traces of harmony in this year's legislative session faded Sunday as Texas lawmakers advanced what have been called some of the strictest abortion regulations in the nation.

Early Monday morning, with less than 48 hours remaining in the special session, the Texas House gave early approval to legislation that abortion-rights advocates say would impose undue burdens on women seeking the procedure and close 37 of the state's 42 abortion clinics.

The drama started Sunday afternoon, when the outnumbered House Democrats — buoyed by hundreds of orange-shirted supporters who had filled the chamber's gallery — began using parliamentary maneuvers to try to stall debate on the legislation, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The delay, they hoped, would slow the bill's trip to the Senate, where a filibuster could be staged in the final hours of the special session.

 

After several hours of attempts by Democrats to derail or amend the bill, Republicans, who say the legislation will raise safety standards, voted to cut off debate and tentatively approved the measure. 

"This bill will ensure that women are given the highest standard of health care in a very vulnerable time in their life," said state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, who sponsored abortion legislation in the chamber.

Democrats, meanwhile, praised the protesters for their dedication. "We fought like dogs," state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, the chairwoman of the House women’s health caucus, told a crowd of the activists, adding, "It really mattered what you did."

The House adjourned at about 4:30 a.m. and is set to reconvene just before 7 a.m. Final approval in the House will send the legislation to the Senate, which must wait 24 hours to take up the bill again. Democrats have not dropped their threats to filibuster the bill.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Sunday night that Gov. Rick Perry would likely call lawmakers back for a second special session if certain bills didn't pass, though Dewhurst didn't specify which ones. "I believe there are certain items on this call that he shared with me are must-pass," Dewhurst said. 

Culled

•    Abortion, Protests, Redistricting as Special Session Nears End (The Texas Tribune): "The House also finally passed Senate Bill 23 to create new sentencing options for 17-year-olds convicted of capital murder and Senate Joint Resolution 2 to finance state transportation. … It took the Senate less than 20 minutes on Sunday to lay out, debate and concur with changes the House made to Senate Bill 3, which ratifies a variation on the interim, court-drawn House district map that was used for the 2012 election. The bill now heads to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk. The other two redistricting bills covering state Senate and congressional districts previously passed both chambers and are headed to Perry’s desk."

•    States Reined In by 1965 Voting Act Await a Decision (The New York Times): "There is little agreement on anything, even when it all started, but sometime in the last decade the Beaumont Independent School District became a battle zone. … The last word, for now, will come this week, when the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of Section 5. Passed in 1965 at the height of the civil rights movement and renewed and amended several times since, the section requires states, counties, cities, school boards, water districts and other jurisdictions where there has been a history of racial discrimination to submit any proposed voting changes to the Justice Department for approval, or 'preclearance.'"

•    Feud Between Patrick and Williams Escalates (The Texas Tribune): "An increasingly bitter feud between the Texas Senate's chief budget writer and its education committee chairman escalated Friday as the two Republicans accused one another of misleading the public."

•    City of West sues fertilizer company, ammonium nitrate supplier (Waco Tribune-Herald): "A week after federal authorities rejected the city of West’s request for funds to rebuild schools and infrastructure damaged in the April 17 explosion, the city filed a lawsuit against West Fertilizer Co. and the supplier of the volatile ammonium nitrate."

Quote of the Day: "In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out." — State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, in an exchange on the House floor Sunday that drew attention on social media, as The Associated Press notes

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