June 05, 2003

You know, with today's report that redistricting is likely to be on the agenda for a special session that will also revisit the government reorganization bill, I'm almost ready to say "OK, just shoot me now and get it over with. Just make it quick and get me out of my misery." Almost.

I will say this, if redistricting is on the menu in July or January or whenever, it will apparently be up to the Senate to determine its fate. Early indicators are intriguing:

Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant and a former lieutenant governor, said he knew nothing of Perry's summer plans, but he called a special session on redistricting "inadvisable, at least on the Senate end."

Ratliff is one of at least two Republican senators who have been rumored to be against the redistricting resurrection. He's the first to speak on the record, as far as I can tell. Of course, the context of this quote may have been "It's inadvisable now because there are enough Democrats to block the bill from coming to the floor", or maybe "It's inadvisable now because we don't have any money to pay for damnfool special sessions", or somesuch.

On the question of whether or not the Senate would adhere to its normal rules, which would favor Democratic efforts to block redistricting, the Statesman's Dave McNeely explains the blocker bill and suggests it would be in place when a special session is called:

A potential difference from a regular session is that the Senate might not be able to use its cherished tradition of parking a bill atop the calendar during a special session.

Known as a blocker bill, its presence requires a two-thirds vote to suspend the rules for any other bill to reach the floor.

That could be particularly important on redistricting. The 12 Democrats exceed the 11 needed to block a two-thirds vote.

But if there is no blocker bill, a bill could be considered without suspending the rules. Once on the floor, it takes a simple majority to pass it.

When the infamous dozen "Killer Bees" disappeared from the Senate in 1979, it was because then-Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby planned to circumvent the two-thirds tradition. So the 12 senators fled and hid out for four and a half days. Hobby finally relented, a truce was called, and the senators returned.

Will Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst observe the two-thirds tradition in a special session?

"I expect that I would," said Dewhurst, who has worked hard to gain the trust of all 31 senators. "And in looking through all the Senate rules and the tradition earlier in the year, I remember that Hobby had considered back in 1989 not to have a blocker bill, and he was practically lynched.

"I think there would be a strong resentment on the part of the senators not to have a blocker bill, because that means 21 votes, and everyone's got to come together," Dewhurst said.

"I personally don't think that our congressional districts are reflective of our voting patterns, and I hate to see a divisive issue come up like this," he said. "But as I've said all along, if a plan comes out of the House that's got the support of 21 senators, then it will go through committee and be passed to the floor."

So there you go. Nothing it carved in stone and all that, but the Senate leadership is clearly not chomping at the bit to take this up. On the other hand, you can be sure that if it does come down the pike, the wrath of DeLay and Rove will be on Dewhurst, Ratliff, and any other Republicans who might be wavering. Their ambivalence is at best a house of straw.

As for the ongoing investigation of DPS' role in the hunt for the Killer D's, testimony from DPS agents makes it clear that Governor Perry and Speaker Craddick were very hands on:

"We assumed that there was a lot of things going on that we did not know about," said Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. William Crais. "There was a lot of things being told to us that were happening behind the scenes."


In his sworn testimony, Crais said Craddick provided leads and directed DPS personnel in the command center.

"He requested certain things of us and I used our resources to get those things done," Crais said. "He would walk in there and give instructions."

Craddick is still denying all knowledge. To quote Colonel Flagg, "Don't play stupid with me. I'm much better at it than you are."

Crais said that on the evening of May 12, Gov. Rick Perry appeared at the door of the command center and asked who was in charge.

When Crais identified himself, he testified, the governor asked him to step into Craddick's office and then began chastising him.

He said the governor was impatient that officers had not found the missing legislators using information developed earlier in the day.

Perry looked at his watch and said, "You had this information since 9 o'clock; it is now almost nine hours later. How come you haven't found them?" Crais testified.

Crais said Perry complained about leaks to news agencies, and handed him a document with information that the premature twins of Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, were hospitalized and that Eiland might be at the hospital.

"He said, 'I want the Texas Rangers to go by and locate Mr. Eiland,' " said Crais. Perry also wanted Rangers dispatched to Brownsville to search for the Democratic representative from there, Rene Oliveira.

It's nice to know that Perry can show forceful leadership on something he cares about. This is perhaps the only example of it I've ever seen, but at least now we know he has the ability.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 05, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack

I have it from top, top, tippy top sources that one of the most embarrassing items shredded by the DPS was a report from a patrol in north Texas that had pulled over a minivan with 14 of the Killer Ds about 20 miles from the Oklahoma border.

The DPS agent was going to bring them in but one of the more prominent Reps got out of the car who was not driving, got out of the car, offered his license to the DPS agent and asked, "Why don't you just let us ease on down the road?" ;-)

Posted by: Patrick on June 5, 2003 6:17 PM