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SESSION SNAPSHOT 7TS77P,-.Fst ‘ Pt : TUFFOSAURUS REX Senate in 2005 and 2007, only to watch Republicans kill it in the House. This time, he had lined up the 21 “yes” votes he needed in the Senate. But before it came up for a third reading and final passage, Houston Republican Sen. Dan Patrick, who’d voted yes on the first two readings, changed his mind, leaving Wentworth in a familiar situation: stymied. In this case, Wentworth lost in part because of his stubborn sense of fairness, which prevents him from collaborating in a common Senate practice that fast-tracks bills to passage. “We routinely suspend the Constitution of the state, which is offensive to me:’ he says, referring to the Senate tradition of overturning the rules so a bill can be passed on second and third reading at virtually the same time. \(The Texas Constitution requires three days between second reading and the final likely not have had time to change his mind. But time and time again, Wentworth has been the lone vote against suspending this rule, repeatedly entering into the Senate journal his explanation: “No circumstance exists in this case to justify the extraordinary act of suspending a requirement of the Texas Constitution. The suspension of this Constitutional Rule has the direct and immediate impact of denying the people of Texas knowledge and notice of the passage of this measure until it has already been finally passed on third reading.” JUSTICE DEFERRED Dozens of Texans have been exonerated in recent years by new DNA evidence, some after spending decades in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Perhaps no case is as gut-wrenching as the tale of Timothy Cole, wrongly convicted in 1986 of raping a fellow Texas Tech student. As with many wrongly accused, Cole was done in by witness misidentification. DNA evidence exonerated him last yearnine years after he died in prison of complications of asthma. He was the first Texan exonerated posthumously. This session, Cole’s family came to the Capitol from Fort Worth to join Democratic Sen. Rodney Ellis and the Texas Innocence Project in pushing for a bill, bearing his name, that will increase the compensation paid to the wrongly convicted. That bill passed. But in a bleak irony, the Legislature failed to pass several other crucial criminal-justice reforms, including a measure to overhaul police procedures for lineups and witness identificationsthe one reform that might have prevented Cole’s conviction. He does the heavy lifting when no one is looking.” Being human and a politician, Wentworth isn’t always a purist. When May rolls around, he typically succumbs to suspending the three-day rule so that bills can be passed in the last-minute flurry of action. And this January, he voted with the rest of the Senate Republicans to change tradition and allow the voter ID bill to be brought up without the support of two-thirds of the body. For the most part, though, Wentworth’s quixotic adherence to principles over party loyalty gives him a distinctive role in the Senate. “I don’t know whether I think of myself that way:’ he says, “but apparently I do.” This session, he received the lowest rating of any Republican from the anti-government Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, and he consistently gets a high scorehigher than many Democratsfrom NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. At the same time, of course, his the National Rifle Association. Like a knight-errant staying true to a stern \(and mysteri”It’s been an ongoing battle since ’93,” he says. In 2011, if he’s elected to a loth term, he promises to file the bipartisan redistricting bill a loth time. He vows to take another shot at giving legislators the power to override gubernatorial vetoes after sessions end. Above all, he says, he will try to stick to that most quixotic of quests: “the fundamental responsibility of following the Texas Constitution.” * 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 26, 2009 Never mind federal stimulus money or the fate of the state’s transportation agency; the House had more important business in late April. A purple-and-redspotted Tuffosaurus rex \(aka Rep. Tuffy Hamilton, House chamber, much to the chagrin of Republican Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, who was holding forth on his bill to correct the name of Texas’ official dinosaur. Flanked by grown legislators in dinosaur costumes, Geren tried to keep his cool as he explained that scientists were incorrect when they identified the Pleurocoelus dinosaur in 1997; since then they’ve determined that the Texas fossil was a species called Paluxysaurus jonesi. “I’m very troubled by your bill,” mock-asked Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Kileen. “Is this species named for Rep. Delwin Jones?” \(Jones has think it was named after his father,” said Geren, getting in the spirit. SESSION SNAPSHOT arlk4a 4, …;b -0,0 1 Er.0 07.; :4127,15V 7g.”