Monday, July 8, 2013

TX 83rd's 2nd Special Circus Resumes

Governor Rick Perry recalled Texas's 83rd Legislature back for a second special session. The stated purpose was to address three key issues. Those issues were:

  1. To consider legislation regarding abortion regulations that would make the procedures safer for both the mother and the unborn child (in the case of 20 or more weeks of gestation).
  2. To consider legislation regarding the sentencing of minors under the age of 18 found guilty of capital crimes (including removing death penalties and life imprisonment).
  3. To consider legislation governing potential toll-roads and the financing of state-level roadway transportation construction and maintenance. 

The first (and only, so far) day of the session, July 1st, was a short one that mostly consisted of handshakes, sharing Independence Day plans, and filing bills for the proposed legislation. Many of those bills had little to nothing to do with the stated purpose of the second special session.

The command performance of the two-ring circus begins with its first show on July 9th. The Texas House of Representatives kicks off their floor show at 10 am. The Senate will put their ring into action with the entertainment starting at 11 am.

The Senate has two bills hitting the floor for action. Both bills will receive their second readings. During a special session, Senators have a compressed time limit in which to file, read, process through committee, and debate bills. The House has similar rules with shorter time constraints than a regular session.

The two bills on the Senate agenda for the 9th are:

1. SJR 1 which relates to the funding and allocation of funding for roadways and highways.
...the transfer of certain general revenue to the economic stabilization fund, to provide for the transfer of certain general revenue to the state highway fund and the dedication of that revenue, and to authorize the payment of the principal and interest on certain highway improvement bonds from certain general revenue transferred to the state highway fund.
 It proposes a temporary provision:

       TEMPORARY PROVISION. (a)  This temporary provision applies to the constitutional amendment proposed by the 83rd Legislature, 2nd Called Session, 2013, to provide for the transfer of certain general revenue to the economic stabilization fund, to provide for the transfer of certain general revenue to the state highway fund and the dedication of that revenue, and to authorize the payment of the principal and interest on certain highway improvement bonds from certain general revenue transferred to the state highway fund.
       (b)  The amendment to Section 49-g, Article III, of this constitution takes effect January 1, 2014, and applies only to a transfer of revenue made by the comptroller of public accounts as provided by Subsection (c) of that section on or after January 1, 2014.[Full Text Available Here]


2. SB 2 which concerns the sentencing of minors (under 18) found guilty of capital crimes.


...in a case in which the state does not seek the death penalty shall be punished by imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for: 
             (1)  life, if the individual committed the offense when younger than 18 years of age [individual's case was transferred to the court under Section 54.02, Family Code]; or 
             (2)  life without parole, if the individual committed the offense when 18 years of age or older. [Full Text Available Here]
 This bill will make parole possible for young offenders and remove the death penalty from consideration for minors found guilty of capital offenses. The US Supreme Court heard a case during their 2012 session concerning this topic. The high court ruled that, due to the age of the offenders, a sentence of "death" or "life without parole" was "cruel and unusual".

The law will not affect those already sentenced. It will apply only to those pending trial or sentencing, regardless of the date the crime was committed.

This bill is likely to pass both houses with little contention. 

The State House has one bill on its calender for the 9th. It will start what is billed as the main attraction:  abortion regulations.

HB 2 is a comprehensive abortion regulation and reform bill similar to the 1st Special Session's SB5. It regulates the use of abortive pharmaceuticals, abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, and parental consent for minors. Most importantly, the bill better ensures that abortion facilities have access to emergency medical equipment (and trained personnel) necessary in case the surgery causes life threatening complications. [Read the full text here

The Senate has not yet released a schedule on when it will address bills regarding abortion regulation.

During the 1st Special Session, Wendy Davis filibustered SB5. The bill had majority support and was likely to pass. In fact, her filibuster failed and the bill passed its reconciliation vote in the senate. However the Senate Floor erupted into an impromptu sideshow when activists on both sides of the issue interrupted the process, impeding Lt. Gov. Dewhurst's ability to record, sign, and enroll the vote and send it to the Governor before the deadline.

During the interim between the first day of the special session and the return from the Independence Day vacation, the State Capitol in Austin was the site of a special sideshow. That sideshow included a lot of pink sneakers, ans children holding signs wishing their parents had exercised their rights to abort them. Pro-lifers sang an A Capella,  heavy metal version of "Amazing Grace" to which the pro-choicers chanted "hail satan". This chanting of "hail satan" invoked the ire of "real satanists" that likely fear the competition for the best tables in hell and proximity to "the master's hooves".

So grab some popcorn and cotton candy, folks. This is Texas, so get those smoking grills going and toss on the briskets. This may be one heck of a show.