The Big Conversation:
Tense budget negotiations continued Wednesday, but it didn't take long for an airport "groping" ban, an ensuing rowdy protest and vicious political sniping to steal some of the spotlight.
The drama started Tuesday night, when the Senate killed a bill backed by conservatives that would have allowed Texas to criminalize "invasive" searches by federal airport-security agents. The bill appeared likely to pass until the U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to the state threatening to close Texas airports if the legislation became law.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, blamed the death of the bill, which he sponsored, on Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate. "This was a case of the federal government bullying Texas, and apparently they bullied the lieutenant governor," said Patrick, who also took a shot at Dewhurst's rumored U.S. Senate ambitions: "Someone who will undermine his members and someone who will not stand up to the federal government, you have to ask yourself, is that the kind of person that we need in the U.S. Senate?"
As the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw reports today, Patrick considers the recent federal intervention in Texas matters payback for the state's attempts to assert its sovereignty.
But the spat turned into a frenzy Wednesday, when Alex Jones, a controversial radio host known for his 9/11 conspiracy theories (and, it turns out, defense of Charlie Sheen), stormed the Capitol, with dozens of supporters in tow, to protest the Senate for pulling down the bill.
"There’s out-of-control feds violating federal and state law, sticking their hands down people’s pants," Jones yelled. "They think you’re so busy watching Oprah and American Idol that they can have a federal national security force molesting children. Next is the forced inoculations and the federal blood draws. It’s all laid out. It’s a battle plan and nobody’s safe!"
- Meanwhile, inside the chambers, lawmakers made progress on budget negotiations Wednesday, advancing two bills targeting the current deficit, but an agreement between the House and Senate on school finance — which threatens to force a special session — remained elusive, with lawmakers searching for ways to blend two competing proposals.
- Eighty-three percent of Texans think it's not important at all that their elected representative share their race or ethnicity, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, which also asked respondents whether they think their member of Congress represents people like them, and whether it's important that they live in a district with people like them.
"I can't say I'm not tempted, but this isn't something that I want to do." — Gov. Rick Perry's latest response to questioning, this time from Fox News' Greta van Susteren, on whether he'd run for president
- Don’t Draft Rick Perry: Why the Era of the Southern Republican Politician Is Over, The New Republic
- Census shows ever-changing face of Texas, Houston Chronicle
- Domestic partner benefits law sends El Paso backward, some say, El Paso Times
- For Some Republicans, Federal Action is Payback, The Texas Tribune
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