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The Brief: Jan 25, 2011

Scratch that. Today's the day for voter ID.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Scratch that. Today's the day for voter ID.

The Senate, which was set to take up the issue yesterday at the behest of Gov. Rick Perry, who recently declared it an emergency item, will instead begin deliberating the matter this morning.

Senate Democrats complained Monday that they hadn't received enough time to gather witnesses to offer testimony on the bill, which would require Texans to show a form of voter identification before voting. Democrats also took aim at Republicans' legislative priorities. "I’m just at a loss. We just talked bout the budget being so critical. … Why are we spending our time on this?" asked state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston.

The House, which adopted a slate of mostly unchanged rules on Monday, attempted to get the voter ID ball rolling in the House, too. "Do it now while we have the time," said state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, hoping to fast-track the issue.

But Christian found opposition in none other than fellow conservative Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, who opposed cutting off public debate on the issue. "I suspect we haven't heard it all — 25 million people occupy Texas," he said. House membership overwhelmingly sided with Chisum.

As for the legislation set for debate today, it's considered stricter than previous versions, requiring voters to show one form of photo ID, unlike the 2009 version, which also allowed two forms of non-photo ID. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said debate would likely end by 9 p.m. tonight.

CULLED:

  • The Senate released details of a budget draft Monday that mirrors the House version released a week ago, dealing similar blows to public education and health care but cutting fewer state jobs (8,167, to the House's 9,610) and sparing four community colleges that the House recommended closing.
  • Add an arrow to the quiver of activists looking to deter Arizona-style immigration policy from taking hold in Texas. According to two new studies, the state would likely have to spend millions of dollars to litigate cases brought against such laws. One study found that the city of Farmers Branch, which has famously enacted hard-line measures to crack down on illegal immigration, has spent $4 million to defend a controversial housing law. Critics blasted the reports, released by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for American Progress, as "one-sided opinion pieces."
  • Look for Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones to launch her U.S. Senate run this morning with an official announcement in Dallas, which she'll then follow up with a four-day statewide tour.

"I don't have any regrets except — and I work on this every day — that maybe I didn't need to be so arrogant."Tom DeLay, in an interview with the National Journal

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