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Going, going…

The special session is ending a day early, with another to start almost immediately afterwards. However, it may be a moot point, for it appears that 11 Democratic Senators have left town.

One Democratic senator who asked not to be named, told the Chronicle in a phone interview that senators were apparently on their way out of town.

“I have no idea where we’re going. I just know in a little bit we will be out of pocket,” the senator said.

He would not say how many senators had left but called it an “adequate” number to break a quorum and keep the Senate from conducting business.

The Senate requires two-thirds, or 21 senators, to be present to conduct business, meaning the absence of 11 senators could break a quorum. There are 12 Democrats in the Senate.

The senator said the action was precipitated by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s decision to bypass a traditional Senate rule that requires a two-thirds vote to debate any bill.

That rule, which has been in effect during the current special session, has so far blocked redistricting in the Senate.

The senator said the Democrats fled because they feared Perry would immediately call a second special session and Dewhurst would lock down the Senate chambers and prevent members from leaving.

The first session was to end by midnight Tuesday, but the Senate adjourned at 2:30 p.m. and the House was expected to adjourn minutes later.

Dewhurst earlier had told reporters Perry was expected to call a second special session minutes after both houses adjourned.

Of the 12 Democratic senators, the only one to show up for a 2 p.m. session today was Ken Armbrister of Victoria.

According to the Quorum Report, the House Democrats have also vamoosed. This is going to get out of hand in short order.

What happens next? According to the Quorum Report, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst will “put out a call on missing Democrats”, which I’m guessing means an announcement that if they come back now, he’ll pretend nothing happened, and if they don’t, he’ll take whatever steps are at his disposal to bring them back. He only needs one, after all. Judge Charles Campbell is expected to rule shortly whether or not Dewhurst can use DPS to find them.

If Campbell rules that DPS is off limits, I can’t really see what Dewhurst can reasonably do. I doubt he’ll send out bounty hunters, though at this point I’m leery to make any unqualified remark. If DPS is in play, then I’d expect this to be over quickly, though the apparent re-disappearance of the House Dems greatly complicates things.

If at some point both houses have a quorum, then a bill still has to be passed in each chamber. The House bill from the first session was rejected by the Senate, and the Senate bills did not create separate districts for Midland and Lubbock, a point of contention for House Speaker Tom Craddick, who wants two different districts, and almost everyone in Lubbock and Abilene, who likes things as they are.

Man. And I thought May was a crazy month.

UPDATE: Byron reports at Polstate that the Dems are off to New Mexico, another state with a Democratic Governor and Attorney General. Fasten your seat belts…

UPDATE: According to the Quorum Report, the House Dems did not walk out, they just were scattered at 2 PM. It’s just the Senators that have gone missing.

UPDATE: According to Byron, the renegade Dems are in contact with the Republicans in Austin and will come back if there is a blocker bill. That would be a major victory for the Dems, though I expect they’d have to agree to rescind their “unalterable opposition” letter in order for this to be worth the GOP’s consideration.

UPDATE: Here’s a partial statement from the “Texas 11” as posted on the Quorum Report:

“Today, we 11 Democratic senators have availed ourselves of the tool granted to us under the Texas constitution to break the quorum of the Texas Senate.

“This is not about Democrats or Republicans; this is about democracy. It’s about civil rights.

“This is not an action we take lightly. There are not many issues that would rise to the level of importance as this one, but we do not take giving minority Texans a voice lightly, either.

“When the congressional districts of those Democrats targeted by Republicans are eliminated, over 1.4 million minority Texans will have no advocates because their homes will be drawn into districts in which they will have no voice in choosing their member of Congress.

“In these targeted districts, minority Texans know that the Democrats who represent them, elected with a coalition of minorities and Republicans, are the last advocates in Congress they will ever have if the Republican leadership has its way.

Confirming what Byron noted earlier, they say they’ll be on the “first flight bacK” if the 2/3 rule is restored.

