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chubbing

The fallout from the chubfest

Cleaning up some loose ends…The campus carry bill that was the subject of much chubbing passed on final reading.

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The battle over “campus carry” is headed back to the Texas Senate after House lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to legislation requiring universities in the state to allow concealed handguns on campus.

Senate Bill 11 from state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, narrowly avoided becoming a casualty of a key midnight deadline Tuesday before House members brokered a last-minute deal to accept several amendments limiting the measure’s reach.

Despite speculation that opponents would put up a fight before Wednesday’s vote on final passage, the measure sailed through in a 102-44 vote. Three Democrats — Tracy King of Batesville, Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City and Abel Herrero of Corpus Christi — voted with Republicans for the measure.

The language added in the House exempts health facilities, lets universities carve out gun-free zones, and states that private colleges would have to follow the same rules as public universities. It is a significant departure from the version that passed the Senate, where Birdwell rejected several amendments attempting similar changes.

If the Senate does not concur with the new language, lawmakers will then head to conference committee to iron out their differences. After that, both chambers will have to approve the final version of the bill.

Seems unlikely to me that the Senate will concur with the changes, which both weakened and broadened the bill. If I had to guess, I’d say they’ll take their chances in a conference committee. We’ll see.

Speaking on conference committee, that’s where the other carry bill is headed.

After outspoken opposition from the state’s law enforcement officials, the Texas House on Wednesday took a step toward removing a controversial provision from legislation allowing licensed Texans to openly carry handguns.

At the center of debate was language added to House Bill 910 in the Senate that limits the power of law enforcement to ask those visibly carrying guns to present their permits. Opponents say that provision amounts to a backdoor effort to repeal licensing requirements for handgun-toting Texans altogether, endangering the lives of police officers and the public.

The issue will now be hashed out by Senate and House appointees behind closed doors in a conference committee.

The move to negotiate in conference committee passed against the wishes of the bill’s author, state Rep. Larry Phillips. The Sherman Republican said the language was needed to clarify current law.

He found support from some unlikely allies, including state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, who said the provision was needed to prevent racial profiling.

“I’m not willing to give up my liberty in order for the police to go catch some criminal,” said Dutton, who unsuccessfully proposed the amendment when the bill first came up in the House. He gave a fiery speech on Wednesday in favor of keeping the language, which had been added in the Senate by Republican Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas.

[…]

The two former police officers in the chamber — state Reps. Allen Fletcher of Houston and Phil King of Weatherford, both Republicans — also teamed up to argue against it.

King urged lawmakers to give law enforcement officials the courtesy of at least allowing a committee to explore a compromise on the issue.

“I honestly believe that the unintentional result of the amendment … is to make it very difficult to do their job,” said King.

The partisan dynamics of this one are interesting, to say the least. I have no idea what will happen in committee. As the story notes, if the process takes long enough, the bill could wind up being vulnerable to a last-day filibuster. Who will put on the pink sneakers this time?

The other bill that generated a bunch of chubbing was the ethics bill. That passed, too, but not without a lot of drama.

After a passionate and sometimes raunchy Tuesday night debate, the Texas House on Wednesday gave final sign-off to a far-reaching ethics reform package that would shine light on so-called “dark money” while heavily restricting undercover recordings in the state Capitol.

The bill faces a potentially bruising showdown with the Senate over the details. A stalemate could torpedo the bill, and along with it a significant chunk of Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priorities for the session. But the 102-44 vote in favor of the Senate Bill 19 keeps it alive as the 2015 session comes to its dramatic finale over the next few days.

State Sen. Van Taylor, a Plano Republican who has carried ethics reform in his chamber, quickly issued a statement on Tuesday night expressing “astonishment for the elimination of meaningful ethics reform” in the House version of the bill.

“Some in the House apparently don’t think elected officials are the problem and instead muddled the bill with a litany of bizarre measures that point the finger at everyone besides themselves, including a page from Hillary Clinton’s playbook to launch an assault on the First Amendment,” Taylor’s statement said. “This is one of those head shaking moments that rightfully raise doubts in the minds of our constituents as to the Legislature’s resolve to serve the people above all else.”

The bill author, Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said dark money has had a corrupting influence on politics in the United States and warned that without reforms those abuses will eventually visit Texas. In the 2012 election cycle, politically active non-profits spent more than $300 million in dark money to influence elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A dark money scandal in Utah also brought down that state’s attorney general.

Quoting from a message to Congress from President Ronald Reagan, delivered in 1988, Cook said the right to free speech depends upon a “requirement of full disclosure of all campaign contributions, including in-kind contributions, and expenditures on behalf of any electoral activities.”

[…]

There’s a deep split among Republicans — and between the House and Senate — over the dark money provision in the bill. It would require that large contributions of dark money — or anonymous donations made to politically active nonprofits — be disclosed.

Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, objecting to the dark money and other provisions, tried to gut the bill, which he said was “designed to protect us from the people. It’s not designed to protect the people from us.”

But his amendment failed 133-33.

That means a showdown is looming, and that could jeopardize SB 19 once it leaves the House floor.

Which could mean a special session if it fails, since this was an “emergency” item for Abbott, though he hasn’t really acted like it’s that important to him since then. Once again I say, I have no idea what will happen, but it should be fun to watch.

As noted in the previous post, the last minute attempt to attach Cecil Bell’s anti-same-sex-marriage-license bill to an otherwise innocuous county affairs bill was likely to come to nothing – late last night, Rep. Garnet Coleman sent out a press release saying the bill had been pulled from consideration in the Senate, which settled the matter – but that didn’t stop the Senate from thumping its chest one last time.

Following an emotional floor debate, the Texas Senate passed a resolution Wednesday evening reaffirming the state’s opposition to same-sex marriage, an action taken as it became clear that a bill to prevent such marriages in Texas was dead.

The body’s 20 Republican senators and state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, voted for Senate Resolution 1028, authored by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, that affirmed “the present definition” of marriage in the state.

“This resolution is intended by those of us who signed it to demonstrate that we continue to support what the people of this state have expressed,” state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said.

Whatever. I’m too tired to expend any energy on this. It has the same legal effect as me saying “Senate Republicans and Eddie Lucio are big fat poopyheads”, and about as much maturity.

Finally, here’s a look at criminal justice bills and where they stand – some good things have been done – and an analysis of how the rules were used as the clock waned. I’m ready for a drink, a long weekend, and sine die. How about you?

House chubfest kills several bad bills

Some good news, though as always at the end of a session, the outcome isn’t clean and the details are very murky.

Squalius cephalus, the official mascot of talking bills to death

As the clock struck midnight, the failure of an anti-abortion initiative — dear to the hearts of the far right — marked the end of a tumultuous day on the floor of the Texas House that saw the passage of sweeping ethics reform and a version of legislation allowing concealed carrying of handguns on college campuses.

On the last day that it could approve major legislation that began in the Senate, the lower chamber embarked on an all-day procedural waltz, with Democrats attempting to kill bills by delaying them past midnight, and Republicans looking for openings to move their legislation.

Early in the day, Democrats narrowly shot down an attempt to essentially change the order of the calendar, moving big-ticket items up for faster consideration. They then used every parliamentary trick in the book to slow the pace, delaying consideration of mostly uncontroversial bills.

But after huddling in a secret meeting in a room adjacent to the House floor, Democrats let the action get moving again.

For hours, the House debated an ethics reform bill, dissolving into angry tirades and raunchy debate about the reach of a drug-testing provision for lawmakers.

The passionate debate pitted Republicans against each other — over lifting the veil on “dark money” and restricting people from recording or videotaping politicians without their permission.

With the clock ticking, a few Republicans at one point even sought to postpone debate over ethics legislation — deemed a priority by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — so the House could take up campus carry and an abortion bill that would have prohibited coverage of the procedure on certain health insurance plans.

Republican state Rep. Matt Schaefer of Tyler asked state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, the House sponsor of the ethics legislation, to temporarily pull down the measure so that it did not chew up the time left on the clock.

After Cook declined, Democrats took to the mic to reiterate that ethics reform was declared an emergency item by the governor and was supposed to be prioritized over the rest of the calendar.

The House eventually passed the ethics bill, including the dark money provision, then went back to an innocuous agency-review bill, also known as a Sunset bill, to reform the Department of Family and Protective Services.

[…]

The biggest victim of the midnight deadline was Senate Bill 575 by Republican Sen. Larry Taylor, which would have banned abortion coverage on plans sold on the federal Affordable Care Act’s marketplace.

Originally, SB 575 would have banned abortion coverage on both ACA plans and private health insurance plans. But the House State Affairs Committee amended the bill to mirror a measure filed in the House by state Rep. Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown, and approved by the committee this month before dying on a House bill deadline.

Republicans had said they intended to amend it on the floor to bring back the private insurance ban.

The bill — passed in the Senate earlier this month — died in the House after a turbulent ride in the lower chamber.

It was cleared by the State Affairs Committee on Saturday in a last-minute vote on the last day the committee could clear Senate proposals.

Killing SB575 was a big one, and one of the Democrats’ main goals for deadline day. They also succeeded in preventing an amendment allowing child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBT families to a sunset bill for the Department of Family and Protective Services, another main goal. What did get passed was a somewhat watered-down version of campus carry that will allow university trustees to designate certain “gun-free zones” as long as there isn’t a blanket ban on carrying firearms by those with concealed handgun licenses. The campus carry bill could possibly have been stopped, though (this is where we get into the messy and murky stuff) that could have had effects that would make the victory a lot more pyhrric. The Morning News hints at some of what might have happened.

Late Tuesday, the House was debating the gun measure, though it was unclear if it would pass.

Several Republicans said that after the initial slowdown, Speaker Joe Straus intervened in the early afternoon, to get things moving. There were conflicting accounts, though, of precisely how Straus, a San Antonio Republican, did so.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Tan Parker of Flower Mound said that in conversations with individual Democrats, “the speaker was firm that he would use everything,” meaning parliamentary “nuclear options,” to shut down debate and force votes.

Straus, though, was coy.

“I didn’t talk to Democrats,” Straus told a reporter. “But I intend to get through this,” he added, referring to the House’s agenda.

One consideration may have been that the campus carry bill is part of a grand bargain on tax cuts, border security, guns and ethics. The deal may allow lawmakers to finish their work Monday, as scheduled, instead of having a special session.

As passed by the Senate, the campus carry measure would allow the licensed concealed carrying of handguns in most public university buildings. There were rumblings the House might restore a campus-by-campus opt-in provision, as it did two years ago, or let the measure die when the clock struck midnight.

Whether Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his GOP allies in the Senate would consider that a breach of the grand bargain remained unclear.

[…]

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, said he was upset that some senior Democrats relented.

“We’ve given away too much leverage,” he said.

There was talk that Martinez Fischer and other long-serving Democrats were worried the minority might be asking for too much, especially after gaining key House GOP leaders’ cooperation in squelching bills aimed at unions and stopping hailstorm damage lawsuits.

[Rep. Trey] Martinez Fischer, though, called that too facile.

“You can’t view everything as a quid pro quo,” he said. “It’s not personal. It’s all about business.”

Martinez-Fischer had a point of order that could have killed the campus carry bill, but he pulled it down after some intense discussion, and thus it went to a vote. How you feel about all this likely correlates directly to your opinion of his dealmaking ability and trustworthiness in making such deals. It’s also the case that this isn’t the end of the story, as the Statesman notes.

Cutting off debate ended a daylong Democratic effort to avoid a floor vote on the campus carry legislation before a drop-dead midnight deadline to have an initial vote on Senate bills.

After the vote, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, said Democrats voluntarily pulled down their amendments after winning a key concession with an approved amendment allowing colleges and universities to have limited authority on banning guns in certain campus areas.

In addition, he said, Republicans were prepared to employ a rarely used maneuver to cut off debate with a motion that had already lined up agreement from the required 25 House members.

[…]

The bill-killing tactics appeared headed for success late Tuesday, until Speaker Joe Straus abruptly called for a vote on SB 11 about 20 minutes before the deadline.

The move avoided a bitter blow for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury.

Based on assurances from House leaders that campus carry would get a floor vote in their chamber, Patrick and Birdwell declined last week to add the school gun bill as an amendment to House Bill 910, a measure to allow openly carried holstered handguns that is now one small step away from Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

Before approving SB11, the House voted overwhelmingly to allow each college and university to regulate where guns may be excluded, as long as firearms are not banned campus-wide. Each plan would have to be approved by two-thirds of the board of regents under the amendment by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, that was approved 119-29.

The House also adopted an amendment by Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, to exempt health care-related institutions and the Texas Medical Center from campus carry.

“Never assume the Democrats gave up on campus carry. Democrats did not give up on campus carry,” said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston. “The Zerwas amendment waters it down. The bill will go to conference and we will continue to have our input in the process.”

Here’s a separate Trib story on the campus carry bill, an Observer story about the ethics reform bill that was a main vehicle for Democratic stalling tactics, and a Chron story on the overall chubbing strategy as it was happening. Newsdesk, RG Ratcliffe, and Hair Balls have more on the day overall, and for the last word (via PDiddie), here’s Glen Maxey:

LGBT people are finally, FINALLY free from all types of mischief and evilness. The Senate gets to debate the Cecil Bell amendment by Sen. Lucio put on a friggin’ Garnet Coleman bill tomorrow. It’s all for show. Garnet Coleman is one of the strongest allies of the LGBTQ community. They could amend all the anti-gay stuff they want on it and he’ll strip it off in conference or just outright kill the bill before allowing it to pass with that crap on it. This is for record votes to say they did “something” about teh gays to their nutso base.

