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The Brief: June 16, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry's swing through the U.S. this week has left some Texas Democrats — still holed up in Austin — less than enthused.

Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst at the voter ID bill signing on May 27, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

Gov. Rick Perry's swing through the U.S. this week has left some Texas Democrats — still holed up in Austin — less than enthused.

With the buzz surrounding his possible presidential candidacy now deafening, Perry, who called legislators back for a special session that began May 31, embarked on a national tour of sorts this week, speaking on Sunday at an anti-abortion event in Los Angeles and on Tuesday at a GOP dinner in New York City. The governor also took the opportunity to swing by the Fox News studios.

Democrats, as the Tribune's Brandi Grissom and Emily Ramshaw reported Wednesday, haven't taken kindly to Perry's absence, during which lawmakers have advanced a controversial immigration bill, new congressional maps and key health care legislation. "While 150 of us here are bottled up in a room passing legislation because he ordered us to be here, you'd think he'd be along for the ride," said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio. "And the fact that he's criss-crossing America tells me he's certainly not engaged in what's going on here in Austin, Texas, and something else seems to have attention."

Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, who also noted that Perry hasn't been around as much as he normally is, put it more bluntly: "He's running."

Perry spokesman Mark Miner said the governor is "actively involved in the special session" and said it was "unfortunate some Democrats would criticize the governor for promoting the Texas economy and job creation."

Meanwhile, the rampant speculation hasn't slowed. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Wednesday showed Perry polling at 8 percent among Republican primary voters, ahead of Newt Gingrich (6 percent), Tim Pawlenty (4 percent), Michele Bachmann (3 percent) and Jon Huntsman (1 percent).

Though the governor has still only gone as far as saying that he's "giving it some serious thought," national media outlets have begun tracking his every move, and some have even already begun digging into his past. But as The Texas Observer notes, the real scrutiny he's sure to face as a candidate in a national setting has yet to begin.

Culled:

  • Though most intend on getting out of Austin as soon as possible, one state lawmaker wants his colleagues — well on their way to finishing negotiations on several measures they've taken up during the special session — to add one more item to their to-do list. State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, sent a letter to Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday asking him to add to the special-session agenda legislation establishing southbound checkpoints at the Texas-Mexico border.
  • A large, powerful group of former university regents, chancellors and presidents have joined to address the state's ongoing higher education controversy. Among those involved: Adm. Bobby Inman, a University of Texas professor and former director of the National Security Agency, former Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff and former Democratic Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby.
  • The Texas House on Wednesday gave early approval to legislation that would let the state join with others to create a so-called health care compact, in which states would be permitted to operate Medicare and Medicaid as they see fit. After much debate, Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, the Brenham Republican who authored the bill, which died during the regular session, agreed to an amendment by Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, that would prohibit the compact from reducing Medicare payments to seniors.
  • Critics amped up attacks on the "sanctuary cities" bill that the Senate passed early Wednesday morning and the House looks poised to approve next week. State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, told the crowd of about 300 who showed up at the Capitol to protest the legislation — which would prevent local police departments from adopting policies that ban the enforcement of federal immigration policy — that the 19 Senate Republicans, all of whom supported the measure, were "single-mindedly, politically hellbent on passing legislation that appeals to their constituents and their political ambitions."

"The field is already pretty full." — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, when asked of Gov. Rick Perry's potential presidential candidacy

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