Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 16: You Know... Like You Do

Today is the 16th day of the 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature. The House will reconvene at 10 am, the Senate at 11.

The House spent a delightful morning yesterday congratulating and thanking people for visiting the capitol. Among the resolutions passed: declaring it Lubbock day, declaring it Brownsville day, declaring it East Bend Chamber of Commerce day and declaring it Merchandise Vending Association day (nobody tell Lubbock and Brownsville they have to share a day, OK?).

While the House was all lightness and smiles (have you ever seen Rep. Leo Berman smile? It's creepy) a dark pall hung over the Senate as it launched into a marathon 13-hour hearing on voter ID. As the debate raged both sides argued for their position. Opponents pointed out that the legislation would cost two million dollars during a budget crisis, was unlikely to be approved by the Department of Justice and would limit access to the polls for people of color, women and people with disabilities. Proponents said that they were pretty sure that some people who weren't supposed to be voting were, and that the legislation was popular so it must be the right thing to do. The statement in support that most stuck in my craw was by Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) who said that the identification requirements weren't any more stringent than those required to cash a check.

Voting is the highest sacrament of the American faith in government of the people, by the people and for the people - not the everyday stuff of errands and grocery shopping. Equating cashing a check to voting betrays a profound contempt for democracy. The arrogance of such a statement is sacrilege. Shame on us if he gets away with it.

The legislation passed the Senate on a strictly partisan vote - 12 to 20.

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Still no committee assignments in either the House or Senate. I'm told that the Speaker is taking private meetings with many House members to talk to them about committees. Speaker Straus is known for his bipartisan approach to government and respect for individual members so it's not surprising that he would take some extra time to be sure he got the assignments right. Until he does the only legislation moving is voter suppression.

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