And lots of high stakes trading to make sure that other stuff didn’t get amended onto bills today (labor dues, TWIA, etc.) and making sure an Ethics Bill of some sort passed. We didn’t want that to die and give Abbot a reason to call a special session.

Campus carry got watered down… no clue what happens in conference. And the delaying tactics kept us from reaching the abortion insurance ban.

Four good Elections bills passed today. Three on Consent in the House, three in the Senate all will be done by noon Wednesday.

And Lastly: Pigs have flown and landed. HB 1096 the bad voter registration bill is NOT on the Calendar for tomorrow and is therefore DEAD. I am one proud lobbyist on that one. With it’s demise, no major voter suppression bills passed (well, except for Interstate Crosscheck which is only bad if implemented badly, and we have to stay on top of it to make sure it’s not), and over forty good ones survived.

Just a few technical concurrences, and we’re done. Thank the goddess and well, some bipartisanship for once.

As someone once said, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. See the next post for more on that.

Bell’s anti-marriage bill goes down

From the inbox, a celebration of victory:

RedEquality

Civil liberties and LGBT rights groups tonight are hailing the failure by the Texas House of Representatives to pass HB 4105, which would bar the state from granting, enforcing or recognizing marriage licenses for same-sex couples even if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down state bans on such marriages as unconstitutional. A growing number of major Texas-based companies, including Dell in Round Rock and Celanese in Irving, have come out publicly against the bill this week. Emails and calls have also flooded legislative offices in opposition to the bill. Moreover, House opponents successfully managed the bill schedule to keep HB 4105 from coming up for a vote. Following are statements from the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Equality Texas, Texas Freedom Network and the Human Rights Campaign.

Terri Burke, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas
“HB 4105 would have accomplished nothing constructive. That this hateful, retrograde legislation has failed is an encouraging reflection that most Texans value equality.”

Chuck Smith, executive director, Equality Texas
“Thanks to the leadership of our allies in the Texas House, the clock ran out on HB 4105 at midnight. Unfortunately for LGBT Texans, there are still 17 days remaining in the legislative session – 17 days during which homophobic and transphobic lawmakers will continue to look for amendment opportunities to inflict discrimination. We must continue to fight their efforts to defy the Supreme Court and to deny equality to LGBT Texans – through the end of the legislative session and beyond.”

Kathy Miller, president, Texas Freedom Network
“We hope today’s action means the death of this irresponsible bill and are grateful to all of the legislators who have worked hard to ensure that it never gets out of the House. This was just one bill among many in a broad strategy to lock in discrimination against gay and transgender Texans and subvert a Supreme Court ruling on the freedom to marry. Bad actors will continue to push their discrimination legislation, including as amendments to other bills, until the final gavel. So we’re not letting our guard down now.”

Marty Rouse, national field director, Human Rights Campaign
“As a deplorable last-ditch effort to try to stop marriage equality from reaching the state if the Supreme Court rules in favor of equality this summer, this destructive and divisive bill would have sent the wrong message about the future of the Lone Star State and the ability of all Texans to live and thrive there. We urge lawmakers to ensure neither this bill nor the more than twenty other pieces of discriminatory legislation targeting LGBT Texans and their families move any further.”

Both the Trib, which also provides a profile of Rep. Bell, and TrailBlazers both note that he can (and will try to) attach his bill or some part of it to a Senate bill. The Austin Chronicle explains how it all came to this.

Its failure is a self-inflicted wound. If Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, had filed it before March 13, it might have stood a chance of earlier, safer passage. As was, it was a minor miracle that it made it this far. Bills with a number in the 4,000s, filed two months into the session, aren’t really supposed to get a second hearing.

Think about that.

But this measure was a favorite of the House Republican caucus, with three authors and 86 co-authors, and so it sped through committee, making it on to the calendar for the final day that it could conceivably pass to third reading.

Think about that.

If it had passed, then Texas lawmakers could tell fundamentalist, homophobic primary voters, “look what we did!”

At the same time, they would have to explain to the business community what they did.

The fate of this measure shows the fine balancing act that the modern GOP must strike, between the fringe right and the corporate right. Businesses of all scales have made it completely clear that they oppose such legislation: not only because is it cruel, but because it’s a great way to scare off potential customers and investors. This session, new group Texas Competes, comprising commercial power players like Southwest Airlines, Dell, Samsung the Alamo Drafthouse, PR firm GSD&M, and SXSW made a vocal commitment to LGBT equality. Even the normally loyal fiscal conservative Bill Hammond of the Texas Association of Business has chastised lawmakers for such bills.

The fight against anti-LGBT bills is not over yet. Yesterday, Senate Bill 2065, the Texas version of Indiana’s “religious freedom bill” (see Bill of the Week, May 8) was referred to the House State Affairs Committee. As for the gist of HB 4105, Bell has told the Dallas Morning News that he may try to get it tacked onto another bill as an amendment. SB 2065 could be a primary contender, and Republicans still have until May 26 to get it back to the chamber for a second reading. The question is, do they really want to?

As is always the case in the Lege, nothing is well and truly dead until sine die. Moreover, if there is a special session for whatever the reason, Greg Abbott could add this to the call. Ninety-three of the 98 Republicans in the House have signed a letter swearing to love, honor, and cherish the idea of opposite marriage till death do they part. But for today at least, the goal of killing this piece of crap has been accomplished. Let us hope we never see its like again. The Observer and PDiddie have more.

Keep yapping, Leo

Blah blah blah.

State Rep. Leo Berman said House Speaker Joe Straus’ ascent to the position was a “sham” based on promises to House Democrats and vowed he would offer the opposing party no leeway if elected Speaker next session.

“There were 11 Republican moderates to liberals. They got in the House one day trying to figure out how they could unseat Tom Craddick. They voted among themselves to see who would get the most votes out of the 11,” Berman told the Tribune just hours after making his candidacy for the position official.

If we learned one thing from the 2009 Speaker’s race, it’s that Speakers don’t get ousted quietly. Secretly, maybe, but not quietly. When someone other than Leo Berman – check that, when a group of someones other than Leo Berman start talking about a Speaker other than Joe Straus, it might be time to start paying attention. Berman himself only claims a dozen supportser, none on the record so far. Let’s just say he has a ways to go.

One more thing, from the Quorum Report:

The speaker’s office also could not resist disputing the Berman claim that Straus and his original Republican supporters had made a deal with the Democrats to block certain bills.

