Skip to comments.Texas Democrats Bolt Again
Posted on 07/28/2003 1:21:03 PM PDT by wkcoop
July 28, 2003, 3:08PM
Texas Democrats bolt again By CLAY ROBISON Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
AUSTIN -- An unknown number of Democratic state senators abruptly left the state Capitol this afternoon after learning that Gov. Rick Perry planned to immediately call a second special session on congressional redistricting.
One Democratic senator who asked not to be named, told the Chronicle in a phone interview that senators were apparently on their way out of town.
"I have no idea where we're going. I just know in a little bit we will be out of pocket," the senator said.
He would not say how many senators had left but called it an "adequate" number to break a quorum and keep the Senate from conducting business.
The Senate requires two-thirds, or 21 senators, to be present to conduct business, meaning the absence of 11 senators could break a quorum. There are 12 Democrats in the Senate.
The senator said the action was precipitated by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's decision to bypass a traditional Senate rule that requires a two-thirds vote to debate any bill.
That rule, which has been in effect during the current special session, has so far blocked redistricting in the Senate.
The senator said the Democrats fled because they feared Perry would immediately call a second special session and Dewhurst would lock down the Senate chambers and prevent members from leaving.
The first session was to end by midnight Tuesday, but the Senate adjourned at 2:30 p.m. and the House was expected to adjourn minutes later.
Dewhurst earlier had told reporters Perry was expected to call a second special session minutes after both houses adjourned.
Of the 12 Democratic senators, the only one to show up for a 2 p.m. session today was Ken Armbrister of Victoria.
In May, more than 50 representatives hid out for several days to block action on congressional redistricting, forcing the governor to call a special session.
For over a century. We have not had a Republican state legislature. This is why the Rats are angry/scared.
Did I miss anything?
Dewhurst said once a second session begins, he will not allow the use of a "blocker" bill -- a long-standing Senate practice that empowers the chamber's minority by requiring a two-thirds vote to open debate.
A blocker is an insignificant bill placed at the top of the Senate agenda. Because rules require that bills be considered in agenda order, debate on legislation behind the blocker bill requires a two-thirds vote to suspend rules.
That means 11 of the 31 members can block debate on a bill if all are in attendance. At present, 11 Democrats and one Republican in the Senate have pledged to vote against debate.
If, in a second special session, Dewhurst placed redistricting first on the agenda without a blocking bill, a simple majority could bring it to the floor for debate.
Dewhurst said he has precedent for that. He noted that then-Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock did not use a blocker bill when the Senate debated redistricting in a 1992 special legislative session.
"I feel obliged to follow the Bullock precedent and put redistricting first," Dewhurst said.
The 1992 special session was intended to set aside a state Senate redistricting plan ordered by a Republican federal court. Democrats pushed through a plan on a partisan 18-12 vote, with three Democrats joining the Republican minority.
Republican senators did not publicly object to the Senate procedures during that special session, which occurred in the middle of candidate filing for the primaries.
The federal court rejected the Senate's map and ordered its own map used for the election. That map gave Republicans four additional state Senate seats.
Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby also tried to avoid a blocker bill in the 1979 regular session to pass legislation creating a presidential primary favorable to the Republican presidential bid of former Gov. John Connally. Twelve Democrats, who became known as the Killer Bees, broke the Senate quorum to kill the bill.
Dewhurst noted that when Hobby threatened to remove the blocker bill in a 1989 special session on workers' compensation insurance, he broke a deadlock and launched negotiations that resulted in passage of a bill.
He said he hopes the same thing occurs this year on congressional redistricting.
"We're engaged in conversation. We have a great tradition of working together in the Senate," Dewhurst said.
He said he also feels confident that the Democrats will not walk out on a second special session.
"We're not going down that road," Dewhurst said. "I expect all of our Democrat senators will work together and we won't be facing the lack of a quorum."
One potential face-saving option for the opponents would be to vote "present and not voting" on the question of bringing a redistricting bill to the floor for debate in this special session. That would allow the Senate majority to pass the bill and avoid a second special session, while the opposition would not have a record of voting for it.
"No decisions have been made at the caucus level," Van de Putte said.
Dewhurst said all he wants is a "fair" redistricting plan. He said that would result in Republicans holding 19 or 20 of the state's congressional seats, "plus Ralph Hall."
Hall, D-Rockwall, frequently votes for President Bush's Republican agenda.
Democrats now hold a 17-15 majority in the state's congressional delegation. Republicans argue that because they hold all the state elective offices and a majority in the Legislature, they also should have a congressional delegation majority.
A map passed by the state House probably would give the GOP 21 seats in the U.S. House. A proposed Senate plan could give the GOP as many as 22 U.S. House seats.
Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, offered the Senate Jurisprudence Committee another option Friday.
It likely would defeat as many as five incumbent Democratic congressmen, but it would guarantee only 16 Republican and 13 Democratic seats, while three districts would be Republican-leaning but competitive.
"We shouldn't have a map that has 22 Republican districts to only 10 Democratic districts, because this state is not a 70 percent Republican state. It's about 55 to 60 (percent Republican)," Wentworth said.
Oh no, you can speak about it. They're definitely p*ssies.
Nothing could be more Texan.
And nothing could be more UN-Texan than scurrying away from a fight.
Are we going to be subject to pictures of all those idiots celebrating again?