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17 Comments

  1. ByronUT says:

    Charles, do you have any idea what to write now? This is just crazy. I’m just waiting… reloading QR, the Statesman, Chron, DNM and Star Telegram every two minutes…

  2. No idea whatsoever. This is in-freaking-sane.

  3. Norbizness says:

    I am going to go to as many blogs as possible that reference this story (beginning at the Daily Kos) and apologize profusely, as a Texan, for the idiocy of our leaders, as well as any attention that is distracted from important national or international affairs.

    Remember the funny quote from New Mexico’s AG during the last Democratic walk-out: “Nevertheless, I have put out an all-points bulletin for law enforcement to be on the lookout for politicians in favor of health care for the needy and against tax cuts for the wealthy”

  4. Preston says:

    I am no scholar, barely literate, and have a very low IQ. So, I can only say that I am reminded of something by Elliot — something about not going gentle into the night and something about raging at the dying of the light. This needs to be done everywhere, at every level. There is no reason Dems should assist in their own demise

  5. Preston says:

    I am no scholar, barely literate, and have a very low IQ. So, I can only say that I am reminded of something by Elliot — something about not going gentle into the night and something about raging at the dying of the light. This needs to be done everywhere, at every level. There is no reason Dems should assist in their own demise

  6. Lone Star Dems, On the Lam and Off the Heezy

    Texans and political junkies, fasten your seat belts; Democrats in the legislature have broken quorum by hightailing it out of the state again. Put some popcorn in the microwave, because watching this should be great fun. [No word yet on…

  7. agnosticus says:

    Preston, that’s actually Dylan Thomas (not that I’m a literary scholar, but that poem figured prominently in Rodney Dangerfield’s big solo outing, “Back To School”).

  8. Preston says:

    agnosticus — Thanks. Your suggestion is under consideration

  9. “No member shall absent himself or herself from the sessions of the Senate without leave unless the member be sick or unable to attend.” – Senate Rule 5.03

    “Those for whom no sufficient excuse is made, by order of the majority of those present, may be sent for and arrested wherever they may be found and their attendance secured and retained by the Sergeant-at-Arms or officers appointed by the Sergeant for that purpose. The Senate shall determine upon what conditions they shall be discharged.” – Senate Rule 5.04

    Geez… Violating Senate rules, thus demanding pursuit by officers of the state — is this what the Texas Democratic Party wants to be known for? Sickening.

  10. Michael says:

    Owen: If it makes you sick, then you can absent yourself from the session. I’d rather they were known for fighting as hard as they can than for getting screwed and saying “thank you.”

    You’d at least thing the Republican Party would offer to pay cash for the Legislature to do DeLay’s dirty work, so there wouldn’t be any claim that this was costing the state money.

  11. Michael,

    There’s a little thing called ‘playing by the rules.’ I’d rather the police catch criminals rather than just waving them goodbye as they drive away, but at the same time I don’t want them to blow up fleeing autos with a bazooka. This is a grossly inappropriate tactic that the Democrats are using, and its embarassing.

  12. Ginger says:

    Yup, there’s a little thing called playing by the rules. DeLay and his kissasses in Austin want to break ’em, they start getting busted all over the place. Bad carpetbagger, no biscuit!

    If Rick Perry had done his job in 2001 and called the special session then, we wouldn’t be in this fix now. If the lines drawn in 2001 were good enough then, they should be good enough now.

    Damn Rick Perry’s eyes for screwing around with this. We’ve got real business to take care of in this state.

  13. PG says:

    Owen, you can’t demand that people play by the rules if the rules keep changing.

    The senator said the action was precipitated by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s decision to bypass a traditional Senate rule that requires a two-thirds vote to debate any bill.

    Here’s the deal. If the Republicans agree to play by the rules — redistricting fights only when necessary, a 2/3 vote to debate any bill in the Senate, etc. — the Democrats will play by the rules too. No more fleeing Austin when the Rs break rules. Capisce?