“That’s why we put voter ID as the first bill on the Major State Calendar a couple of weeks before the deadline,” a source in the speaker’s office chuckled.

You won’t get any argument from Democrats about that. I can’t see any sane Democrat getting within a mile of Leo Berman, but if he does start picking up support from some Republicans, Straus may want to mend a fence or two with the folks who helped put him over the top last year.

More renewable energy coming?

If the PUC says so.

The Public Utility Commission is mulling a shot in the arm to the renewables industry, as it is to energy efficiency. Sometime after a March 31 public workshop, the commission is expected to put forward a formal proposal that could require the state to develop 500 megawatts of non-wind renewables by the end of 2014. That equates to barely 5 percent of the amount of wind capacity already on the Texas grid but represents a leap for technologies that are almost invisible in the state today. “It’s a big number,” says Michael Webber, the associate director at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas. There is less than seven megawatts of solar power in Texas right now, Webber notes.

Efforts to go big have so far fallen short. The Legislature tried to pass its own version of renewables assistance last session, and advocates got so optimistic about the dozens of bills promoting solar power that they dubbed it the “solar session.” Yet just about everything failed to pass. This not only disappointed solar installers but dashed hopes of attracting a run of solar panel factories to the state. “We’re much more likely to build a manufacturing industry for solar if we have a market for solar here,” Webber says.

The regulatory push for new renewables would use essentially the same type of incentives that have propelled wind power. Wind surged beginning in 1999, thanks to the clunkily named “Renewable Portfolio Standard,” which required Texas to get 2,000 new megawatts of electricity from renewables by 2009. Once Texas utilities and wind generators got the idea, they quickly surpassed the requirement, and the Legislature came back with a stronger goal in 2005: 5,880 megawatts by 2015. That, too, has long since been exceeded: Texas has more than 9,000 megawatts of wind already installed.

The PUC has already put forward a “strawman” proposal for promoting non-wind alternative power that would require 50 megawatts (one-tenth of the 2014 amount) to come from solar power. The “strawman” designation means that it is not yet a formal proposal but rather a placeholder that can draw early comments.

The solar option seems to have support on the PUC. “We’re going to try to do some more on sun,” Barry Smitherman, the chair of the commission, told an audience at a Renewable Energy World conference in Austin last month.

More here. The solar initiatives failed when voter ID derailed everything at the end of the session. The bills had passed in the Senate but never came to a vote in the House as the chubfest ran out the clock to kill voter ID. One hopes that these bills will get another shot in 2011, but with redistricting and the budget mess on the agenda, it’s hard to see how anything else can get enough oxygen. I hope so, but I wouldn’t count on it. This will have to do until then. More from the Statesman and from Forrest Wilder on a related matter.

Buckle up back there

Texas’ seat belt law is about to change.

Texas law already requires buckling up in the front seat, and starting Sept. 1, it’ll be the law to do so in the back seat, too.

The change affects people 17 and older; those 16 and under are already required to wear a seat belt in the back seat.

Getting the measure passed into law was something of a bumpy ride that involved Austin’s state senator and police chief.

[…]

Statewide in 2008, 183 people died — and 4,046 were injured — while riding without a seat belt in the back seat of a vehicle that crashed, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

As of June 2008, 20 states and the District of Columbia required adults to use seat belts in all seats, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

During the legislative session, [Austin Police Chief Art] Acevedo testified before a Senate committee and the bill advanced, but by late in the session, it appeared to be in trouble.

It was a measure “we were able to pass in the Senate, but started running against the time clock in the House,” Watson said.

So Watson tacked his bill onto another measure that requires people in 15-passenger vans to wear seat belts or use child safety seats.

That measure, House Bill 537 by Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, passed with the back seat belt provision attached, and Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law.

Offenders — drivers or passengers, depending on the situation — could be fined $25 to $50 if an adult is not buckled up in the back seat, said Tela Mange, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Offenders can already be fined $100 to $200 if a child is not buckled up in the back seat, she said.

I managed to miss hearing about this during the session, but my buddy Matt sent me this link, and I’m glad he did. I suppose there are still some folks who think we never should have passed the law mandating seat belt usage in the front seat, but I can’t remember the last time I heard from one of them. Either this will bring them back out of the woodwork, or enough time has passed to render this more or less inert as an issue. Whatever the case, I think it’s a good idea, and about the simplest thing you can do to improve your own personal safety when in a car.

HPOU touts its opposition to eyewitness ID reform

Here’s a clip from the Houston Police Officers’ Union publication, Badge and Gun (June/July 2009 issue), written by HPOU President Gary Blankinship, detailing how HPOU successfully helped lead the fight against a couple of bills by State Sen. Rodney Ellis that were aimed at reducing the frequency of unjust convictions. The bills were SB117, which would have required all law enforcement agencies in the state to “adopt and as necessary amend a detailed written policy regarding the administration of photograph and live lineup identification procedures”; and SB116, which would have required them to “provide training concerning the technological aspects of electronically recording interrogations to peace officers and other employees of the law enforcement agency who interrogate criminal defendants or suspects, including juveniles.” Both bills passed the Senate but died in the House during the chubfest.

I find it hard to understand the rationale of a police organization opposing stuff like this, especially the latter bill, but there you have it. The case for better eyewitness ID procedures is really strong, with so many recent DNA exonerations coming in cases where the original conviction hinged on a bad eyewitness ID. Meanwhile, given that the Lege passed legislation to increase the compensation given to those who are freed after being wrongly convicted, you’d think we’d want to take common-sense steps to minimize the amount of money we’ll have to be paying out in the future to these folks. Yet so-called “fiscal conservatives” Dan Patrick and Joan Huffman voted against both these bills, and received kudos from HPOU for their obstructive role. Go figure. Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, one of the best things our next Mayor can do in choosing a new Police Chief is to find someone who will be committed to implementing these sorts of reforms regardless of whether or not the Lege mandates them. It’s the right thing to do on so many levels.

That’s a wrap for the special session

I don’t know if it’s a record, but a little more than 30 hours after they gaveled in yesterday, both chambers adjourned sine die today, bringing the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it special session to a close. As noted yesterday, the two bills deemed to be actual needs, SB2 to extend the life of the state agencies that had been left hanging in June, and HB1 to appropriate bond money for transportation projects, passed easily. The third item on the call, addressing comprehensive development agreements (CDAs) for toll roads, which was considered by the Lege to be optional, withered on the vine in the face of stiff opposition and a preference to do nothing rather than fight it out. With nothing else to do – nobody really expected Governor Perry to extend the call for anything else, despite the numerous other bills that were pre-filed, just in case – they called it quits. And a grateful state breathes a sigh of relief, not to mention a bunch of newsies and bloggers that were looking forward to a peaceful holiday weekend.

