83rd Legislative Session

Senate passes abortion bill minutes before midnight

Following hours of debate Friday, the Texas Senate passed a controversial abortion bill just minutes before midnight.

The final vote was 19-11, with Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. voting in favor of the bill. Republican Sen. Tommy Williams was absent.

Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement shortly after the final vote, calling it part of a larger effort.

“This legislation builds on the strong and unwavering commitment we have made to defend life and protect women’s health,” Perry said. “I am proud of our lawmakers, and citizens who tirelessly defended our smallest and most vulnerable Texans and future Texans.”

The bill requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, allows abortions only at surgical centers and bans abortions after 20 weeks.

It now heads to Gov. Perry’s desk to be signed into law.

DPS confiscates suspected urine, feces, other items from Capitol visitors

The Texas Department of Public Safety has confirmed that officers have been confiscating items from Capitol visitors who intend to observe the abortion bill debate on the Senate floor.

DPS says it received information that demonstrators intended to use props to disrupt the debate. Officers increased security and took the extra step to search bags before people were allowed to enter the gallery.

Officers said in the course of their inspections, they discovered “one jar suspected to contain urine, 18 jars suspected to contain feces, and three bottles suspected to contain paint.” They also confiscated feminine hygiene products, glitter and confetti.

Outbursts during last month’s filibuster prompted the stricter security measures. DPS says it will continue inspections until the close of Senate business.


Protesters fill Senate gallery, rotunda

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Senate convenes to take up abortion bill

The Texas Senate is poised to take up some of the nation’s strictest abortion laws. Lawmakers convened just after 2 p.m., as hundreds of demonstrators on both sides of the issue filled the Capitol rotunda and filed into the Senate gallery.

The omnibus bill bans abortions after 20 weeks and requires upgrades to existing abortion clinics. Opponents to the bill say the new regulations will force all but five clinics in the state to close.

Debate on the bill could last well into the night. Democrats have conceded there is little they can do to stop the bill’s passage. Nonetheless, they intend to speak against the legislature and to offer amendments.

Of course, this is the second time the abortion legislation has reached the full Senate floor. The bill died in the final moments of the first special session after  a filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis and protests from abortion-rights activists in the gallery pushed the vote past the midnight deadline.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst opened up the proceedings by reminding observers of the rules of decorum. This time around, state police are lining the gallery to stop any disruptions. There are also reports that the Department of Public Safety is asking women to throw away any feminine products they might be carrying, before being allowed in the gallery.

Perry sets special election date for Strama’s seat

Austin voters will decide who will fill Rep. Mark Strama’s soon-to-be open House seat when they head to the polls on November 5.

Strama announced earlier this year that he would not run for reelection. Speculation that he would run for Austin mayor died last month when he announced that he would head up Google Fiber’s new operation in Austin.

Strama has represented the Austin area in the Texas House for the last eight years.

According to Gov. Perry, candidates who want to fill his seat will have to file with the Secretary of State by September 4. The winner will serve out the rest of Strama’s term, which runs out in 2015.

Senate committee approves abortion bill

A Senate committee on Thursday approved stricter abortion restrictions, setting up a full Senate vote on Friday.

The legislation would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortions to be performed in surgical centers and require doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Currently, only five of the state’s 42 existing abortion clinics meet those standards.

The bill already passed in the House and expected to easily pass in the Senate. The bill died during the first special session, after Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered for more than 10 hours and outbursts in the gallery pushed the vote past the midnight deadline.

Democrats have conceded this time around, they have run out of ways to block the bill. They are turning their focus now to the upcoming legal battle.

Senate approves non-abortion measures

The Texas Senate took a pair of quick votes Thursday morning and approved transportation and criminal justice measures. Both are part of Gov. Rick Perry’s call during the 83rd Texas Legislature’s second special session, in addition to the highly-emotional issue of abortion regulation.

The transportation measure approved by the full Senate involves a proposed constitutional amendment that would pump $900 million annually into road building from oil and gas taxes. If approved by members of the House, the measure would go to voters in November because it involves tapping into the state’s savings account, often referred to as the Rainy Day Fund.

Many lawmakers point out that this is only a partial fix, since Texas transportation leaders say the state needs about $4 billion more for roads per year just to meet current traffic needs. Meantime, the House is working on a different transportation measure, so it’s uncertain if the Senate’s version will get that chamber’s approval.

The Senate Thursday also approved a bill that updates Texas law following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning sentences of life in prison for 17-year-old capital murder defendants.

Hilderbran officially leaving House, departure fuels Comptroller speculation

Longtime State Rep. Harvey Hilderbran announced on the House floor today that he would not seek reelection. In an emotional speech, Hilderbran reflected on his nearly 25 years in the House. Hilderbran served under four governors and four speakers of the House that spanned 13 regular sessions and 20 special sessions. Most recently, he served as the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

“I can’t say it enough, that I love the Texas House of Representatives. I love Texas. And I know we all serve here because we love Texas,” Hilderbran said. “It’s been such an honor to serve in this hallowed chamber. It’s been such a rewarding experience because there was always a new problem to solve a new solution to propose and a new piece of legislation to work on.”

Hilderbran’s departure was not altogether unexpected. He has said he is considering a run for State Comptroller, He has not made any official announcement, but he told House members he hopes to return to work with them, in a ‘different capacity.’


Perry praises abortion bill’s passage

Gov. Rick Perry issued this statement today following the House approval of HB-2.

“The tremendous outpouring of support for this legislation has demonstrated how Texas stands for life, and I commend everyone who wore blue, turned out and spoke up in support of life in our state. Now is not the time to waver, however, as the Senate continues its important work in support of women’s health and protecting the lives of our most vulnerable Texans.”

House passes abortion bill on final reading

The Texas House this morning formally approved a bill calling for some of the strictest abortion restrictions in the country. House Bill 2 bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, requires abortions to be performed in surgical centers and requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The bills’ supporters say the new regulations are in the interest of women’s health and will make the procedure safer. Opponents have argued that the upgrades required will force all but five abortion clinics in the state to shut their doors, forcing women to resort to unsafe measures.

Tuesday’s vote came after nearly 10 hours of emotional debate Monday. The bill now heads to the Senate, which could vote as early as Friday. It was on the Senate floor that the bill died during the first special session when Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered for more than 10 hours in an effort to kill the measure. The bill is expected to pass this time around.