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The Brief: Jan 24, 2011

The governor calls it an emergency. His critics call it crying wolf.

Gov. Rick Perry gives a speech at the 2011 inauguration.

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

The governor calls it an emergency. His critics call it crying wolf.

Gov. Rick Perry announced Saturday the addition of another issue to his list of "emergency items": legislation requiring women to receive ultrasounds before having an abortion. The Legislature can take up the items immediately instead of waiting until after the first 60 days of the session.

Since Roe v. Wade, "50 million children have lost their chances. That is a catastrophic number, twice the population of this entire state," Perry said in front of a rally assembled at the Capitol. "When someone has all the information, the right choice will be made — the choice for life," he told the crowd.

Democrats and abortion-rights activists said the governor was making obvious appeals to his political base while ignoring the state's financial woes. "Once again, Rick Perry is trying to distract from the real emergency — our state's massive budget shortfall — with divisive partisan issues," Kristen Gray, a spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party, told the Houston Chronicle. "He is more concerned with trying to be a GOP celebrity than looking out for everyday Texans."

On Thursday, Perry also added another conservative-approved item to his emergency list: voter ID, which the state Senate has said it will take up today. State Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, will chair the so-called Committee of the Whole (in which all members participate) set to debate the issue. And Duncan — who has previously led efforts to pass such legislation — said he's optimistic about its passage. "I think, quite frankly, the tone of opposition has changed quite a bit over time," he told the Tribune's Elise Hu. "The courts have OK'd photo ID. I think the polling data that’s out there indicates a strong support for photo ID. … The opposition has mitigated somewhat."

That — oh, and, a hefty Republican majority in both chambers — should ease the way for passage.

CULLED:

  • A Senate version of the House budget proposal could come as soon as today, the Houston Chronicle reports, and it looks likely to mirror the deep, controversial cuts laid out last week. But as the Tribune's Ross Ramsey writes today, these early budget drafts, essentially, are mere political feelers. "So what’s the point of introducing it? To sound the alarm and see who answers. It’s a Chicken Little budget," he writes.
  • Could Rick Perry be Democrats' key to turning Texas blue? In the most curious/telling/surprising (interpret however you will) polling news of late, a Public Policy Polling survey shows Barack Obama tying the governor in a hypothetical 2012 presidential match-up in Texas. The poll also shows Obama competitive against former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (Palin leads 47-46, within the margin of error) but losing soundly to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (55-39).

"I assume they’ll use the rainy day fund. I can’t conceive of not using it. That would be insanity." — Former lieutenant governor Bill Hobby, a Democrat, on lawmakers tapping into the state's reserves, which Republican lawmakers have put off-limits

MUST-READ:

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