One is left to wonder why Perry bothered with the CDA agenda item when it became clear so rapidly that it was going nowhere. Burka in particular thinks it was a mistake.

The governor’s fight for more toll roads and more Comprehensive Development Agreements makes no sense politically. It puts the spotlight directly on his most controversial policy. It’s a heaven-sent opportunity for Kay Bailey Hutchison to differentiate herself from Perry, but when I spoke to a Hutchison adviser today, I heard the same line, that she does not want to engage with the Perry at this time. If not now, on the best issue for her, when?

We all know that Rick Perry couldn’t lead a pack of starving dogs to a side of beef, but luckily for him he has a primary opponent – a theoretical one, anyway – that likes to keep her powder really, really, really dry. I’m sure she’ll have something to say about this eventually, once she figures out what it is.

Speaking of Burka, I’d like to recall these words of his from late May, when the word “chubbing” first entered our vocabularies.

As everyone knows, the Democrats’ stalling tactics are an attempt to derail the Voter I.D. bill. It won’t work. This is Friday. They have to chub until Tuesday midnight. Not a chance.

And even if the Democrats were to succeed in chubbing Voter I.D. to death and other bills the D’s don’t like (TDI Sunset, Top 10 Percent), it wouldn’t matter. Perry will call a special session to pass the voter ID bill. Why are they fighting battles that they can’t win–and, worse, will hand Perry a victory?

As we now know, the Democrats did successfully chub through Tuesday at midnight; in fact, they were so successful at pushing voter ID off the calendar that they eased up on the brakes towards the end. And as we also now know, voter ID will not be taken up in this special session, and barring anything unusual it won’t be taken up at all again. I had my reservations about this choice of strategy as well – I thought if there was any chance of beating it in a vote, which might have happened with the Rs having only 74 voting members due to Rep. Kuempel’s heart attack, it should have been taken – and for the same reason, but in the end a successful strategy is one that works. This one worked, and I think that should be recognized.

Finally, in the matter of things that deserved a second chance but didn’t get one, I’ve pasted a press release from Rep. Garnet Coleman regarding CHIP beneath the fold. KBH may not know how to attack Rick Perry’s lack of leadership, but Coleman certainly doesn’t suffer from that malady.

UPDATE: In case anyone was curious, Governor Perry is satisfied with how the session went, as is Speaker Straus.

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Solar on the special agenda?

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this.

State Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, said Tuesday that he’s put in a request for several measures, including a bill to improve accountability at member-owned utilities, to be part of an upcoming special legislative session.

Fraser said he understands the governor’s office is hoping for a quick “get-in, get-out” special session of about three days to push through sunset bills to keep several key state agencies operating.

But the special session could go beyond that plan.

[…]

[M]embers are submitting requests in the case the call is expanded, especially in light of the chubbing at the end of the session that killed several measures.

Among those, the co-op bill and a solar energy initiative bill could be on the list, he said.

“Yes, I have made the request,” Fraser said Tuesday.

On the one hand, I’d love to see these measures, which had passed without major opposition – SB545, the solar bill, passed the Senate on a 25-5 vote, and was passed out of the House committee on a 7-1 vote – get another chance. As Citizen Sarah notes, this may be our last chance to keep Texas from losing out on big opportunities in the solar market to other states. On the other hand, the farther away we get from the original, announced concept of a “get in, get out” session, the more likely that crap like voter ID will be resurrected. I don’t know how to evaluate that possibility right now, but I’m wary of it.

TxDOT lives, Lege adjourns

The threat of a special session has been averted…we think.

The House just voted to work the Legislature out of a jam by keeping open the Texas Department of Transportation and other state agencies at risk of closing.

Members needed a little handiwork to make it happen, and some would say they flat ignored House rules to do it.

The problem began Sunday, when the Legislature failed to pass a bill keeping open the transportation agency, the Texas Department of Insurance and a handful of other agencies. Those agencies were up for review by the Legislature this year, and so they were scheduled to close if those reviews were not complete.

Today, the last day of the legislative session, is supposed to be only for technical corrections to bills. The House just made what sponsors called a technical correction to a bill authorizing state agencies to receive federal stimulus dollars.

Agencies have to be open in order to get stimulus dollars, said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts. So the House corrected the stimulus bills to say that the departments at risk would stay open.

As with everything else, that was not without controversy.

Reps. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas and Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, protested that lawmakers were doing an end-run on traditions and rules that allow only minor tweaks to bills on the session’s final day. They said the concurrent resolution, passed by a vote of 111-29, made substantive changes in law. It would prevent closure of the transportation and insurance departments this fall. With Senate approval, they and three other small agencies would face “sunset” review by lawmakers next session.

One advantage of the resolution is it averted a need to get two-thirds of House members to suspend rules to bring back to life a “safety net” bill that would take the agencies off the chopping block. Since the voter ID meltdown in the House last month, Republicans have been loath to suspend rules, calling it a matter of principle.

Turner and Davis, however, said House leaders were playing fast and loose with rules, setting a very bad precedent.

Turner called it “a blatant and intentional attempt to circumvent the rules.”

Davis said, “It’s ironic that we’re here to make laws for people to abide by and we won’t even stand by our own rules.”

Speaker Joe Straus, though, rejected parliamentary objections by Davis and Turner.

I’ve kinda lost track of how many bad precedents have been set this session. What’s one more for the road?

Of course, if after all that the House still managed to screw things up

The Senate has just retired en masse into a closed-door meeting to discuss the resolution the Texas House passed about an hour ago to continue operations at the Texas Department of Transportation.

Word is there could be a problem with the House wording: It may not allow TxDOT to issue the $2 billion in bonds it needs to continue road-building projects.

Big problem that would be.

I’m going to go find a paper bag to breathe into. Talk amongst yourselves.

While I will cling stubbornly to the belief that no special session is in the offing – Governor Perry wasn’t too worked up about the possibility earlier today, I do wish something could have been done to salvage CHIP.

“CHIP is dead,” said State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, a supporter of expanding the program.

Dukes said she was disappointed that her colleagues didn’t make the effort to massage parliamentary rules for CHIP as they did today for a “sunset” safety-net bill that keeps agencies operating.

“They changed the rules for what they desired,” Dukes said. “But no rules were suspended for those children in great need.”

There were bigger obstacles than the rules, or the chubfest, in the way, as Rick Perry was vowing to veto any CHIP expansion legislation that crossed his desk. The only way forward for this is with someone else in the Governor’s mansion. A statement from Rep. Garnet Coleman about this is beneath the fold. May this be the last post of the 2009 legislative session.

UPDATE: It’s unclear what, if anything, the Senate is going to do about the un-authorized bonds. It’s also unclear if that’s a problem. At least windstorm is a done deal.

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The lack of leadership

State Sen. John Carona gets medieval on his party’s leadership.