    (Your analogy is interesting. So the Republican are criminals driving off with the hotwired automobile of the State, while the Dems are the cops trying to catch them?)

  14. PG,

    I’ve got news for you; in 1992, Democratic Lt. Governor Bob Bullock waved the 2/3rds requirement to pass redistricting. You see, that requirement is completely at the whim of the Lt. Governor, so it’s only a ‘rule’ in the sense that it’s a tradition, and that tradition was already broken the last time Democrats passed redistricting.

    So, you were saying?

  15. PG says:

    Owen,

    And then you’re going to tell me about how the GOP is the party of Lincoln and thus ought to be favored by African-Americans, right?

    I think you’re missing my point here. I can yelp about how Clinton was persecuted and that entitles Dems to scrape up some idiotic reason to impeach Bush — except impeachment is not to be taken lightly.
    You can cite a Democratic Lt. Governor’s having failed to respect the two-thirds rule/ tradition entitles a Republican Lt. Governor to do the same — except governing is not a playground.

    Perry and Craddick are making no attempt at bipartisanship, and now they’ve got Dewhurst doing the same. Is this going to create better legislation?
    Why do you think a decent guy like Bill Ratliff is joining the Democrats in oppositing the redistricting? He doesn’t see it as good for his district, or for Texas, even if it will provide some partisan advantage.

    You didn’t address the “no redistricting fights except when necessary” part of the offer. Do you think this stuff is a good idea? Is it lowering someone’s property taxes or home insurance rates, or increasing the funding and equality of schools?

    But hey, if you want to play “You were partisan last time, so I’m going to be partisan now,” I’m sure you’ll find lots of playmates.

    (W-a-i-v-e-d, unless you mean Bullock moved his hand to gesture the requirement by.)

  16. PG,

    You can cite a Democratic Lt. Governor’s having failed to respect the two-thirds rule/ tradition entitles a Republican Lt. Governor to do the same — except governing is not a playground.

    So, I’m just pointing out that, for redistricting, it’s no longer a tradition. A tradition only matters if it’s respected, and if it iss violated for a Democratic partisan advantage that endures to the present day, it has become unsustainable. You’re expecting the GOP to simply up and expect that the Democratic partisan gerrymandering that has been in place since reconstruction should remain for another seven years. That’s far too much to ask.

    Besides, why am I supposed to believe the blocker bill is sacred in the larger sense? Because Democrats maintained it when Republicans were too small a minority to thwart debate for the protection of their OWN minority factions? That’s not reason enough for me, and it hardly makes it a sacred tradition.

    Perry and Craddick are making no attempt at bipartisanship, and now they’ve got Dewhurst doing the same. Is this going to create better legislation?

    Redistricting isn’t going to be bipartisan so long as Democrats insist on sustaining a plan that favors them. They refuse to awknowledge that the current lines are unacceptable.

    Do you think this stuff is a good idea? Is it lowering someone’s property taxes or home insurance rates, or increasing the funding and equality of schools?

    This is about federal representation, which inded matters. I think the GOP can accomplish more with a larger majority in the US House, and their goals are the same as mine. What’s more, I think the GOP deserves more seats; Republicans have had their political power diluted for too long, and somebody has to stand up and say ‘it ends now.’And other state needs would have long ago been addressed had Democrats not employed the unethical and prohibited tactic of thwarting a quorum.

  17. PG says:

    Why don’t we accomplish the other goals first, and put the partisan goal of redistricting at the end? The ordering of items on the agenda strikes me as a sign of misplaced priorities.

    Why is the current map unacceptable? The Republicans’ map disregards “community of interest” (keeping areas with shared interests intact if possible), and no state has overturned a court-drawn redistricting plan in the past 50 years.

    The concept of the Republicans’ political power in Texas being diluted is interesting.
    You know, if we did some serious map drawing and starting cutting Texas into those 5 states permitted by the agreement bringing Texas into the Union, maybe I could get some political power in Texas, instead of voting for Nader.