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Texas Gov. Perry adds voter photo ID, balanced federal budget amendment to list of emergency items

Gov. Rick Perry has added voter photo ID and amending the U.S. Constitution to mandate a balanced federal budget to the list of emergency items for the 2011 legislative session, meaning lawmakers can begin considering those issues during the first 30 days of the session.

While voter photo ID was a major source of controversy in the 2009 session — leading to Democratic filibustering in the House that killed dozens of other bills, including legislation to require women to undergo a sonogram before having an abortion — proposals to create a balanced budget amendment have only recently gained serious traction.

As the Texas Independent has previously reported, state Rep. Richard Raymond (D-San Antonio) has long been a proponent of resolutions urging the federal government to create a balanced budget amendment. Additionally, state Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) has authored a resolution this session calling for a constitutional convention of the states in order to consider a balanced budget amendment.

A constitutional convention of the states is one of the strategies outlined by the Texas Public Policy Foundation in its roadmap to combating federal authority, as the Texas Independent has reported. One of the main authors of the TPPF reports is former Solicitor General Ted Cruz, who has announced his intention to run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by the retiring Kay Bailey Hutchison.

During a speech after being chosen as the Texas Senate’s president pro tem, Senate Finance chair Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) included calling for a constitutional convention as the first among his short list of serious agenda items, as the Texas Independent reported.

A constitutional convention of the states is one of two ways that the Constitution can be amended (in addition to Congress proposing the amendment for the states to vote on) — though it has never been done before. Texas Reps. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) and Vicki Truitt (R-Keller) have also called for a constitutional convention to consider an amendment allowing any federal law to be annulled by consensus of two-thirds of the states’ legislatures. Federal health care reform is cited as the most egregious example of federal overreach.

The Texas Constitution requires the state to pass a balanced budget every two years. However, due to poorer-than-expected tax revenues in the current biennium, the state government is currently running a $4.3 billion deficit — in addition to the $27 billion budget shortfall for the coming biennium (calculated by subtracting the estimated available revenue from the revenue needed to maintain current levels of service). The $4.3 billion deficit is calculated after agencies were ordered to cut their budgets significantly during the current biennium from what the 2009-2010 budget originally called for.

Regarding voter photo ID, state senators voted Wednesday to allow voter photo ID bills to be considered without prior consent of two-thirds of the legislative body. On all other issues, senators voted to keep the ’2/3 Rule’ in effect — a Senate tradition that requires 21 of 31 senators to approve consideration of a bill before it can be voted on. The current partisan balance of the Senate favors Republicans 19-12.

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