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The Brief: June 1, 2011

A subdued first day of the special session disguised a brewing Republican show of legislative force.

Texas' three leaders (l to r), House Speaker Joe Straus, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appear at the Texas Capitol for their traditional post-session press conference on May 31, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

A subdued first day of the special session disguised a brewing Republican show of legislative force.

The Legislature's first day back after the 82nd regular session adjourned Monday offered lawmakers a little reprieve from the 11th-hour drama of the past week — the House adjourned after 10 minutes, and the Senate decided to begin work Thursday.

But with a special session (of undetermined length) now under way, Republicans began readying an agenda that would make no concessions to Democrats, whose Wendy Davis, the state senator from Fort Worth, filibustered a key school finance bill Sunday night.

Gov. Rick Perry, who decides which items lawmakers should take up during a special session, started Tuesday by adding congressional redistricting to the agenda, which already included budget measures and a Medicaid bill, after lawmakers unveiled a map proposal earlier in the day.

The proposed map — which would boost Texas Republicans' dominance in Washington by, in part, drawing longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin into a Republican district — drew harsh criticism from Democrats and groups concerned with minority representation. U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, filed a lawsuit challenging the proposal for including no Harris County Hispanic district.

Play with the new maps in the Tribune's newest interactive feature, by Matt Stiles (whom we'll miss!).

On Tuesday, state Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, also filed his "sanctuary cities" bill for the special session. Perry hasn't said whether he'll add the bill — the session's most controversial piece of immigration-related legislation — to the agenda, but aides said it “remained a priority” for the governor.

And Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, also filed her so-called "mandate relief" bill, a piece of Republican-backed legislation that would allow school districts to furlough teachers and reduce salaries.

The governor will likely add issues as lawmakers go, but they'll start by dealing with the budget measures.


  • A shared slice of pizza between former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Donald Trump wasn't Tuesday's only high-profile Republican dining summit with presidential overtones: Gov. Rick Perry, who was last heard saying he'd "think about" running for president, dined Tuesday night in Austin with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who's expected to soon announce his run for the GOP nomination. And in news that's sure to dispel no rumors, officials said Tuesday that Perry would replace Trump as the speaker at a Republican dinner in New York City this month. The Tribune's Jay Root has the latest on the Perry buzz, and what a special session might mean for his (hypothetical) candidacy.
  • Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday vetoed a bill — his first use of the red stamp this session — that would have taxed online retailers, like Amazon, that conduct business in Texas. But as the Austin American-Statesman reports, the measure may not be dead: The same language has been included in the fiscal matters bill that lawmakers will take up during the special session, and Perry would have to veto the whole thing to topple the retail provision.
  • Christi Craddick, the daughter of former Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, may run for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission. State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, has also said he'll seek a spot on the commission, though it's unclear whether he and Craddick would vie for the same seat: Michael Williams, who has already resigned, and Elizabeth Ames Jones will be running for U.S. Senate, leaving two vacancies on the the commission in 2012.

"He’s using these issues, these politically charged partisan issues which will help him probably in his presidential desires, but unfortunately he’s using them to play against what we’re trying to do on behalf of the school children." — State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, on Gov. Rick Perry's push for steep budget cuts


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