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The Brief: June 21, 2013

A packed abortion hearing on Thursday night provoked some of the most dramatic moments yet of the special session.

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The Big Conversation

A packed abortion hearing on Thursday night provoked some of the most dramatic moments yet of the special session.

As the Tribune's Shefali Luthra reported, the drama started Thursday afternoon, when the House State Affairs Committee took up House Bill 60, major abortion legislation that would ban the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, change regulations about admitting privileges for physicians who perform abortions and require doctors who administer abortion-inducing drugs to do so in person. (The Senate passed its own version of the bill — without the 20-week ban — on Tuesday.)

Heated debate broke out early in the day as Democrats aimed pointed questions at the House bill's sponsor, state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, who said lawmakers should "err on the side of life, not death." But the real drama unfolded as the hearing stretched into the night, by which point hundreds of people — at the urging of groups like Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and the state's Democratic Party — had flooded the hearing to stage a "citizen filibuster" of the bill, as The Associated Press reports.

With the end of the special session drawing near, activists — each allotted three minutes of testimony — hoped to stall debate on the legislation. But committee chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, sparked fury among the crowd when he said around midnight that he would only allow another hour of testimony because the proceedings had become too repetitive. Cook suspended the hearing but then returned, saying he would allow three more hours of testimony. (The debate, meanwhile, sparked a frenzy on Twitter, apparently attaining "trending worldwide" status.)

"This is an example of what happens when religious zealotry has a head-on collision with irresponsible government," one Austin resident said of the legislation and Cook's announcement, according to the AP.

Testimony ran past 3 a.m., and the legislation was left pending.


•    Road Funding, Veto Override Hit Hurdles in Hearing (The Texas Tribune): "With just days left in the special session, the House Appropriations Committee met Tuesday evening to take on two politically tricky tasks: overriding one of Gov. Rick Perry’s vetoes and finding money for transportation. Two and a half hours later, both proposals were in danger of falling apart."

•    Senator says Perry vetoed his bill by mistake (Austin American-Statesman): "When Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a change in state truancy law last Friday, he inadvertently killed the wrong bill, the Senate author of the failed measure said Thursday. 'I’ve been told he made a mistake,' said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, whose Senate Bill 1234 fell victim to Perry’s veto pen despite support from educators and children’s advocates across Texas."

•    Senate kills John Cornyn border security amendment (Politico): "The Senate voted to scrap an amendment from the Senate’s No. 2 Republican on Thursday that would have added a hard trigger on border security as a requirement to undocumented immigrants’ pathway to citizenship."

•    Food stamp politics dooms farm bill (San Antonio Express-News): "In a defeat for the Republican leadership, the farm bill collapsed in the House of Representatives on Thursday, ensnaring Texas agricultural in a partisan battle over proposed food stamp cuts. The bill's failure came after two days of debate on more than 100 amendments, with most scrutiny on the bill's $20.5 billion in cuts to food stamps, officially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program."

Quote of the Day: "If he decides to run, he would win. And he has had no problem in the past raising money or putting together a team. Ask the many Texas opponents who are at home watching re-runs right now." — Former Rick Perry spokesman Mark Miner on whether the governor will seek re-election


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