(Note: the title (now corrected, thanks to Omar in the comments) is a hat tip to Angry Bear, who recasts the Democrats' getaway as a Dukes of Hazzard episode. I can't tell you how disquieting it is to realize that I was able to do as he suggested and read his post in the voice of Waylon Jennings.)
The mind games and he-said-she-said battles continue on across the Texas-New Mexico state line.
Dewhurst and the dissidents couldn't even agree, at least publicly, that they were speaking to each other.
"We're talking. I'm urging our colleagues to come back to the table," Dewhurst told reporters in Austin. "I've encouraged them to come back, sit down with us, work with us on a plan that's fair."
In Albuquerque, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, of San Antonio, chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said that, as far as she knew, Dewhurst had spoken only with Sen. John Whitmire of Houston since the Democrats arrived in Albuquerque Monday afternoon.
Whitmire said he returned a message that Dewhurst had left on his cell phone but that the conversation was short and insignificant.
Dewhurst spokesman Dave Beckwith said later that the lieutenant governor had heard from more than one of the missing Democrats but wouldn't say how many.
"It appears that some senators are not leveling with each other," Beckwith said.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Wednesday that AWOL Democrats could face Senate expulsion if they ignore an arrest warrant for their return — but he said he's not recommending it, and a spokesman said it won't occur.
"Quite frankly, there are ways to bring back senators without using physical force," Dewhurst said when asked how the Democratic senators' return could be compelled.
They fled to New Mexico to block action on a GOP-backed congressional redistricting plan.
Senators who stayed in Austin have ordered the Senate sergeant-at-arms to return their missing colleagues. Dewhurst has indicated there's not much that can be done while they're out of state.
But if they come back to Texas, he said, the sergeant-at-arms would be sent out. He said there's "no question legally" that the sergeant-at-arms can present an arrest warrant signed by the secretary of the Senate.
"When a warrant of arrest is handed to a senator, if they do not comply, that's a very, very serious — very serious — violation," the GOP lieutenant governor said. "I'm not recommending this, but ultimately it could result, if the Senate so chose, with the expulsion of that member."
Soon after Dewhurst made those comments, his spokesman, David Beckwith, phoned to say expulsion wouldn't be tried and that "nobody's suggesting it."
"He (Dewhurst) was asked a hypothetical — 'What could happen?'" Beckwith said. "But it will not happen."
Republicans have said the Democrats have jeopardized a slew of other bills.
One measure would allow the state to make $800 million in payments to school districts a month earlier — August rather than September. School districts say the delayed payments aren't a problem.
Other measures would give the governor and legislative leaders freedom to spend more than $470 million in newly available money, although the state budget might already give them that power.
And the latest must-solve problem to reach the Legislature's agenda Wednesday was school finance.
Dewhurst said more than $1 billion in appropriations and funding shifts are needed to avert calamity.
A drafting error that made a one-month payment shift in $800 million of school funding from the intended 2005 to 2003 must be fixed, Dewhurst said.
As 14 TV cameras rolled tape, naturally came the next question: Are those issues such a priority that Perry should pull down congressional redistricting?
"These issues of appropriating a billion dollars, addressing government reorganization, school finance, I think, are critical to all of us here in Texas," Dewhurst replied.
"I've had a number of conversations with the governor, and my conversations with the governor remain private.
"He has chosen to call us back into a second special session. We all took an oath of office to uphold the duties and the laws of the State of Texas," Dewhurst said, "and I think that part of those duties . . . is to show up for work."
So, since even Texas' GOP attorney general says the current districts can be used until 2011, are those issues so critical that Perry should lay redistricting aside?
"Well, I think they're incredibly important, and I think the governor's made a decision to have the Senate and the House address redistricting, and so he's already made his decision," Dewhurst said.
Finally, as Byron notes, there is an effective deadline for redistricting: October 6, which is the latest that a map could be submitted in time for Justice Department approval prior to December 3, which is the deadline for candidates to file for the primaries.
Editorials and op-eds:
The DMN praises David Dewhurst for his initial attempts at a compromise.
The Chron runs an op-ed by Dewhurst in which he defends his decision to suspend the 2/3 rule.
The Quorum Report has a press release from the GOP (PDF) which touts a survey done in Austin that says 53% of Texans oppose this Democratic boycott, a series of quotes (Word doc) by Lt. Gov. Dewhurst which shows his evolving opinion of redistricting and the blocker bill (compiled by a Democratic strategist), and an editorial roundup (Word doc) compiled by Rep. Martin Frost, which is a subset of the editorials I've pointed to so far.Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 31, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack