Top 9 Lege Stories
1) TIME TO KILL THE KING With the House split 76-74, the imperial rule of Speaker Tom Craddick came to an end. When it became clear that he wouldn't survive the bipartisan ABC (Anyone But Craddick) Alliance, he withdrew, yielding the gavel to user-friendly Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.
2) SHIFTY RICK Gov. Rick Perry made a big deal about rejecting $555 million in federal stimulus cash for unemployment benefits and then – seemingly without irony – touted his signing of a supposedly balanced state budget that was back-filled with $16 billion in stimulus dollars.
3) WAS IT SOMETHING SHE SAID? Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell, left jaws on the floor of the House Elections Committee when she asked Ramey Ko of the Organization of Chinese Americans, "Do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?"
4) SPARING THE ROD Reports of the death of Austin-bashing at the Lege may be greatly exaggerated, but the constant criticism of the capital city faded a bit under the dome in the 2009 session.
5) THE AGE OF DINOSAURS How to suitably celebrate changing the official state dinosaur from Brachiosaur Sauropod, Pleurocoelus to Paluxysaurus jonesi? By having Reps. Mark Homer and Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton dress up as dinosaurs on the House floor while the resolution is read. A memorable moment in a session most people are still trying to forget.
6) BACK SO SOON? The House gaveled out June 1, thinking everything was settled. But the Senate pulled a fast one, rejecting House measures to keep state agencies operating and provide $2 billion in transportation bonds, thus forcing a special session. Sine die? Sine don't.
7) NOT SO SPECIAL With the main session chubbed to death, there was a load of pending business that the Legislature could have settled in a special session. Instead, Gov. Rick Perry called lawmakers back for only four issues. They returned on July 1, passed two of the four, and fled the midsummer heat wave after 31 hours.
8) IDENTITY ISSUES The Republicans were determined to stop the phantom voter impersonation problem, even if it meant grinding the Lege to a halt. First they forced an all-nighter to suspend venerable Senate rules to get voter ID through the Senate, then they nearly killed the entire session in the House when they forced Democrats to endlessly chub to protect voter rights.
9) HALF-COCKED Lawmakers came dangerously close to overturning the ban on firearms at state university campuses, but sanity ultimately prevailed. Gun-toting Garland Rep. Joe Driver was among those angling to reverse the ban, arguing: "If it's a concealed handgun license, nobody's gonna know who has a weapon. That's part of the beauty of the concealed handgun license."