Day 14 of the 82nd Texas Legislature
The first few weeks of the legislative session are supposed to move at a snail’s pace. This year, apparently that memo to lawmakers got lost among stacks of activist letters and new “emergency” items from the governor. While the state House will take up its governing rules today, the state Senate will begin debating one of those not-really-emergency items—voter ID. If you’re scoring at home, the emergency items now total five after this weekend’s declaration that a bill requiring a sonogram before an abortion is a high priority. (See item 3.) On a related note, polling this weekend showed Perry would be neck-and-neck with President Barack Obama, should Perry run against the president in 2012. And who says we’d spend the legislative session focused on policy?
1. Debating 101
For hardline Republicans, it’s a big day—the voter ID debate will begin in the Senate. Democrats have defeated a voter ID bill the past two sessions. But this time, it appears large Republican majorities in both chambers will get the bill passed. And they’re wasting no time. After Gov. Perry made the issue an emergency item last week, Dewhurst hurriedly added it to today’s agenda. Republicans argue that requiring proper identification at polling sites will prevent fraud. Democrats believe it will disenfranchise poor and elderly voters. You’re likely to hear versions of those arguments many times the next two days. Unlike every other bill the Senate will consider, this one does not require the support of two-thirds of the chamber. Just like last session, the Senate made an exception for the bill, so that the GOP wouldn’t need any Democratic support. Looks like the red meat is ready to serve. [Houston Chronicle]
2. Texans for Obama?
Whudda thunk it? This weekend, Texas Democrats got some of their first good news in weeks—even if it was about national politics. A Public Policy Poll showed Barack Obama and Rick Perry tied in Texas for the 2012 presidential race, each garnering 45 percent of the vote in the hypothetical race. When matched up with Sarah Palin, Obama lags by only 1 percent in Texas, while he didn’t fare so well when matched with other potential GOP candidates Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee. Based on the poll, Palin or Perry would make Obama finally competitive in Texas despite his 2008 defeat. But keep in mind this is the same polling firm that, a year before the 2010 GOP primaries, had U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison handily beating Perry in the governor’s race. [Texas Tribune] [Off the Kuff]
3. Another Non-Emergency
Gov. Rick Perry announced yet another emergency item this weekend—a bill requiring women to get a sonogram before an abortion—making his critics wonder whether he’s trying to take attention away from the gaping budget hole we’ve found ourselves in. This is another bill near and dear to conservatives that Democrats have defeated two sessions running, but it stands a much better chance this year. At a Rally for Life on the Capitol steps on Saturday, Perry told a crowd “When someone has all the information, the right choice will be made—the choice for life.” As Paul Burka of Texas Monthly writes, this political move should come as no surprise—“Perry cares only about politics and feeding red meat to the base and rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies. That’s what passes for public policy in this state.” [Austin American-Statesman] [BurkaBlog]
If Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst wants to increase fees for transportation projects, he’s going to have to convince Texans that higher fees do not equal higher taxes. In an interview with The Dallas Morning News, Dewhurst said he’s vowed to address congested roadways this session, even as services like healthcare and education are being drastically cut in next biennium’s budget. While he continuously promises Texans they won’t see a tax increase, he has said that fees like registrations may go up. “It’s a question of the people of Texas understanding that we are not going to be able to reduce congestion and not going to be able to build new roads unless we are to figure out a source of financing,” he told the Morning News. [Dallas Morning News]
After voting for incumbent Speaker Joe Straus, Rep. Stefani Carter, R-Dallas, lost her status. Tea Party status, that is. The North Texas Tea Party axed her from its “TeaApproved” list based on her “own admission of turning over a pledge card to Joe Straus in July and failing to disclose that very salient fact during repeated inquiries in August and later from multiple Tea Parties about her position and thoughts on the Speakers race. It is the failure to disclose that makes this more notable when coupled with her refusal to honor the clear mandate from her district on the race for Speaker,” according to the North Texas Tea Party press release. Carter said she knows the group is “disappointed,” but that her true conservative values will prevail during the session. Perhaps, but we get the sense these Tea Party people are good at holding grudges. [Texas Tribune]