The Big Conversation
With abortion measures on deck, the real drama of the special session begins today.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will meet this afternoon to take up legislation concerning "regulation of abortion procedures, providers and facilities," which Gov. Rick Perry added to the special session agenda on Tuesday.
Though lawmakers appeared to have reached something of a truce on women's health issues this year, Perry's addition of abortion measures virtually ensured that the special session — already running much longer than expected due to a protracted redistricting debate — would spark the bitter partisan battles that failed to materialize during the regular session.
As the Tribune's Becca Aaronson reports, the Senate panel will consider an omnibus bill by state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, that combines four measures that failed during the regular session. The measures would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortions to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers, change rules about admitting privileges for doctors who perform the procedure and require physicians who administer abortion-inducing drugs to do so in person.
Democrats, who hold 12 of the 31 seats in the Senate, successfully used the upper chamber's so-called two-thirds rule during the regular session to block controversial legislation, including the surgical center bill. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, however, has dropped the rule for the special session, meaning even a united Democratic front in the Senate won't be able to stop Republican-backed legislation.
How the abortion measures will fare in the House, however, remains unclear. As House Speaker Joe Straus warned on Wednesday, the special session clock is ticking.
"The governor keeps adding issues to the call, and I would remind people that this is only a 30-day session," Straus said, according to the San Antonio Express-News, adding, "These other issues were very recently added by the governor, and we'll just have to see what the appetite is of the House when we come back into session Monday."
• After FEMA Rejection, Perry Hopes Obama Stays "True to His Word" (The Texas Tribune): "After learning that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would not provide additional money to help the town of West recover from a devastating fertilizer plant explosion, Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that he hopes President Obama will stay 'true to his word' to help the town's residents recover."
• Budget Chiefs Accuse Wall Street Journal of "Fuzzy" Math (TT): "The Texas Legislature’s top budget writers are hitting back against a Wall Street Journal editorial urging Gov. Rick Perry to veto the budget deal lawmakers approved in this year’s legislative session."
• Roads Funding Plan Draws Debate on State's Piggy Bank (TT): "Wednesday's hearing at the Capitol was supposed to be about increasing funds for the Texas Department of Transportation, but it veered into a debate over whether Texas is saving enough for the future."
• Cornyn walks off Senate floor as McCain, Schumer skewer his border enforcement amendment (Houston Chronicle): "Arizona Sen. John McCain and New York Sen. Charles Schumer lambasted Texas Sen. John Cornyn’s border control amendment on the Senate floor this afternoon as the chamber convened for the third day of debate on comprehensive immigration reform. … Cornyn stormed out of the Senate midway through Schumer’s criticism of the amendment. Cornyn’s attempt to toughen border security requirements was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee, 12-6."
• Dallas City Council argues over lack of marriage equality resolution (The Dallas Morning News): "'Dallas has declared this is LGBT Pride Month, and it sure doesn’t feel like it.' That was one speaker at Dallas City Hall this morning, but that sentiment could have been uttered by any number of the unhappy folks parading to the podium to admonish the Dallas City Council for not taking up a resolution in support of marital rights for gay couples."
Quote of the Day: "I think he has Obamaphobia." — U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., knocking Sen. Ted Cruz for calling the president the "biggest obstacle" to passing immigration reform
- The Best and Worst Legislators 2013, Texas Monthly
- Poll: Huge support for immigration reform, Politico
- Rick Perry's War On The Blue States, NPR
- Rep. Ralph Hall wanders into LGBT event, enjoys hospitality before realizing he’s in wrong place, Houston Chronicle
- Night, weekend electricity plans gaining a following in Texas, The Dallas Morning News
- Redistricting fight revives question of Travis County representation, Austin American-Statesman
- Barkley predicts Castro will be guv, but still calls River Walk a 'dirty creek', San Antonio Express-News