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The Brief: Jan. 12, 2011

Despite the hand-wringing, the big day remained notably subdued.

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Despite the hand-wringing, the big day remained notably subdued.

Legislators descended on Austin for the biennial, 140-day session of state governance on Tuesday. And though the state's record budget shortfall — sure to dominate the proceedings in the coming months — loomed over both chambers, drama ran relatively low.

As expected, the House averted a major fight, easily voting to re-elect Speaker Joe Straus, who spent the last two months fending off two conservative challengers who, in the end, acted more as outside players shooting from the right than as real contenders vying for Straus' seat.

Fifteen members voted against Straus in a record vote called for by Leo Berman, a conservative Republican from Tyler. Two members abstained, including Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs.

After the vote, Straus called for civility. "Division, threats of retribution, attacks on people’s religious beliefs and distortions of people’s records have no place in this House," he said, referencing the race for his seat, which took an occasional ugly turn.

Gov. Rick Perry, addressing the House, also told members to keep calm and carry on in the face of a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, reminding them that the Legislature faced similar challenges in 2003 but ultimately drafted a balanced budget. "Take a deep breath. Relax," he said. "It's all going to be all right."

Perry then called on legislators to quickly pass bills on eminent domain and so-called "sanctuary city" policies, which the Tribune's Elise Hu revisits today.

For a play-by-play of all the action (including a man drawing a striking parallel between lawyers and swine), visit the Trib's liveblog of the day.

As for action today, the Senate, which on Tuesday named Steve Ogden its president pro tempore, is set to take up discussion of its operating rules. 


  • U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, has taken the Texas-vs.-the-feds fight to the letters page of The New York Times, criticizing Gov. Rick Perry for failing to accept $830 million in federal education funds.
  • Tom DeLay's three-year prison sentence may have had more to do with the former U.S. House majority leader's demeanor in front of District Judge Pat Priest than with the seriousness of his crime. "It's likely he copped a pretty bad attitude," an expert tells the San Antonio Express-News.

"It’s been said we have two sports in Texas: football and spring football. I want to change that to three sports: football, spring football and chasing liberals." — A protester at a Tea Party rally outside the Capitol on Tuesday


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