Gov. Rick Perry announced a second special legislative session
Wednesday, dulling Democratic celebrations one day after screaming, cheering
protesters changed the course of legislative history, snatching victory from
Republicans poised to approve tough abortion regulations.
The new 30-day session will begin Monday, and Perry placed tighter abortion controls on the top of to-do list.
"We will not allow the breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do," he said.
Perry's move was in response to Tuesday's dramatic events at the Capitol: a filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who was upstaged when Republicans broke her grip on the microphone, only to be be upstaged by Democrats who used procedural moves to repeatedly delay a final vote.
In the end, however, the noisy crowd upstaged everyone, delaying a vote beyond the midnight Tuesday deadline in a drama that ruled social media, carrying word of a wild Texas night to an international audience and catapulting Davis into stardom on the political left.
For a while, the Texas Legislature was the greatest show on Earth.
As the first special session's midnight deadline drew near, hundreds of orange-clad spectators in the Senate gallery unleashed more than 15 minutes of deafening screams, halting Senate business and sowing confusion about whether there was a legitimate vote on a sweeping abortion measure, Senate Bill 5.
Official word didn't arrive until 3 a.m., when Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst returned to the chamber to "regrettably" announce that SB 5 could not be sent to Perry because the session's time had expired.
"An unruly mob, using Occupy Wall Street tactics, disrupted the Senate from protecting unborn babies," Dewhurst said.
Davis had a different perspective. "Today was democracy in action," she told a large and adoring crowd outside the door to the Senate. "You all are the voices we were speaking for from the floor."
Perry had put the Legislature on a tight -- and ultimately futile -- schedule by adding abortion to the 30-day session's workload with only 14 days to spare. On Wednesday, however, he announced the second overtime session will include abortion, highway funding and sentences for 17-year-olds convicted of capital murder -- all left unfinished in the first special session.
Shortly before noon Tuesday, Davis launched what she hoped would be a 12 hour and 42 minute filibuster to kill SB5. Republicans, watching closely for mistakes that could doom the effort, engaged in a series of objections, knowing that three violations would lead to a vote to stop Davis from speaking.
About 9:40 p.m., Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, made the objection that, sustained after a long discussion away from the microphone, became the third and final strike against Davis, who had shown no sign of flagging.
Outraged audience members broke into a chant -- "Let her speak! Let her speak!" -- and it soon became apparent that there were not enough Department of Public Safety troopers to control the crowd. One section of the gallery was cleared of most spectators, and several others were forcibly evicted, but most of the chanting spectators were left in place.
Afterward, Davis said the crowd was inspired by an unfair ruling.
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