Tempers flared Saturday on the Legislature’s last weekend with a key GOP senator declaring that the session’s central theme is “lack of leadership” by top members of his own party.

“If you look at this session, you’ve got two underlying problems: One is simply the lack of leadership in the top offices and the second is the lack of any clear, compelling agenda,” said Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Chairman John Carona, R-Dallas.

His angst was triggered by the evident demise of a proposal to allow urban areas to raise gasoline taxes and some fees in their areas to pay for local transportation projects.

But the bickering about the bill has been emblematic of a string of sparring episodes that have played out over the last few weeks as lawmakers have struggled with successes and losses on controversial public issues.

[…]

n charging a lack of leadership, Carona referred to Perry’s expected tough primary battle to keep his job against U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, speculation that Dewhurst may run for U.S. Senate and the fact that GOP Speaker Joe Straus is a novice House leader.

“You can determine that perhaps that’s because the state’s top two leaders are considering their future political ambitions. You might consider that part of it is due to the fact we have a new speaker who has his own troubles,” Carona said. “The bottom line is you can’t lead 181 members without strong personalities and a set and significant agenda.”

He particularly said Perry has failed to lead on the transportation bill, saying the governor should have supported the local-option idea since money is running short to meet transportation needs.

Once again, I’ll say that this session has been about the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary from the beginning. Rick Perry has achieved a lot of his goals, though not all of them. If you don’t like what you’ve seen, well, that’s what the elections next year are all about.

The story talks about the bills that were killed by the chubfest, and the ensuing scramble to resurrect as many of the important ones as possible. I say the fact that so many bills were in a position to be killed by that kind of delay is itself an indictment of the leadership, specifically of Speaker Straus. Look at SB1569, the unemployment insurance bill that would have gone against the Governor’s wishes on stimulus money. It passed out of the Senate committee on April 2, was put on the calendar on the 14th, passed on second reading on the 16th, and on third reading on the 20th, when it was sent to the House. It then passed out of the House committee on May 2, and disappeared until May 18, when the Calendars committee finally took it up. It was debated in the House on May 21, then postponed due to disagreements over an amendment, and was finally taken up again after all the chubbing concluded late on the 26th, where it failed to pass before midnight. It took the Senate 18 days to go from committee approval to final passage. It took the House 19 days to go from committee approval to the initial floor debate. If the House had moved at the same pace as the Senate, SB1569 would have been on its way to Governor Perry’s desk before any of us had ever heard the word “chubbing”.

Oh, and despite Burka’s helpful suggestion that the House simply punt on this, I’ll note that SB1569 passed on third reading with eight Yes votes from Republican Senators, out of 19 total. Assuming it would have gotten 70 Yes votes from House Dems (let’s assume an absence or two, and a stray No vote or two), it would have needed 30 of 75 Republican Yeas to pass with a veto-proof majority. That’s a smaller percentage of House GOP votes needed than Senate GOP votes received, so don’t tell me it was impossible. Yes, there may have been more pressure on House Republicans to vote No, but we’ll never know that now. This could have been taken up for a vote in time had the House been better organized and had it been a priority instead of voter ID.

There are other examples, of course. We know that committee assignments came out later than usual. You can cut some slack for that. The House didn’t get to voting on any bills till later than usual as well, and along the way we’ve heard complaints about the pace of the action in the House and of the length of their daily schedule. All I’m saying is there was a reason there were so many bills imperiled at the end. It didn’t have to be that way.

Getting back to Carona and his complaint, it’s making for some quality entertainment if you’re into that sort of thing. Follow the ups and downs here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Extending the deadline

The deadline for finishing up conference committee work was supposed to be last night at midnight. There was too much work to do for that, so the deadline got pushed back for 24 hours.

That means the Senate on Monday likely will be approving dozens of conference committee reports — the final versions of bills — where they were supposed to just do minor corrections to a few bills.

Senate Administration Committee Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, told senators a few minutes ago that 131 House bills loaded up with Senate amendments are still in conference — meaning they are still in negotiation with House members.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Williams said.

The vote to waive the rule and extend tonight’s deadline was 31-0. A four-fifths vote of at least 25 senators was required.

Among other things, that means that there’s more time for a deal on windstorm insurance, which is now the must-pass bill of the session, as a failure to do so will mean a special session. It also means that there may be some hope for the previously-declared dead solar bill.

At the stroke of midnight last night, Sen. Troy Fraser’s SB 545, the “chosen” solar incentives bill for the legislative session, seemed to have drawn its last breath when Rep. Sylvester Turner killed its vehicle.

Fraser’s solar bill would have provided incentives for solar installation, with a view to increasing solar energy generation in Texas. Since the bill didn’t make it through the House chubfest last week, it was tacked on to HB 1243, which would require utilities to purchase extra electricity from on-site renewable generation.

Well: Would have required. Turner killed the bill last night, seemingly out of hurt feelings over other bills that didn’t make it through the parliamentary process over the past day.

“All day long we have been sending bill after bill back on germaneness,” Turner said, objecting to the fact that HB 1243 had absorbed three loosely related measures.

He also objected to the electricity rate increases that would have been passed onto consumers to fund the solar incentives. Still, at 20 cents per month for residential customers, the increases were quite small.

[…]

According to Environment Texas advocate Luke Metzger, establishing a solar incentives program is critical in Texas right now, since the solar manufacturing base isn’t permanently settled anywhere. If Texans buy more solar systems, it could persuade manufacturer’s to set up shop here. Without the incentives, Metzger says, “we’ll miss the solar boat for decades to come, potentially.”

But all hope is not lost. Last week’s chubfest in the House has put legislators through an exercise in it ain’t over ’til it’s over. And it ain’t over for solar incentives, which may find a viable vehicle in Fraser’s own SB 546, the session’s “chosen” energy efficiency bill, which is in conference committee today.

If SB 546 can accommodate solar incentives legislation, Metzger does not think there will be a problem with germaneness.

However, he points out, “the other danger still is timing. This all has to happen very quickly in order to avoid Turner or anyone else trying to chub it to death.”

Keep hope alive. Maybe the extended deadlines will be sufficient to allow this to pass. Stranger things, almost always for the worse, have happened.

Other items to keep an eye on are SCR72, the joint resolution to clean up after the Railroad Commission, and HB498, the innocence commission study bill. A lot of good criminal jurisprudence reform bills were chubbing victims so salvaging that one would be nice.

Senate passes windstorm bill

The one bill that has been expressly mentioned as a reason for a special session if it doesn’t get done is SB14, the windstorm insurance bill. It was a chubbing victim on Tuesday, but on Wednesday it was revived by the time-honored “attach it as an amendment to another bill” method.

