THE BIG CONVERSATION:
He's back, and more Wentworth than ever.
Jeff Wentworth, that is, the Republican state senator from San Antonio who's been widely expected since the summer to be leaving the Legislature for a job in higher education — but now says he's not going anywhere. In fact, as he tells the Tribune, looking ahead toward the next legislative session, he's "gunned up and ready to go."
But it's a little more complicated for the seven-term legislator this time around, as the Tribune's Elise Hu reports today. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst reassigned Wentworth's Jurisprudence Committee chairmanship in July because, Dewhurst says, he didn't expect Wentworth to return. A number of the senator's top staff members also left him, though Wentworth says they did so on their own accord.
Wentworth, known for his candor, says of his apparently weakened clout, "For me not to even be a member of the Senate Redistricting Committee seems to be an oversight of some kind."
Also complicated? The Letter, five pages in which Wentworth angrily (and, now, famously) fired back at the Texas State University System after it passed him up for the job of chancellor. "My criticism was of the Board of Regents and what I continue to believe is their flawed selection process," he maintains.
What does Wentworth's presence mean for the upcoming session? Hard to say, exactly: He's co-sponsoring a voter ID bill, but he's also known for bucking his own party. He'll also — in what's become a tradition of sorts — work to do away with straight-ticket voting, a measure whose lack of support from both parties he bemoans.
As Wentworth says, he's a Republican, "but that's second to being a Texan."
- Aaron Peña, the Edinburg state representative who announced his defection to the Republican Party on Tuesday, continued to defend his party switch on Wednesday, telling The Monitor, "When you’re in the room, you can make things happen. When you’re out of the room, things happen against you."
- With budget woes looming, Gov. Rick Perry has decided to tone down his inauguration festivities in January. The plans so far: no parade, and business attire, not formal dress, at the inauguration ball — or, rather, inauguration "celebration."
- Just as it started making national headlines, a Christian vs. atheist battle playing out on the side of Fort Worth buses looks as though it's over, following a Fort Worth Transportation Authority board's vote on Wednesday night to ban all religious ads. The meeting attracted supporters from both sides of the debate, including a representative from a secular organization who concluded his remarks by offering board members "holiday cookies."
- At a hearing at the Capitol on Wednesday, the three sitting Railroad Commissioners said they liked the idea of changing their agency's name to something more accurate but objected to a recommendation to replace its three elected members with five part-time appointees.
"The Democrats in Texas are now as relevant as the mythical chupacabra." — MSNBC host Keith Olbermann on the new Republican supermajority in the Texas House
- Juárez murders hit 3,000 for year, El Paso Times
- Court urged to void Travis County gay divorce, Austin American-Statesman
- A New Kind of Guidance Counselor Comes to Texas, The Texas Tribune
- And on this week's TribCast: party-switching, what's left of the speaker's race, and and the return of Wentworth