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The Brief: Jan. 28, 2011

Settle in, because voter ID's not going anywhere anytime soon.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Settle in, because voter ID's not going anywhere anytime soon.

The state Senate passed the legislation Wednesday, and ensuing legal battles could keep the issue alive for months after final legislative approval, but first the bill — which requires Texans to present a form of photo identification before voting — must be sent to the House.

It should pass easily there, given Republicans' supermajority, but it could take at least another month as lawmakers wait for committee appointments.

In the meantime, Democrats — though essentially powerless to block the legislation or enact any major changes — hope the protracted process will help them tweak the bill to mitigate worries over minority disenfranchisement.

"It's going to be thoroughly vetted on this side," Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, tells the Austin American-Statesman. "And I think there's hope over here that we can address some of the issues so the measure won't have that chilling effect."

As the Statesman notes, House members expect to debate a number of issues left unresolved by the Senate, including the costs associated with educating voters about the change in law and assistance for voters in remote areas with limited access to state offices that issue photo IDs.

One House Republican, Phil King of Weatherford, even tells the Houston Chronicle he'd be willing to expand the definition of photo identification to include student ID cards.

But expect the battle to serve as merely a prelude to what some lawmakers have planned after the voter ID dust settles.

CULLED:

  • It was the column heard 'round the Capitol rotunda this week. Texas Monthly's Paul Burka wasn't a fan. Today, the Tribune's Ross Ramsey weighs in on the controversy surrounding the column that's given rise to the age-old question: Are politicians' families fair game?
  • Strike one name from the list of possible candidates looking succeed Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate. San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, a rising star in the Texas Democratic Party, indicated on his Facebook page Thursday that he's running for re-election as mayor.
  • Travis County prosecutors are reportedly ramping up an investigation of Texas lawmakers who've been accused of "double-dipping" into their campaign accounts to cover expenses.

"I am suggesting that I am quite likable." — Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, who officially announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate at a TribLive event Thursday, on the likability of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, considered by many to be the early front-runner for the seat

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