By a 27-4 vote, senators voted to amend House Bill 4409 to include the provisions of Senate Bill 14, that was passed in April to address the looming crisis in the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.

“This is our last hope to be able to work on this issue,” said state Sen. Mike Jackson, R-LaPorte, the Senate sponsor of the House legislation.

[…]

Jackson said that while the House may not accept the Senate’s provisions, the approval of the amended bill tonight will provide a way for House and Sehate negotiators to come up with a final version that can be approved before the Legislature adjourns on Monday.

The original version of HB4409 passed the House by a 147-0 margin, so one hopes that the addition of SB14 to it will be palatable. I’m in favor of there not being a special session, so taking action to reduce the odds of one is a good thing in my book. Floor Pass has more.

Unemployment insurance dies, CHIP lives

Not unexpectedly, SB1569 was a casualty of the weekend chubfest. Also not surprisingly, it was basically chubbed by Republicans, who wanted to ensure its death as the local and consent calendar was finally finished up a little before the midnight deadline. I’m disappointed to see this bill die, but given that it hadn’t been passed by a veto-proof majority in time for the inevitable veto to be overridden, it was doomed anyway. If that helps the House Republicans blow off some steam, then so be it.

On the good side, CHIP expansion got new life.

The Texas Senate late Wednesday, facing a midnight deadline, used a House bill concerning newborn screening to revive a measure aimed at expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, put SB841 (the CHIP expansion bill) into HB1795, which was approved 28-2 by the Senate.

The CHIP amendment allows some families with incomes above current limits to buy into the insurance program.

The measure now heads back to the House with changes approved in the Senate.

One hopes it will be accepted as amended. That’s at least one less casualty from the weekend.

I’m including an excerpt from Ed Sills’ Texas AFL-CIO email newsletter about SB1569 beneath the fold. Click on to read it.

UPDATE: Floor Pass, quoting Harvey Kronberg, thinks the CHIP add-on might fall victim to a point of order.

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The state of solar power

The Chron has a feature story on efforts to ramp up solar power in Texas.

[S]olar advocates say the right legislation could do the wind industry’s success one better.

One approach, incentives to install solar panels on homes and businesses, could be the catalyst for a homegrown industry of system installers and panel manufacturers, they say. Those manufacturers also could benefit from close proximity to an existing link in the solar supply chain — the single largest manufacturer of high quality polysilicon used in semiconductor chips and solar panels, which is located in Pasadena on the Houston Ship Channel.

“Really you want to develop a sustainable industry that does not require incentives,” said Steve Chadima, vice president of internal affairs for SunTech Power, a Chinese solar panel manufacturer that is eyeing Texas as a possible plant site. “You don’t want to live on the dole forever. But you need to jump-start the industry for it to develop along all the sectors.”

As legislative deadlines approached late Tuesday, advocates were closely watching a bill that would give out $500 million in rebates over the next five years to businesses and homeowners who install solar panels. Money for the rebates would be raised through monthly fees on electric bills—about 20 cents for residential customers, $2 for small businesses and $20 for industries.

The law would also require retail electric companies to buy a customer’s surplus electricity at a fair market price or credit the customer’s bill and provide incentives for commercial-scale solar installations.

The bill’s fate was uncertain, and its supporters in the legislature and the solar industry fear that if it doesn’t pass the Legislature this year, other states that offer incentives will get a leg up on Texas in developing new solar business.

The bill in question is SB545, which was sadly one of the victims of the weekend chub-a-rama. However, as Citizen Sarah notes, there’s still hope.

This afternoon, the Senate has HB 1243 on their intent calendar. HB 1243 is a “net metering” bill which would ensure that owners of solar installations, small wind turbines, or biogas generators get paid a fair price for the excess power they produce. As HB 1243 is a solar-related bill, it can be deemed germane, or related, to solar SB 545, which “died” last night […].

Which means that SB 545 can (maybe, possibly) be amended to HB 1243. Tentative huzzah!

It gets better. HB 1243 is co-authored by Senator Troy Fraser — the same fellow who sponsored SB 545. As both of these bills are Fraser’s babies, the chances of SB 545 living on as an amendment are looking pretty good.

We should know soon enough. Both HB1243 (99-36 in the House) and SB545 (25-5 in the Senate) passed easily enough, so one hopes this would not be controversial. I’ve got my fingers crossed. I’ve got my fingers crossed. NewsWatch: Energy has more.

UPDATE: Success!

The text of Senate Bill 921 was attached to House Bill 1243, a measure relating to net metering for electric service customers that was earlier passed the House.

Also attached was the text of Senate Bill 545, a bill earlier passed by the Senate that is designed to provide incentives for solar projects.

I don’t know how the vote went, but it doesn’t really matter. It passed, and as long as the House concurs, it’s off to the Governor for an autograph. Nicely done, Senate.

And so the chubbing comes to an end

So, as far as I know at this point, SB362 is dead, other bills may or may not be dead, and some semblance of normality will return to the House for the remaining days of the session. After seeing so much analysis, hand-wringing, name-calling, and what have you over the weekend, I think it may be premature to speculate as to what the fallout of all this may be. It may wind up that most of the bills people were fretting and arguing about pass anyway, and most of the ones that end up dead were always fated to die one way or another. We may yet have a special session, or we may not – even Burka is now equivocal about the possibility. I’ll simply observe that Rick Perry hasn’t telegraphed his intentions, which as best I recall is not how he’d operated in the past in calling specials. Not definitive by any stretch, but at least moderately suggestive.

If in the end most bills wind up getting passed, then the question is how does this play out in the 2010 elections. Voter ID, at least the concept of it, has a fair amount of support in the polls. You could probably knock it down a fair amount with some detailed information, but having to go into that kind of detail is generally not winning politics. On the other hand, I daresay that support is fairly shallow. Present it as a matter of priority, with voter ID being put ahead of things like insurance reform, and I bet it’s not nearly the winner it is in a vacuum. I’d bet it barely registers in an open-ended “what’s your top priority” poll question. So while I’m sure the Rs think they have an issue, I know the Ds think they do as well. And if you want to make it about obstructionism, my general belief is that in most cases it’s the majority party that gets the blame when stuff the electorate perceives as important doesn’t get done. That’s not universal – ask the national GOP how their obstructive efforts paid off for them last year – but I think it’s the starting point. Each side can claim they had priorities that they tried to enact but were prevented from doing so. All I know is I’ll put mine up against theirs any day. I’m sure they see it the same way.

I guess if I have one prediction to make coming out of this, it’s that the Speaker will be elected in 2011 with primary support from his or her own party. Just another reason to get that Democratic majority in the House, as if another were needed. For the rest, I’ll wait to see what the runes look like before I begin casting them.

