Sine Dry: Quiet Day in the Senate Ends with Immediate Special Session

The Legislature’s session had barely ended Monday afternoon before a new one began. The Senate adjourned sine die (indefinitely) just after 5 p.m. and, not 15 minutes later, received word that a special session would be called at 6 p.m.

The Senate floor was mostly quiet all day, save a few small children babbling and cooing in chairs next to their parents and grandparents. After several hours, the Senate passed three memorial resolutions in memory of Sen. Leticia Van de Putte’s (D-El Paso) late grandson, Rex Van de Putte; Sen. Royce West’s (D-Dallas) late son, Remarcus West; and Greg Spaw, the late son of the Senate secretary. The Senate later adjourned in their honor.

“We can all be proud of the responsible steps made this session to invest in our citizens, fund water infrastructure, and build an even stronger foundation for the future of our economy and Texas families,” Governor Rick Perry said in a statement. “However, there is still work to be done on behalf of the citizens of Texas.”

Perry called the special session to pass a redistricting plan, making maps used in the 2012 election permanent. But Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told reporters this evening, “I expect the governor to add more topics to the call, but I think he’s going to roll these out and make some progress on the bills first.” So far four bills have been filed, all from Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo).

After the special session was gaveled in, Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) nominated Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) for President Pro Tempore, and he was voted in. There was a brief argument over the two-thirds rule, and, though Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) put up a fight that included statistics on discrimination in the current districts, Dewhurst remained firm that there would be no blocking bill this session. With Democrats no longer able to block bills with the two-thirds rule, Republicans will be free to pass any number of conservative bills—abortion anyone?—if they choose and if Perry adds those topics to the call. (In a special session, the Lege can consider only issues on the governor’s call.)

“I expect to see some pushback, but remember I’ve operated this way in special sessions on redistricting going back to 2003,” Dewhurst said, referring to the summer of 2003, when he ditched the two-thirds rule for the first time to pass Tom DeLay’s mid-decade redistricting plan.

The first hearing of the special session will take place at 9 a.m. on Thursday. Welcome back to the session.

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Published at 9:43 pm CST