AUSTIN, Texas - Republican Speaker Joe Straus has stayed fairly quiet publicly during the House partisan squabble over a voter identification bill. But on Monday he called House Democrats "obstructionists."
Straus spoke out as Democrats continued a fourth straight day of stall tactics to kill a controversial bill that would require Texans to provide additional identification before voting.
Straus said the delays are threatening other major legislation that must be considered before a Tuesday night deadline.
"They are obstructionists, clearly," Straus said. "We have a lot of business that's unfinished."
CLOSE TO DEATH
A work slowdown by House Democrats was meant to stop a voter identification law. But other bills in the potential path of destruction Monday dealt with hurricane insurance, local road projects, solar energy incentives and even trans fats in restaurant foods.
Endangered legislation could find new life under shrewd parliamentary maneuvers before lawmakers adjourn next week or could move ahead if Democrats stop their bill blockade or House members vote to suspend their rules.
The legislative session ends June 1. Throughout the Memorial Day weekend Democrats stalled House debate to keep the Republican-pushed voter ID bill from coming up for consideration before a Tuesday night bill passage deadline.
Gov. Rick Perry's office said Monday there's no need to panic, but said addressing the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association funding system is critical as a new hurricane season approaches.
"There's still plenty of time in this session to get important issues, like the windstorm insurance, done," said Perry spokesman Mark Miner. "The governor's office is working with the Legislature to examine all available options."
Perry is warning that addressing legislation for the depleted windstorm association - the only hurricane wind damage insurer for property owners in 14 coastal counties - is crucial this session. Some legislators say Perry has warned he may call a special session if a bill is not passed to establish a new windstorm funding system.
The Senate voted to allow voters statewide to amend the Texas Constitution to have state officials work with the federal government to build a veterans' hospital in the Rio Grande Valley.
The vote on Memorial Day sparked a brief debate over whether the such an effort should be written into the state Constitution.
"It appears to me an abuse of the constitutional process," said Sen. Steve Ogden, a Bryan Republican.
House members of both political parties gathered around Democratic Rep. Hubert Vo of Houston on Monday to show support for his resolution urging the University of Houston and other colleges to stop displaying the red flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and to instead fly the golden yellow "Freedom and Heritage Flag" he said is widely embraced by the Vietnamese-American community.
Vo's resolution said Vietnam's communist flag represents to Vietnamese-Americans "a source of anguish to countless people who fled to the United States as a welcoming haven of liberty and tolerance."
In a show of unity, after a weekend of partisan bickering, House members adopted the resolution 148-0. Even Speaker Joe Straus cast a rare vote to back the measure. The speaker normally abstains from House votes.
Disputes over the Vietnamese flag also have arisen at other U.S. colleges.
The Senate voted Monday to increase the penalty for skipping jury duty to $500. Currently, the penalty can be no more than $50. The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Perry for his consideration.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"There has been an unstated fear at these funerals - the fear that I sure hope that my son's sacrifice will not be wasted, and that it will not be forgotten. Today part of our job is to tell them, that sacrifice was not wasted and that it will not be forgotten." - Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, speaking on a Memorial Day resolution honoring veterans and fallen soldiers.