The Brief: Top Texas News for July 2, 2013

Protesters at the Texas Capitol on July 1, 2013, the first day of the second special session.
Protesters at the Texas Capitol on July 1, 2013, the first day of the second special session.

The Big Conversation

The biggest protest at the Texas Capitol in recent history electrified the first day of the second special session.  

As lawmakers reconvened to take up a major abortion bill that Democrats helped kill during the first special session, thousands of protesters converged on the Capitol on Monday to protest the legislation, whose stunning defeat last week set the Texas political world ablaze.

An estimated 5,000 abortion rights supporters — whose rally featured state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat whose now-famous filibuster helped kill the bill, and celebrities like musician Natalie Maines — vastly outnumbered a group of about 100 backers of the bill who marched to the Capitol in the morning to attend a press conference. 

"I was lucky enough to be able to make the choices in my life that I knew would work for me," Davis told the audience, alluding to Gov. Rick Perry’s recent remark that she should have "learned from her own example" as a teenage mother.

"That’s what we are fighting for now," she added. "A Texas where every woman is able to overcome her unique challenges, because she has the same choices and the same chances I did."

Though overshadowed outside the Capitol, Republicans — who have the votes to pass the legislation — asserted that they would work harder than ever in support of the bill, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and could close all but five of the state's abortion clinics.

"The Texas Legislature is poised to finish its history-making work this year by passing legislation to protect the unborn and women’s health," Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement.  

The House State Affairs Committee will take the up the legislation today at 3:30 p.m. Though hundreds of people have signed up to testify on the bill, the committee's chairman, state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said proceedings would not run past midnight.

"I hope the folks will come up there and be prepared to address the issue within their three minutes and make room for the next witness," Cook told the Austin American-Statesman. "We’re going to try to accommodate as many as we can."

The Senate Finance and Criminal Justice committees will also meet this morning to take up bills on transportation and criminal sentencing, respectively.

Culled

•    For Perry, Setback in Texas May Propel Him Nationally (The New York Times/The Texas Tribune): "Many Americans remember Rick Perry as the man who could not remember. He was the presidential candidate who famously forgot, in a nationally televised debate, the third federal department he wanted to shut down. But this week, after Democrats scored a rare legislative victory on his home turf, blocking a bill that would have put strict limits on abortions, the national spotlight is revisiting the governor of Texas. And how he handles this moment could affect Mr. Perry’s hopes of being a 2016 presidential contender — and his reputation as a leading figure of the Republican far right — as much as the inglorious 'oops moment' from his ill-fated 2012 run."

•    Civil rights groups say they will step in to prevent voting rights abuses (Austin American-Statesman): "Civil rights groups and lawyers in Texas have banded together to ensure violations of the federal Voting Rights Act do not go unchecked in the wake of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision. 'We’re not going to have any slack to the extent that we can prevent it,' said Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, standing aside Luci Baines Johnson, whose father, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965."

•    State AGs scrutinize US Airways-American Airlines merger (The Dallas Morning News): "Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is leading a group of state attorneys general as they work with the U.S. Department of Justice to review the proposed merger of American Airlines Inc. and US Airways Group Inc. 'We can confirm our involvement with other states in this DOJ review,' a spokesman for Abbott said Monday afternoon."

Quote of the Day: "If life ends when heart stops, then please explain Dick Cheney?" — State Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, in a tweet on Monday for which he later apologized

Must-Read

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