Perry puts voter ID on fast track

January 22, 2011

By Jason Embry, Austin American Statesman

Gov. Rick Perry today designated two new emergency items for the legislative session: requiring more identification at the polls and calling on Congress to pass a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Voter ID legislation, as it is commonly known around the Capitol, has long been at the top of the wish list for many in the Republican grass roots. Efforts to pass such a law in the last several sessions have failed. In 2009, it failed because Democrats ran out the legislative clock late in the session, killing voter ID and many other pieces of legislation in the process.

Perry’s designation allows lawmakers to tackle the issue more quickly. If lawmakers jump on it soon, there is likely little Democrats can do to stop the legislation from becoming law, because Republicans have a huge majority in the House and all the votes they need to pass it in the Senate.

Democrats say voter ID legislation is a solution in search of a problem and will disenfranchise elderly and minority voters.

The call on Congress to pass a balanced-budget amendment allows Perry to pick up on a the central theme of his campaign: that Texas has shown the kind of fiscal discipline that Washington lacks.

Texas has its own budget shortfall right now, with the state about $27 billion short of the money it needs to continue to provide services at their current levels. But the state constitution requires a balanced budget, which is why lawmakers, resistant to raising taxes, are considering deep cuts in education, health care and other programs.

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