On the Lege

Whither After Whitmire?

Prior to Sen. John Whitmire's unilateral surrender last Friday (see "Capitol Chronicle," p.15), Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos told Naked City that if the Houston Democrat indeed chose to return to the Senate, Barrientos and the rest of the "Texas 11 Minus One" would have little choice but to return as well and "fight there as best as we can." Now that Gov. Rick Perry has called a third special session, to begin Monday to address congressional re-redistricting among other topics, the Albuquerque exiles plan to be in Laredo today (Thursday) for another hearing in their federal lawsuit to block the Perrymandering effort, and then were considering "barnstorming" through Texas, appearing in Lubbock, Waco, and perhaps elsewhere before arriving in Austin to make their stand.

Like nearly everything associated with the Lege this year, the latest reversal has its comic aspects. For example, just what will the Republican senators do about the fines and other sanctions they imposed on the Democrats for playing hooky during the second-called session? In theory, Whitmire delivers a quorum -- but will they try to make him pay $57,000 for the privilege of doing their dirty work? And should they decide not to fine Whitmire, how will they justify maintaining the fines against the others? On Friday, Whitmire dismissed the question out of hand, saying, "I've always considered [the fines] just play money, and I don't expect anybody will ever have to pay them." Having been banned from the pressroom, Whitmire spoke on the Senate floor, prompting reporters to tease Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Carleton Turner about the curious inconsistencies of the Senate "sanctions." Turner sighed, "I don't make the rules, I just do as I'm told."

Some of the exiles journeyed to D.C. last week to make their case to Congress and the national news media, and over the weekend, according to the Quorum Report, both Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, and Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, slipped home briefly to see their families. They made no public appearances and said they remained watchful for an instant session call by Perry and any attempt to arrest them. Now that the session has been called, the Dems presumably face no arrest risk today in Laredo, when their Voting Rights Act lawsuit is heard before a three-judge federal panel. A related lawsuit was heard Monday by the Colorado Supreme Court over that state's (already accomplished) congressional re-redistricting.

Whitmire said his reading of the transcript of the initial hearing before Judge George Kazen convinced him that the Democrats have little chance of success in Laredo; he also said that "the courts are going to settle this matter" and that he's returning to the Senate in part to get that process started. QR also reported that Whitmire was seen dining with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst Friday night in downtown Austin, prompting Shapleigh to comment, "That bottle of wine came at a high cost to his integrity. I feel very sorry for John. He has lost whatever values he had, whatever party he had, whatever constituency he had, and whatever future he had. I am confident that the masters he now serves will reward him."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More On the Lege
Lege Lines: Stretching Toward a Sunset
Lege Lines: Stretching Toward a Sunset
Don’t praise the Senate GOP for working quickly to pass what’s needed

Mary Tuma, July 21, 2017

Lege Lines
Lege Lines
Sine die at last, transportation, water, and more

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 9, 2013


John Whitmire, Gonzalo Barrientos, Texas 11, Rick Perry, Quorum Report, Eliot Shapleigh, Juan Hinojosa, Voting Rights Act, George Kazen, David Dewhurst

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle