• Perry calls special session to begin July 1, includes abortion legislation

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called a second special session to begin on July 1.

    The special session will include all "unfinished business" from first session, which includes abortion, transportation funding and juvenile sentencing.

    Here is the full statement from Perry:

    "I am calling the Legislature back into session because too much important work remains undone for the people of Texas. Through their duly elected representatives, the citizens of our state have made crystal clear their priorities for our great state. Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn. Texans want a transportation system that keeps them moving. Texans want a court system that is fair and just. We will not allow the breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do. "

    Abortion legislation was defeated by filibustering efforts in the final hours Tuesday night.

    Perry is the only one who can call a special session. He is also the only one who can place items on the special session's agenda.

    Shortly after Perry announced the special session, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst released his own statement.

    "Texas is unlike any other state because our leaders are willing to stand up in the face of pressure from Washington and special interest groups in the pursuit of freedom," Dewhurst said.

  • City allocates $105,500 for downtown artwork

    The City of Austin is investing $105,500 in two downtown public art projects, in partnership with Art in Public Places.

    One piece will be located at the Auditorium Shores trailhead, immediately west of the First Street Bridge near the south shore of Lady Bird Lake, and have a budget of $28,500. The second piece will be located at 8th Street between Congress & West Ave, with a $77,000 budget.

    The city is also working toward a $700,000 art project at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

    Art in Public Places is a program collaborates with professional and local artists to create cultural landmarks and place art where people work and live. The program was established in 1985 by the city, through a city ordinance that allocates two percent of building construction budgets toward artwork commissioned or purchased.

    UT has several Art in Public Places art pieces around campus, including a $1.5 million skyspace under construction, on the roof of the Student Activity Center designed by artist James Turrell. The skyspace is a circular enclosed area lined with reclined benches that allow easy viewing of the Texas sky. The piece is projected to open in October 2013.

    Follow Christine Ayala on Twitter @christine_ayala.

  • What SCOTUS striking down DOMA means for Texas

    Michael Knaapen, left, and his husband John Becker, right, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gaymarriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban. 
    Michael Knaapen, left, and his husband John Becker, right, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gaymarriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban. 

    Couples living in Texas with same-sex marriages from other states can now pull federal benefits, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday.

    On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued rulings on the two long-awaited same-sex marriage cases. The second ruling has created a path for same-sex marriage in California, and will not have much of an impact on Texas. But the first ruling struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal ban on same-sex marriages that was preventing many couples legally married in states from receiving federal benefits.

    “DOMA undermines both the public and private significance of state-sanctioned same-sex marriages; for it tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition," Justice Anthony Kennedy, who issued the majority opinion, wrote.

    While Texas will continue to forbid and not recognize same-sex marriages, same-sex couples who reside in Texas but have marriage liscences from other states can now pull federal benefits.

    "The most immediate effect is that lesbian and gay Texas couples that are legally married in jurisdictions that allow them to be married will now have recognization by the federal government," said Chuck Smith, the Executive Director of Equality Texas, a gay and lesbian lobbying organization. "It means they can now file a joint tax return, it means they're eligible for social security benefits and any of the things that are covered by federal law."

    Smith said while the Texas constitution is not changing in regards to same-sex marriage, the trend of opinions nationwide is changing. Smith said both rulings, which are considered victories for the LGBTQ community, could have an impact on the public opinion in Texas.

    "The changes in public opinion that are happening in other states across the country are happening here in Texas too," Smith said.

    Exactly ten years prior to ruling on DOMA, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that struck down sodomy laws nationwide. Smith said that ruling was historic — and so is this one.

    "It is record breaking. It's historic and it is fabulous," Smith said. "I hope the gravity and magnitude of this will have an effect here in Texas, in terms of when people look at our constitution. We need to reconsider that, because there is really no rational basis for inequality."

  • Abortion legislation fails in Texas Senate

    In the very last minutes of the last day of the special session, a combined effort from Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, democratic senators and activists in the Senate Chamber gallery prevented abortion legislation from passing in the special session.

    "The constitutional time for the first called special session has expired," Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said. "Senate Bill 5 cannot be called at this time in the presence of the senate."

    Despite the victory for pro-choice activists and Democrats, Texas Gov. Rick Perry could still call another special session. If he wishes, he can place abortion legislation on the agenda.

    Initial reports from media outlets such as The Associated Press said Senate Bill 5, the bill on abortion legislation, passed. The abortion legislation, or Senate Bill 5, would have placed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. It would also have placed many restrictions on abortion clinics across the state. Many have claimed these restrictions would close the majority of Texas abortion clinics and centers.

    As the night went on, more and more reports on Twitter seemed to hint that the bill failed to pass before midnight. 

    There were many confusing moments in the final two hours of the first special session of the 83rd legislature. Senators debated rules and made many parlimentary inquiries. Even Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who has described herself as strongly "pro-life," made several challenges and attempted to stall for time. 

    In the last ten minutes, the gallery of the Senate Chamber began to scream and chant, creating confusion in the chamber. It quickly became too loud to hear. Roll calls were made in the last minutes. One of the roll calls was still ongoing after midnight, which was when the special session ended and the abortion legislation was supposed to die. It was this that ultimately resulted in Senate Bill 5's death. 

    Shortly after midnight, the Texas Tribune tweeted screenshots showing that records on the time of the vote of Senate Bill 5 changed from Wednesday, June 26 to Tuesday, June 25. After almost an hour of speculation and false reports, rallies and protestors gathered outside the Capitol and Senate Chamber, and doubts began to rise against Senate Bill 5's passage. Several lawmakers, including Sen. Watson, D-Austin, seemed optimistic.

    Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston, called a caucus of the Senate behind closed doors. Shortely after this meeting was called, reports began to emerge that Senate Bill 5 had failed.

    It was not until shortly after 3 a.m. that Dewhurst officially and publicly addressed senators, saying the legislation had failed and died. However, he hinted that lawmakers would be back.

    "It has been fun but, uh, see you soon," Dewhurst said, before banging the gravel.

    The Senate also failed to pass legislation on transportation funding and sentencing rules for 17-year-olds who are found guilty of capital murder charges.

    Correction: This article has been updated with the correct date of the filibuster debate. 

    See our previous article on abortion legislation here and our liveblog of the events here.

  • Confusion lingers following final moments of special session

    Citizens at the Texas Capitol watch their computers to try and figure out the fate of abortion legislation, SB 5.
    Citizens at the Texas Capitol watch their computers to try and figure out the fate of abortion legislation, SB 5.

    In the final moments of the special session, it is not clear yet if the Senate passed the abortion legislation.

    The Texas Senate had several motions to vote on in the final moments of the first special session. However, in the last ten minutes, the gallery of the Senate Chamber began to scream and chant, creating confusion in the chamber. It became too loud to hear. Roll calls were made in the last minutes. One of the roll calls was still ongoing after midnight, which was when the special session ended and the abortion legislation was supposed to die.

    The Associated Press tweeted that the abortion legislation passed.

    Pedro Villalobos, a recent UT alum, witnessed the entire filibuster and Senate debate on Senate Bill 5. He got at the Captiol at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, and was still in the gallery at midnight. He said he would be surprised if it comes out that Senate Bill 5 passed.

    "My understanding is no legislation was passed," Villalobos said. "I am not worried about it being passed…I am pretty sure it would be challenged in court."

    Villalobos said that in the final moments of the special session, lawmakers were rushing up to the podium, holding up one finger for an 'aye' vote, and two fingers for a 'nay' vote.

    Follow The Daily Texan on Twitter @thedailytexan for the latest updates.