The last day of chubbing

So tomorrow night at midnight is the deadline for the House to approve Senate bills on second reading, which means that as long as the Democrats can keep the chubfest going, SB362 will die. Modulo any attempt to graft it onto some other piece of legislation, and a special session, of course. I took a break from following the ups and downs of this over the weekend – BOR did a great job with that, so catch up there if you need to. What I know at this point is that I don’t expect any kind of deal, despite a fair bit of chatter over the weekend that one was possible, and that Speaker Straus’ weak sauce obstruction charges suggests to me that the Rs are feeling less secure in their position right now than the Ds are. Beyond that, it’s all in how everyone campaigns next year. So let’s get it on, and let’s see where those chips fall.

Perry’s salvage job

How can you tell that sine die is approaching? Governor Perry starts getting involved in the legislative process.

Perhaps state lawmakers are fatigued by Gov. Rick Perry’s long tenure or maybe they’re just balking at his leadership, but the Republican-led Legislature this year has turned its back repeatedly on the governor’s decisions and policy positions.

The Senate has rejected a Perry appointee to the parole board as incompetent for the job. His nominee for Board of Education chairman is in grave danger. The House last month stripped Perry’s office of most of its funding in the budget debate, and the money had to be restored in a joint conference committee.

House lawmakers also voted to abolish the Texas Department of Transportation, which is chaired by Perry’s former chief of staff, and replace it with an elected commission. Not to mention the controversial $555 million in federal stimulus money that Perry wants to reject and lawmakers seemed poised to accept.

Publicly, Perry responds by exuding a “what-me-worry?” attitude.

“I don’t ever get concerned about what goes on in the Legislature,” Perry said recently. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years. It ebbs and flows.”

However, this past week, the governor engaged in a major effort to salvage his legislative agenda and public persona.

Perry threatened a special session if his emergency item on windstorm insurance reform does not pass. In state and national publications, he sought to clarify his nationally publicized remarks on Texas secession from the union. And Perry lobbied lawmakers on the House floor for passage of major restrictions on top 10 percent admissions to state universities — a bill that had not been on Perry’s list of priorities previously.

I suppose this is a companion piece to one from a week ago, during which time the McLeroy nomination got re-animated though not necessarily resuscitated. We still don’t know the status of the Texas Enterprise Fund in the budget, and the unemployment insurance bill still hasn’t passed, thanks in part to the ongoing chubfest. A deal has now apparently been reached on the Top Ten law, though whether it really achieves what Perry wanted it to or not I couldn’t say. So as before, tune in tomorrow, or maybe a few days from now, to see how much of a victory Perry gets to declare.

Perry’s staff also had to spend part of the week distancing him from his chief campaign consultant, who told the Dallas newspaper that expanding the GOP philosophical base is like opening a “whorehouse.” Several prominent Republican women denounced the statement in a letter to Perry as “in keeping with how you’ve governed — through division and an appeal to fear.”‘

[…]

“The governor is clearly distracted by an upcoming battle in the Republican primary and is probably is somewhat less focused on the range of issues that he might have been focused on,” [Sen. John] Carona said.

Many believe that Perry, by attacking the federal government and the Obama administration, is trying to shore up hard right support for his expected GOP primary re-election challenge from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

“A lot of decisions, from my vantage point, appear to tempered by what appeals to the far right element in a Republican primary, and that can wreak havoc on the system,” said state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

Yeah, some of us have been saying that Perry’s agenda for this entire session should be viewed through the 2010 GOP primary prism for awhile now. Say whatever else you want about our Governor, he’s not subtle, and while his motives may be unintelligible, they’re seldom a mystery.

Where things stand in the House

So after yesterday’s chubathon, which lasted till one AM, there are still a bunch of local and consent bills to be dealt with. After that, there are still more bills to go before the House could get to today’s calendar, with SB362 still parked atop it. That makes it function as a de facto blocker bill, the irony of which I trust is lost on no one.

I can’t say for sure that the Dems’ strategy will work, in the sense of stalling long enough to keep SB362 from ever coming to the floor. I’m not sure how the math works out, and I presume the Republicans can and will force everyone to be on the floor as much as possible to try to maximize the time for bills to be brought up. It’s possible the Republicans will go along with the two thirds rule to get to some bills ahead of SB362, and it’s even possible some kind of compromise could be reached to allow SB362 to be voted on once and for all. Hard to say what that could be at this point, but crazier things have happened in the waning days of a session. Until further notice, assume there will be a lot more small talk and clock-watching on the floor.

UPDATE: There are some good bills that are stuck behind SB362 on the calendar. If the Dems’ chubbing effort is successful, those bills will die. That is a shame, but it’s the Republicans that have set the priority by declaring voter ID to be the single most important issue facing Texas today. They’re perfectly capable of re-evaluating that priority.

Chubbing

That’s the word of the day, as the Democrats use up most of the ten-minute allotment for discussion of bills on the Local and Consent calendar in order to delay, hopefully to death, the voter ID bill SB362. It’s not a filibuster, as there’s no such thing in the House – the talking is merely designed to slow the whole process down, which it has done in both chambers. Since there were over 200 bills on the Local and Consent calendar, and since the bills are taken in order, taking nearly ten minutes per bill can really grind things down. Dems have noted a way to get to the bills everyone really wants to tackle, by voting to do so on a Senate-like two-thirds vote to consider a bill out of order, but so far there have been no takers on that.

Burka thinks the Dems are making a huge strategic and political blunder by adopting this tactic. I agree with him on one point: Rick Perry will have no hesitation about calling a special session, if the only thing that prevents voter ID from passing is a successful murder of the clock. That’s why I’ve thought for awhile that the best possible outcome is a floor vote that ends with the bill not passing. Maybe that’s not attainable – if so, running out the clock and hoping for the best is about all there is left to do. I strongly disagree with his assertion that they may as well give up the fight, on this and on unemployment insurance, which will surely pass the House but would not survive a promised veto. On voter ID, the Democratic base can forgive losing, especially in a case where the deck was stacked to begin with, but it won’t forgive surrender, not on this. Given a choice between giving the Rs a campaign issue and pissing off the very people they’ll be counting on to help them win elections next year, it’s no contest. As for UI, who’s to say Perry will necessarily follow through, and if he does who’s to say it’s good politics for him to do so? I don’t see the value in punting and am frankly a little puzzled by Burka’s touting of it in either case.

As I write this, the chubbing continues, for who knows how much longer. I don’t know how this ends. More than likely, it ends the way it was seemingly pre-ordained to end when the Senate gutted the two thirds rule so it could ram voter ID through, with SB362 passing. That may happen sometime before Tuesday, the last day for the House to pass a Senate bill on second reading, or it may happen later this summer. I’d still rather go down fighting. BOR and Rep. Peña have more.

UPDATE: Doesn’t look like there will be any way out of this other than straight through it.