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The Brief: Top Texas News for April 12, 2011

In a turn of events, campus-carry legislation could provide Democrats with what's sure to be one of their few legislative victories this session.

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The Big Conversation:

In a turn of events, campus-carry legislation could provide Democrats with what's sure to be one of their few legislative victories this session.

On Thursday, state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, shut off debate on Senate Bill 354 — which would allow concealed-handgun license holders to carry their weapons into college classrooms in Texas — after two Democrats withdrew their support. The measure, which passed the Senate in 2009 but stalled in the House, boasts broad Republican support.

On Monday, Wentworth again tried to bring the bill up in the Senate, where 21 votes are needed to begin debate on the floor, but could only muster the support of 20 members, revealing an impasse that could bring the legislation down entirely.

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, said the bill, which he supports, "appears to be wounded," according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Sen. Mario Gallegos of Houston, one of the Democrats who withdrew support for the bill last week, said that after polling campuses in his region, he would now be voting against the legislation in any form. Hope among the bill's supporters, then, lies with Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, the other Democrat, who has said he'd vote for the bill if universities were allowed to opt out of the law.

Wentworth has so far refused to put any such amendments up for a vote. "It’s not the way I’d want to pass the bill," he said, "though I’m sure some would argue that’s better than nothing."

But Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said the bill, which he opposes, isn't dead. "It's obviously in trouble," he told the Statesman. "But around here, bills came come back to life from one day to another."

Culled:

  • Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and the FBI have opened a criminal investigation into a security breach, announced Monday by Comptroller Susan Combs, that left the Social Security numbers and other personal information of 3.5 million Texans exposed for about a year. "I deeply regret the exposure of the personal information that occurred and am angry that it happened," Combs said.
  • In an ever-deepening story centering on higher education reform at the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, Jeff Sandefer, the man behind some of Gov. Rick Perry's controversial higher ed proposals, has worked closely with A&M System officials, according to records obtained by the Austin American-Statesman.
  • Hoping to avert a House-Senate showdown over abortion sonogram legislation, senators met Monday to hash out a compromise that would allow women in counties with populations under 60,000, or who live more than 100 miles away from an abortion clinic, to wait two hours after a sonogram to have an abortion, instead of the 24 hours prescribed by the House's version of the bill.

"60/40." — An adviser to U.S. Rep. Ron Paul on the likelihood that the congressman will run for president in 2012

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