Abbott Donors Have Strong Week – Inaugural Turnout Lags
WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — On his first day in the Texas Senate eight years ago, Dan Patrick invoked America's Founding Fathers while imploring his colleagues to break with tradition and abandon a rule allowing the minority party to block especially hot-button bills.
His effort to scrap the "two-thirds rule," which had required 21 of the Senate's 31 members to agree before beginning debate on proposed legislation, garnered only one vote. But he wasn't crestfallen, saying, "The most important battles are the ones you fight by yourself."
Patrick is no longer alone. On Wednesday, the new lieutenant governor walked into a Senate Republican Caucus meeting amid applause. The Senate then easily approved the once unthinkable rules change that diminishes Democrats' power. Patrick didn't gloat, saying he was simply keeping campaign promises to make Texas even more conservative.
The Senate's about-face was a victory for Patrick and tea party activists who decried the nearly 70-year tradition as too gentle on Democrats, who have been the minority party since 1999.
Here's a look at who else is up — and who's not — two weeks into the legislative session.
New Gov. Greg Abbott rewarded some donors with spots helping run Texas' largest universities. Fort Worth businessman Robert Albritton, who has given Abbott $500,000 since last year, was named to the Texas A&M System Board of Regents, while Houston trial lawyer David Beck was tapped as a University of Texas System regent. Beck had represented the system's flagship Austin campus in several high-profile court cases, but also donated nearly $100,000 to Abbott since 2010.
Texas Senate Women
There are a record eight females out of 31 total senators and they posed together for pictures on the floor this week. They are Republicans Konni Burton, Donna Campbell, Joan Huffman, Lois Kolkhorst and Jane Nelson; and Democrats Sylvia Garcia, Leticia Van de Putte and Judith Zaffirini. Van de Putte won't be around much longer, though. She has resigned to run for mayor of San Antonio, and the runoff election to replace her is set for Feb. 17. Both of its top candidates are men.
The committee that raised $4.5-plus million for Abbott's inaugural festivities overestimated turnout when ordering barbeque for 17,000. Despite a warm, sunny day on the Texas Capitol lawn, only about 3,000 people showed, and officials eventually gave away heaps of leftovers that were supposed to have cost $10 per person.
He celebrated the end of his record 14-year term as Texas governor by going for ice cream at Sandy's — the same Austin parlor he hit in August, after being fingerprinted and posing for his mug shot. But the case against Perry, featuring two felony abuse-of-power indictments, appears little closer to conclusion than it was when he was being booked. An order signed by another judge this month allowed Republican Judge Bert Richardson to continue overseeing the case despite his recent election to the Court of Criminal Appeals. Richardson has yet to rule on Perry's motion to quash the charges on constitutional grounds — though he's expected to do so soon.
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