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At session's end, 5 agencies still in limbo
June 9, 2009

There was an 11th hour meltdown that left five state agencies in limbo - and none more important than the Texas Department of Transportation - but Gov. Rick Perry and most state officials agree the session was a success.

Written by Enrique Rangel, The Amarillo Globe-News

There was an 11th hour meltdown that left five state agencies in limbo - and none more important than the Texas Department of Transportation - but Gov. Rick Perry and most state officials agree the session was a success.

"We all know that the session ended in an unprecedented turmoil in the global marketplace," Perry told Capitol reporters the morning after the session ended. "(But) as the dust settles from the 81st legislative session and legislators return to their districts we can all be proud of the end result, and that is a plan that is good for Texas."

Most independent reviews are slowly coming in, and ultimately what the session may be most remembered for is that despite a bizarre ending - Perry compared it to an episode of "Lost" - and bitter partisan bickering over a bill that would have required Texans to show identification before voting.

It was not as turbulent as previous sessions, particularly the one of 2007. And in no chamber was this more evident that in the House, where the tumultuous six-year tenure of former Speaker Tom Craddick left most Democrats and a good number of Republicans eager for a leadership change.

"I am delighted with my first term as speaker," said Speaker Joe Straus, flanked by four House members, including a senior Democrat. "I was thrilled with (the) cooperation from leaders of both parties and I think that the Texas House is very strong moving ahead and facing some very, very serious challenges ahead in 2011."

And to no one's surprise, the San Antonio Republican said he will seek a second term as speaker.

But that is a story for some other time, perhaps until after the 2010 general election. Privately, most Democrats say if they regain control of the chamber they'd rather have one of their own as leader. Right now Republicans have a narrow 76-74 majority.

For now what remains to be seen is what will happen to some of the unfinished legislative business, mainly the fate of the five state agencies. Besides TxDOT, the agencies in limbo are the Texas Department of Insurance, the Texas Racing Commission, the Texas State Affordable Housing Corp., and the little known Office of Public Insurance Counsel.

Those agencies could be closed by Sept. 1 of next year, when a new fiscal year starts, if the Legislature does not intercede before then or Perry, through an executive order, keeps them in operation. Perry said that it is "way too early" to think about a special session to address those issues.

But the biggest question mark is whether Perry still be governor when the Legislature meets in 2011. Unlike four years ago when she flirted with the thought of challenging him, this time it looks like U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is set to challenge the governor in next year's Republican primary.

The other question mark is whether after eight years Lt. Gov. David Dewhust, the presiding officer of the Senate, will seek re-election, too.

Those question marks will make the 19-month period between the end of the regular 2009 session and the start of the next regular session in 2011 interesting to watch.

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