• Abortion legislation fails in Texas Senate

    In the very last minutes of the last day of the special session, a combined effort from Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, democratic senators and activists in the Senate Chamber gallery prevented abortion legislation from passing in the special session.

    "The constitutional time for the first called special session has expired," Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said. "Senate Bill 5 cannot be called at this time in the presence of the senate."

    Despite the victory for pro-choice activists and Democrats, Texas Gov. Rick Perry could still call another special session. If he wishes, he can place abortion legislation on the agenda.

    Initial reports from media outlets such as The Associated Press said Senate Bill 5, the bill on abortion legislation, passed. The abortion legislation, or Senate Bill 5, would have placed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. It would also have placed many restrictions on abortion clinics across the state. Many have claimed these restrictions would close the majority of Texas abortion clinics and centers.

    As the night went on, more and more reports on Twitter seemed to hint that the bill failed to pass before midnight. 

    There were many confusing moments in the final two hours of the first special session of the 83rd legislature. Senators debated rules and made many parlimentary inquiries. Even Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who has described herself as strongly "pro-life," made several challenges and attempted to stall for time. 

    In the last ten minutes, the gallery of the Senate Chamber began to scream and chant, creating confusion in the chamber. It quickly became too loud to hear. Roll calls were made in the last minutes. One of the roll calls was still ongoing after midnight, which was when the special session ended and the abortion legislation was supposed to die. It was this that ultimately resulted in Senate Bill 5's death. 

    Shortly after midnight, the Texas Tribune tweeted screenshots showing that records on the time of the vote of Senate Bill 5 changed from Wednesday, June 26 to Tuesday, June 25. After almost an hour of speculation and false reports, rallies and protestors gathered outside the Capitol and Senate Chamber, and doubts began to rise against Senate Bill 5's passage. Several lawmakers, including Sen. Watson, D-Austin, seemed optimistic.

    Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston, called a caucus of the Senate behind closed doors. Shortely after this meeting was called, reports began to emerge that Senate Bill 5 had failed.

    It was not until shortly after 3 a.m. that Dewhurst officially and publicly addressed senators, saying the legislation had failed and died. However, he hinted that lawmakers would be back.

    "It has been fun but, uh, see you soon," Dewhurst said, before banging the gravel.

    The Senate also failed to pass legislation on transportation funding and sentencing rules for 17-year-olds who are found guilty of capital murder charges.

    Correction: This article has been updated with the correct date of the filibuster debate. 

    See our previous article on abortion legislation here and our liveblog of the events here.

  • Confusion lingers following final moments of special session

    Citizens at the Texas Capitol watch their computers to try and figure out the fate of abortion legislation, SB 5.
    Citizens at the Texas Capitol watch their computers to try and figure out the fate of abortion legislation, SB 5.

    In the final moments of the special session, it is not clear yet if the Senate passed the abortion legislation.

    The Texas Senate had several motions to vote on in the final moments of the first special session. However, in the last ten minutes, the gallery of the Senate Chamber began to scream and chant, creating confusion in the chamber. It became too loud to hear. Roll calls were made in the last minutes. One of the roll calls was still ongoing after midnight, which was when the special session ended and the abortion legislation was supposed to die.

    The Associated Press tweeted that the abortion legislation passed.

    Pedro Villalobos, a recent UT alum, witnessed the entire filibuster and Senate debate on Senate Bill 5. He got at the Captiol at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, and was still in the gallery at midnight. He said he would be surprised if it comes out that Senate Bill 5 passed.

    "My understanding is no legislation was passed," Villalobos said. "I am not worried about it being passed…I am pretty sure it would be challenged in court."

    Villalobos said that in the final moments of the special session, lawmakers were rushing up to the podium, holding up one finger for an 'aye' vote, and two fingers for a 'nay' vote.

    Follow The Daily Texan on Twitter @thedailytexan for the latest updates.

  • Will Abigail Fisher ever get her $100 admissions application fee back?

    Will Abigail Fisher ever get her $100 admissions application fee back? 

    According to the Supreme Court: Nope. Or at least, not yet.

    When challenging the broader scope of the University’s admissions process in her pending Supreme Court case, Fisher requested she receive reparations for her housing deposit and $100 application fee, two items she paid before being denied admissions to the University.

    Abigail Fisher had already obtained a degree from Louisiana State University — and  a job in Austin — by the time of oral arguments last year, causing some to wonder why Fisher’s case was allowed to continue at the court. Fisher was eventually allowed to stand, even as some justices wondered whether her low academic criteria would have disqualified her from admissions regardless of her race.

    The fate of the $100 will now rest with the justices of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, who the Supreme Court sent the case back down to on Monday.

  • House to begin investigation into UT Regent Wallace Hall

    Updated at 3:43 p.m.

    In an interview with The Daily Texan, Representative Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said she did not have a timeline for when the investigation into UT System Regent Wallace Hall will be complete.

    "This is something new to the committee," Alvarado said. "There is no set time frame at this point. I anticipate that as we get further into the investigation, that we will have a better idea."

    If the committee completes its investigation and feels Hall should be impeached, they will propose an article of impeachment. The Senate would then vote on the impechment.

    Alvarado said she did not have a comment on Hall's actions, or if she thought he might have been engaging in practices that harm the UT System or the state of Texas.

    "I am not prepared to say at this point. I am going to wait till we start the hearings," Alvarado said. "We are looking forward to having a full and fair investigation."

    Original story:

    The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations had a preliminary meeting today to begin an investigation into UT System Regent Wallace Hall, which could ultimately lead to his impeachment.

    According to a press release from Dan Flynn's office, House Speaker Joe Straus expanded the committee's jursidiction this morning to include regents. If Wallace Hall is impeached, he will be the first impeached Texas regent in history.

    "These impeachment proceedings will be both thorough and impartial, and we intend to use all necessary resources and powers at the Committee's disposal to ensure an effective investigation," said Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, who co-charies the transparency committee. "I am confident the Committee will bring new, nonpartisan insights on what has been a contentious series of events."

    More details coming soon.

  • Texas at the center of Voting Rights Act decision

    Gov. Rick Perry could decide to veto voting maps recently completed by the Texas Legislature as a result of today's decision from the Supreme Court, calling a new special session and allowing conservatives to pass new maps that would have not passed under the now defunct Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

    The Supreme Court ruled this morning that Section 4, which specifies what locations require federal review on their voting laws under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, to be unconstitutional as it stands. The law previously stated that places with trends of "historic discrimination" against minority voting rights would be required to seek clearance from a federal court, but today the court has ruled such standards could only be examined under "present conditions" of discrimination.

    The special session, which was created to address the issue of redistricting, is now grinding into a last minute debate as Senate Democats fillabuster a highly contentious bill on abortion regulations before the session ends at midnight. 

    Texas is one of several mostly Southern states that were previously required to seek preclearance.

    The state's voter ID law requiring a government-issued identification at voting polls, which was made unenforceable by a now overruled federal court order, is also still on the books and will go into effect today, said assistant law professor Joseph Fishkin.

    Fishkin, who teaches on voting rights and constitutional law, said civil rights groups could still appeal to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which allows for the creation of lawsuits when voter discrimination is alleged, to halt new voting maps created by a veto from Perry.

    "For the next few years there's likely going to be a regime where there will be no Section 5 coverage anywhere," Fishkin said, who believes it is unlikely the current Congress will redefine the Section 4 requirements of the Voting Rights Act. "Gov. Perry has to decide what he is going to do about this issue, which could put Texas at center of national attention about the impact of this ruling, today."

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