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The Brief: Top Texas News for March 24, 2011

After more than 11 hours of draining debate, and years of Republican-led efforts, a voter ID bill appears headed toward the governor's desk.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, ponders a question during evening debate on voter ID legislation on March 23, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

After more than 11 hours of draining debate, and years of Republican-led efforts, a voter ID bill appears headed toward the governor's desk.

As the Tribune's Juilán Aguilar reports, the House voted late Wednesday night, 101-48, largely along party lines to give initial approval to Senate Bill 14, which would require Texans to show a form of photo identification before voting. One Democrat, state Rep. Joe Pickett of El Paso, voted in favor of the bill.

The vote capped off years of Republican work to push through such legislation, which failed in previous legislative sessions but was virtually assured of passage this session after Republicans — who say the legislation would avert voter fraud and preserve electoral integrity — claimed historic majorities in November.

Debate, as expected, ran long and emotions ran high as the outnumbered Democrats spent the day pelting the bill with procedural objections and more than 60 amendments. A few were approved, including one that would exempt voters missing photo ID due to a natural disaster, but most — attempting to add exemptions or other types of acceptable photo ID — were rejected.

Tense back-and-forth dominated much of the day's proceedings. Democrats, as they have for years, claimed that such legislation was aimed at suppressing minority voter turnout.

"Don't try to make it more difficult for my people to be able to have the ability to vote," said state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, who is black.

Republicans, led by Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, the bill's House sponsor, disagreed. "We are trying to protect the integrity of our voting system," said Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock.

Final passage of the bill is expected today. A conference committee will hammer out any differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill before it makes its way to the governor's desk.

Culled:

  • The House Appropriations Committee voted along party lines Wednesday to send the 2012-13 state budget to the floor of the House, which will take up the legislation April 1. And as the Tribune's Thanh Tan reported Wednesday, though the bill included controversial reductions like a 10 percent cut to Medicaid provider rates and a 34 percent cut in nursing home funding, a battle pitting the House against the Senate over public education funding quickly took form, with senators signaling that they're prepared to spend more money on education than their House counterparts are.
  • In what some are calling further proof that Gov. Rick Perry, as he has asserted and reasserted, is not running for president, Rob Johnson, Perry's former campaign manager, has joined Newt Gingrich's presidential exploratory campaign.

Must-Read:

On this week's TribCast: the budget, redistricting and higher education

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