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TribBlog: Sources Say Peña Will Switch Parties

State Rep. Aaron Peña of Edinburg has decided to change parties and will announce the switch at a press conference this afternoon with Gov. Rick Perry and House Speaker Joe Straus, according to Republican sources.

State Rep. Aaron Pena of Edinburg in November, 2010.

State Rep. Aaron Peña of Edinburg has decided to change parties and will announce the switch at a press conference this afternoon with Gov. Rick Perry and House Speaker Joe Straus, according to Republican sources.

Peña could not immediately be reached for comment. Asked if Peña would be at the press conference, Chris Elam, a spokesman for the GOP, answered, "I have no confirmation of that."

State Rep. Allan Ritter of Nederland, who announced his intention to change parties over the weekend, will also be at the press conference at GOP headquarters in Austin.

The two will bring the number of Republicans in the current House to 78, and with 22 incoming freshmen Republicans who beat Democrats, that will bring the GOP total to 100 when the legislative session begins next month. A special election in Central Texas — being held today — is expected to add one more to that number, bringing the Republican count in the House to 101.

That's significant: The state constitution gives extra powers to supermajorities of two-thirds or more, allowing a group with 100 or more votes to suspend rules, amend legislation on final reading and form a quorum of the House even if the minority fails to show up.

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