Top 10 Lege Stories

Wendy Davis' filibuster, redistricting, and the lottery fiasco

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Jan. 3, 2014

Post-filibuster bust
Post-filibuster bust
Photo by John Anderson

1) THE PEACEFUL SESSION, THE CHAOTIC SPECIALS After a relatively disruption-free regular session, in which Democrats and Republicans came to surprising consensus, Gov. Rick Perry immediately threw that away by calling three special sessions to tackle the conservative red meat issues of abortion and redistricting.

2) THE FILIBUSTER HEARD AROUND THE WORLD, PT. 1 Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, became an international sensation and the Democratic frontrunner for governor when she launched a mammoth, 11-hour filibuster of new, stringent abortion regulations. The hour seemed lost, right until Texas voters took back their chamber with a public outcry that delayed the vote past midnight. The GOP was forced to come back for another special session to pass the legislation, but Texas is once again ground zero for the health care battle.

3) THE FILIBUSTER HEARD AROUND THE WORLD, PT. 2 Before Davis' solo effort, advocates for women's reproductive rights queued for hours to speak in committee against the abortion regulations. The people's filibuster saw more than 600 people sign up to speak, until House State Affairs Commit­tee Chair Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, testily terminated testimony.

4) A FEW PENNIES MORE Lawmakers didn't exactly turn the corner on school finance, but the budget restored $3.9 billion of the $5.4 billion lost in the 2011 budget slashing. However, that may not placate Judge John Dietz, who has already called the current system unconstitutional and will hold new hearings in January (see "Top 10 Education Stories.")

5) NEW MAPS, OLD MAPS Lawmakers rubber-stamped the interim maps approved by federal judges, but like school finance, this all seems likely to be resolved in the courts.

6) TRAVIS IN TURMOIL Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, burned his political bridges by unexpectedly quitting his House seat at the end of the regular session. Formerly a top contender for Austin mayor, Strama left to head up Google Fiber's Austin office, and suddenly there was a special election in House District 50.

7)  NOW YOU'RE JUST MAKING THIS SHIT UP! The GOP and fundamentalist Christian smear operation against reproductive rights campaigners reached new lows, as women were barred from bringing tampons into the House and Senate chambers. Then came bizarre claims that there were satanists in the Capitol (Ethel! Pass the smelling salts!), and a discredited claim by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst that campaigners were carrying jars of poop.

8) FAREWELL TO THE BEAN COUNTERS The two most important figures in writing the state budget – Senate Finance Chair Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, and longtime House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts, R-Wax­ahachie, both announced their departure from the Legislature, leaving a perturbing vacuum in the Lege's accounting department.

9) SCRATCH THAT The geniuses of the Tea Party delegation briefly disbanded the Texas Lottery Commission – right until someone pointed out that the lottery provides $2 billion in school finance.

10) IF IT WALKS LIKE A DUCK AND LOB­BIES LIKE A DUCK A good dose of schadenfreude as self-appointed GOP kingmaker Michael Quinn Sullivan (aka "Mucus") of conservative think tank Empower Texans was accused of being an unregistered lobbyist. In typically temperate fashion, Sullivan compared the Texas Ethics Commission to Nazis.

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