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The Brief: Top Texas News for March 21, 2011

With voter ID set to hit the House floor today, how hard will Democrats fight?

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The Big Conversation:

With voter ID set to hit the House floor today, how hard will Democrats fight?

The bill, which would require voters to present a form of photo identification, has overwhelming Republican support in the House and already passed through the Senate in January.

Democrats have known since their walloping in November that such legislation, which they've successfully blocked in the two previous legislative sessions, appeared headed toward inevitable passage.

"The numbers don't look good," state Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, tells the Austin American-Statesman. But "on principle," he says, "we have to fight."

As they did during abortion-sonogram debate, Democrats will likely pelt the legislation with a string of amendments and procedural objections to slow deliberation. Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, said he expected Democrats to force votes to use against Republicans in the future.

Peña and other Hispanic Republicans have recently said that they could not support some of the strict immigration bills proposed by conservatives in the Legislature, including legislation that would revoke birthright citizenship.

But last week, the Hispanic Republican Conference, which Peña chairs, announced that it'd be supporting the voter ID bill "to ensure the integrity of our election process … to ensure that candidates reside in their districts, to strengthen our voter registration system, [and] to protect military voter access to Texas elections."

Culled:

  • Republican Dan Neil on Friday afternoon conceded the long-contested House District 48 race to state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin. Neil's challenge, which he launched in November after losing by 16 votes, stretched on for four months but ended Friday after Neil bowed to a series of rulings in Howard's favor. As the Austin American-Statesman notes, though, Neil, now with increased name recognition, could leave the race well-positioned for a future run.
  • The latest search for savings in the state's budget centers on neonatal intensive care units, or NICUs, which some officials say are being overused — and costing the state millions of dollars. The Tribune's Emily Ramshaw reports.
  • The Trib's Ross Ramsey has a look at one of the more unexpected wrinkles in the coming redistricting process: cover for the Legislature's few remaining Anglo Democrats, many of whom say their districts, full of minority voters, should be protected.

"Since he can't control the process, he's been out playing politics — shoring up his own base and telling the tea party that there's a lot more cutting to be done before you go to the rainy-day fund. He knows that's not true."Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, to the San Antonio Express-News on Gov. Rick Perry, whom critics have accused of playing politics while legislators take the fall for tough budget choices

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