THE BIG CONVERSATION:
Supermajority? Try megamajority.
That's what Gov. Rick Perry called House Republicans' new advantage over Democrats at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon officially announcing the defection of Democrats Aaron Peña of Edinburg and Allan Ritter of Nederland to the Republican Party.
The defections put House Republican membership at 100, a two-thirds majority, with which the party will wield considerable power.
Hours later, returns showed Republican John Kuempel coasting to victory in the House District 44 special election to fill the seat of his father, Edmund Kuempel, who died last month. With 68 percent of the vote, Kuempel avoided a runoff, giving Republicans their 101st member.
At the press conference, Peña and Ritter, flanked by Republican state leaders, noted their mounting unease with the Democratic Party. "I know what my voters have told me," Ritter said. Of his defection, Peña joked, "Somebody once told me that if you don't have a seat at the table, you may be on the menu."
Democrats quickly took aim at the two defectors, especially Peña, who, many said, will face a tough re-election battle in two years. "One only needs to read a few paragraphs of the state Republican Party platform and realize that Hispanics have very little acceptance in the Republican Party," state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a San Antonio Democrat and chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, told the Houston Chronicle.
Peña acknowledged the challenge he faces but stood by his move. "If things don't change, there will be more" defections, he said.
- The state budget shortfall may be dominating the conversation, but cities are doing some scrounging of their own, as is the case in Houston, where the City Council will vote today to raise 150 fees to help plug a $30 million budget hole.
- The Sunset Advisory Commission, which evaluates the need for the existence of state agencies, will today hear from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which has been accused of going easy on polluters, and the Railroad Commission, whose name may be changed. The Tribune's Kate Galbraith reported Tuesday on the agencies' prospects.
- Still plagued by scandal, the Texas Youth Commission should shutter at least two of its facilities to cut its budget, some say. But as the Trib's Brandi Grissom reports, few have been eager to answer the more pressing question: which two?
"It's a bit like the scene in The Wizard of Oz when she finally wakes up and says, 'I know you! — and I know you, too!'" — State Rep. Aaron Peña on his defection to the Republican Party
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