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The Legislative Cocktail Hour

Wherefore art thou Rick Perry? Eyes turn to the Capitol for second special session

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Rick Perry at mic 2013
Gov. Rick Perry called a second special session of the legislature to tackle transportation funding, capital punishment legislation and, oh yes, that pesky abortion bill. Office of the Governor of Texas/Facebook

Eyes on the Capitol today! Thousands of people are expected to descend on the pink dome starting this morning to argue for and against bills that would create some of the strongest abortion limitations in the country — and from what I can tell, most of the protestors are against it. The second session kicks off today at 2 p.m. and will cost the taxpayers in Texas about a million dollars.

I’m not going to insult you with a recap of what happened last Tuesday night with the dramatic filibuster of the abortion bill. If you weren’t in the Capitol yourself, you certainly knew someone who was and if you’re scratching your head wondering what's going on, then check out the Dallas Morning News or Texas Monthly, both of whom did a far better job of recapping it than I could.

Instead, I would like to direct our attention to the Governor’s Mansion.

Gov. Rick Perry was oddly quiet during Tuesday’s Senate filibuster led by the fearless (and seemingly immune to Charlie horses) Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, D-Ft. Worth. While the rest of the world was glued to Facebook feeds and the Texas Tribune's livestream, Perry sat silent, nary a tweet coming from his Blackberry.

It seemed odd that one of the most explosive and polarizing things to happen in Texas politics in recent years was going on across the street from his house and Rick Perry wasn’t saying anything. But, boy oh boy, he didn’t wait long to chime in.

Less than 12 hours after pro-choice supporters declared a victory over SB 5, Perry called the second special session of the year to tackle transportation funding, capital punishment legislation and, oh yes, that pesky abortion bill.

After calling the second special session, Perry decided to make up for lost time and went on to make a series of weird comments.

"It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example: that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters." Perry said this regarding Davis’ giving birth to daughter Amber as a teenager and then raising her as a single mom after divorcing her daughter’s father.

Though she went on to graduate from Harvard Law School and be elected to the Texas Senate — no small feat — Davis isn’t immune to the asinine comments that boil decades of spectacular achievements down to a single defining point: you were a teenage mother. Davis countered that it is having the opportunity to make decisions that influences her to secure those rights for other women.

Regarding the boisterous protestors at the Capitol, Perry said the following: "And just remember: the louder the opposition screams, the more we know we're doing something right." Perhaps this is a knee-jerk reaction, but who told the governor it was a good idea to say that? Because if there is one thing you probably don’t want to evoke during a women’s health debate, it’s the spirit of assault.

"It will pass overwhelmingly and will become the law in the state. I think the voice of the people of Texas will be heard," said Perry of SB 5. There is little doubt that this bill will become law. Led by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who whined most of the week about how unfair it was that people exercised their democratic rights in his gallery, the GOP has scrambled this week to make sure that this bill remains filibuster-immune the second time around.

After a very public embarrassment, Dewhurst is waxing his gavel in preparation for round two and people on both sides of the aisle are whispering that his political career may depend on his leadership this time around.

We have no politician-friendly polls to verify what percentage of the population make up SB 5 opponents. But they’re still a part of the collective voice of the Texas people. Just because they disagree with the defenders of the bill, those who have convinced themselves that they need this win not to protect women's health but in order to secure their political futures, does it make their point less valid? Just because those collective voices belong to women, do they still deserve to be heard? We'll see what the pols think when the protestors start arriving for rallies at noon.

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