The 82nd Texas Legislature convened on January 11 with two dominant issues on the agenda: the budget and redistricting.
At this point, it is likely, although not certain, the budget will pass. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Speaker Straus have announced an agreement in principle on the budget. In the next three days both the House and Senate are scheduled to pass the remaining bills necessary to finalize the budget. A budget conferee told me there was an 80% chance everything will get done; last week, the conferee said the odds would have been 30%.
House and Senate redistricting plans have passed, and the legislature is cautiously optimistic that Gov. Perry will allow the plans to become law without his signature. Time has run out for a congressional redistricting map to pass, although it is expected that a plan will be laid out this week.
Gov. Perry's aides are telling legislators that a special session on congressional redistricting alone will not be called. Instead the federal courts will be allowed to draw the map. In the summer of 2003, Gov. Perry called three special sessions so that the legislature could draw congressional maps and replace a court drawn plan. The difference between the summer of 2003 and 2011? The Presidency. Team Perry wants everything wrapped up and the legislature gone by May 30; thereby eliminating legislative distractions this summer as Gov. Perry continues to blossom into a very viable possibility for the Republican presidential nomination.