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The Brief: June 7, 2011

Republicans warned Democrats they'd regret forcing a special session. On Monday, Democrats got another taste of that.

Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, votes to table an amendment by Sen. Wendy Davis (not shown) on SB8 an education bill that gives school administrators added powers to lower teacher pay and establish furloughs.  The bill tentatively passed, 18-12 on June 6, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

Republicans warned Democrats they'd regret forcing a special session. On Monday, Democrats got another taste of that.

The state Senate, in no surprise, approved two major pieces of GOP-backed legislation that would redraw the state's congressional map to Republicans' liking and allow school districts to enact teacher pay cuts and furloughs.

Democrats argued that the redistricting bill, which would likely increase the number of Texas Republicans in Congress from 23 to 26, ignored minority interests and unfairly targeted U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, the longtime Austin Democrat whom the new plan would draw into a Republican district.

Democrats called the education bill, which its backers say would save teacher jobs by giving districts the flexibility to deal with an anticipated $4 billion funding cut, a short-term solution.

During the regular session, the education bill stumbled, and redistricting never even made it to the floor of either chamber. But during the special session, in which the Senate's two-thirds rule no longer applies, Republicans have been able to pass legislation with ease; the two bills passed Monday along strict party lines.

Meanwhile, crowds gathered at the Capitol on Monday to protest education cuts. "What I'm pleased to see is that people aren't giving up, and I think that's an indication of the work that will be done as we go into the next election cycle," said Sen. Wendy Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat whose filibuster of a school finance bill forced the special session — and provoked threats from Republicans who said the summer overtime would only help them complete their unfinished business.

Lawmakers will wait to see whether they're rewarded for pushing steep cuts or whether, as Davis and other Democrats have argued, Republicans will suffer with those cuts now thrust into the special-session spotlight.

The redistricting map now moves to the House, where passage is expected. The lower chamber will also take up education legislation — including a controversial measure to increase the state's class-size cap — later this week.


  • Former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, who has been running for Kay Bailey Hutchison's U.S. Senate seat, has begun seeking endorsements for a newly created U.S. House seat he'd been rumored last week to be eying instead, according an email obtained by the Tribune. "Michael is very excited about the opportunity to run for Congress in the newly created district 33," reads the email, which was sent to several Republican precinct chairs, "and we're currently rounding up endorsements to show a strong and early foundation of support for his candidacy." The Trib learned last week that Williams would likely switch to the House race if the Legislature passed current redistricting maps. The Senate approved those plans Monday. 
  • Gov. Rick Perry released a proclamation Monday declaring Aug. 6 a "Day of Prayer and Fasting for our Nation’s Challenges," which the governor had already announced he'd commemorate by inviting the nation's governor's to a prayer event at Reliant Stadium in Houston. A website for the event, called The Response, encourages attendees to fast the day of and week before the gathering.

"It was [Perry's] inclination for the event in Houston to host a Christian prayer service. It was with malice toward none. It's a Christian service."Eric Bearse, a consultant handling media for Gov. Rick Perry's August prayer event, on whether Jews, Muslims or other non-Christians were invited to attend


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