Special legislative session needed to keep TxDOT alive
By R G. RATCLIFFE
AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday a special legislative session will be necessary to keep alive the state’s transportation and insurance regulatory departments but declined to say whether he also will include the contentious Republican-backed voter identification measure.
“We are to the point now where we can say there will be a special session. When is still a little bit up in the air,” Perry said.
The governor had hoped to avoid a special session to keep intact the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Department of Insurance, as well as three others that were not renewed, but calling lawmakers back to the Capitol proved to be the only option.
The other agencies are the Texas Racing Commission, which regulates horse and dog tracks; the Office of Public Insurance Counsel, which represents the public in insurance rate cases; and the State Affordable Housing Corporation, which links low-to-moderate-income people with potential home purchase lenders.
The five agencies are set to go out of existence on Sept. 1, 2010, because the legislation reauthorizing them did not pass. In the last hours of the session, all fell victim to a heated political divide over whether to require Texas voters to provide additional identification when casting ballots.
Republicans say the legislation — to allow voting only if voters present a photo identification or two other forms of printed identification — is necessary to protect ballot security.
Democrats claim there are no proven cases of voter impersonation and that the bill really is designed to suppress voter turnout by minorities and the elderly.
Only the governor has the power to call a special session and dictate its agenda.
Perry said lawyers last week investigated the possibility that the governor could extend the agencies by executive order.
“The biggest issue that’s out there floating around is that we could do that by executive order. We have researched that and that was blatantly bad information,” the governor said.
Perry is unlikely to call a special session before June 21, the deadline for a gubernatorial veto. The agencies begin a one-year wind-down process on Sept. 1, but Perry potentially could delay that process so that a session could be called next spring instead.
© 2009 Houston Chronicle: www.chron.com
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