While I wouldn’t call this legislative session anything to be terribly happy about, it could have been far worse. That’s because a whole lot of nasty red meat bills never got voted on, and Democrats are justifiably happy about that. I’m happy, too, but not quite ready to do a victory dance about it.
All abortion-related bills were stopped before they could reach the Senate or House floor this session, marking a rebound for Democrats after Republican efforts successfully scaled back family planning funding and abortion resources in 2011.
“Democrats stuck together very well this session and made strong arguments and strong advocacy on behalf of a woman’s right to choose,” said Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who leads the Democratic caucus. “Just this week, I’ve had pressure from leadership pushing to bring up bills in an almost threatening way, and we have stood up to that. … Now we’re at the end of the session, and they’re dead.”
At least 24 abortion-related bills were filed this session, some of which garnered the support of Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Three marquee proposals for anti-abortion lawmakers failed to gain traction: a bill that would have banned abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, a bill that would increase regulations for abortion facilities and a bill that would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 50 miles.
The bills were somewhat different from last session, Watson said, but Democrats were victorious on women’s health issues this session. “I feel very strongly that we won,” he said.
Maybe. I sure hope Sen. Watson is right. But as I worried about two weeks ago, the real danger is in a special session. While we appear to have avoided the need for a special session on the budget and other major priorities, the buzz now is that there will be a special session on redistricting. If that’s all it’s about, then there’s nothing to worry about. But special sessions are about what Rick Perry wants, and to a lesser degree what the people who have Rick Perry’s ear want. One of those people is David Dewhurst, who needs as much of a boost to his wingnut credentials as he can muster, and he’s urging Perry to call a special on all the wingnut business that went unfinished.
Dewhurst told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Thursday that Gov. Rick Perry should call lawmakers back quickly to pass several other conservative-backed bills that have stumbled in the regular session.
In addition to redistricting, Dewhurst said lawmakers should return to take up measures on abortion, school choice, guns on college campuses, drug testing for welfare recipients, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and the state’s constitutional spending cap.
“I’m mad at the partisanship that blocked these bills, and I’m particularly mad at some of the things that happened over in the House,” he told the Star-Telegram’s Dave Montgomery. “But at the end of the day, I think that everybody’s here trying to do the best they can.”
Though Perry threatened a special session if lawmakers failed to send him a budget that contained $2 billion in water infrastructure funding and $1.8 billion in tax relief, he has so far stayed quiet about calling for overtime on other issues. Perry’s office said on Thursday that the governor would not make any announcements until the regular session concludes.
But Dewhurst said he had urged Perry on Wednesday to call lawmakers back. “I think he’s seriously considering doing that,” Dewhurst said.
Dewhurst almost certainly feels like he needs a special session to score some wingnut victories to help him win his next primary, especially after his loss to Ted Cruz. of course, just because Dewhurst is asking doesn’t mean Perry will answer. He has his own stuff to deal with, and he’ll do whatever he thinks is best for himself, as he always does. But it’s hard to see how calling a wingnut special hurts Perry, especially if he is running for something, in 2014 or 2016. Despite progress made in this past week, there’s still a lot of unfinished real business, and nay failures there definitely opens the window for a special. If that happens, then all bets are off. I remain very concerned about this. Burka has more about Dewhurst.