AUSTIN — Texas Senate Democrats dug in Monday to block sweeping new restrictions on abortion, a move that threatened to also take down major transportation and juvenile justice bills with the final hours of the special legislative session ticking away.
Outnumbered 19-11 — with San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte missing to attend her father’s funeral — Senate Democrats held firm their razor-thin margin of a single vote to block the bill from moving forward Monday. And, they feel they can kill the abortion bill without a vote by staging a filibuster, essentially talking it to death before the session ends tonight at midnight.
Initially Perry called lawmakers into a 30-day special session to address political voting maps that have since been approved.
But the governor later expanded the agenda to include abortion, transportation funding and juvenile justice.
After disposing of the abortion bill, the House approved a constitutional amendment that would divert nearly $1 billion from the state’s cash reserve fund to spend on building and maintaining roads. State transportation leaders said Texas needs to spend $4 billion more per year to keep up with its rapidly expanding population.
That bill still needs a final vote from the Senate before it can go to voters statewide in November. But it was hung up by the abortion debate as all Senate votes were delayed.
Also stuck is a bill to have Texas more closely conform with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision banning mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole for offenders younger than 18. Current state law only allows a life sentence without parole for 17-year-olds convicted of capital murder.
Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said Democrats are willing to pass the transportation and 17-year-old sentencing measures but won’t budge on abortion.
“Let’s get those up; let’s get those out of here,” he said. “Let’s not make these victims of red-meat politics.”