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Image courtesy office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

Update at 1:30 pm:  Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune, KUT's political reporting partner, reports that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst told him, "I'm really focused right now on this session.  I've got my plate full."  Dewhurst said he will talk about his political plans after the session.

Earlier:  Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison announced this morning that she will not seek another term in the Senate in 2012, according to a press aide to the senator.

Image by KUT

The first wave of political rhetoric to follow Saturday's shooting in Tucson, Arizona speculated on whether Jared Loughner was influenced by far right extremism or socialist dogma.

picture courtesy of The Texas Tribune

The referees have been named for the election battle between State Representative Donna Howard (D-Austin) and her Republican challenger Dan Neil.  Texas House Speaker Joe Straus sent out an e-mail today with a list of the 9 lawmakers on the House Select Committee on Election Contest.

Photo by KUT News

The Texas Senate was expected to take up its rules for the 2011 legislative session today.  But, they did not.  In fact they gaveled in and gaveled out in 10 minutes.  

Photo by KUT News

Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus held their 1st weekly breakfast of the 2011 legislative session today.  After the meal (which included eggs, according to Speaker Straus) they met with the Capitol press corps to say basically the same thing they've been saying for the last years:  The state will balance the budget without any revenue increases.  

Texas Governor Rick Perry has handed out the first assignments for lawmakers in the 2011 legislative session.  In separate speeches before lawmakers in the House and Senate, Mr. Perry announced he was making the protection of private property rights and eminent domain along with abolishing sanctuary cities in Texas emergency items for the session.

Ben Philpott/KUT

Republican Joe Straus of San Antonio has been re-elected as speaker of the Texas House by a 132-15 vote; two Republicans abstained. He fended off a challenge from conservatives who wanted to replace him with one of their own. Some conservative groups warned the speaker’s vote would serve as a litmus test for lawmakers’ performance at the end of the session.

Image by Matt Largey for KUT News

Former US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison for money laundering and conspiracy.

DeLay was sentenced by senior judge Pat Priest to three years for the conspiracy conviction and five years for money laundering. The five years sentence was probated. That means DeLay would serve ten year probation instead.

DeLay is being booked right now at the Travis County jail, but will be released on $20,000 bond pending appeal.

Earlier details.

Image Courtesy StarMama http://www.flickr.com/photos/thestarmama/

Political junkies who don't have time to spend all day at the Capitol can watch the Texas legislative session unfold from behind a TV or computer monitor.

Here's how you can do it:

After today's eagerly awaited revenue estimate from the Texas Comptroller, it appears we are not much closer to knowing how deep and how wide the state's dreaded budget shortfall will be.

Listen to KUT's Ben Philpott talk about it with KUT freelancer Gretch Sanders.

Comptroller Susan Combs' revenue estimate, issued this morning, predicts the state will generate $72.2 billion to spend in the 2012-13 biennium, the two year time span for which legislators must draft a budget in the once-every-two-years session that begins tomorrow.

So that's how much money is coming in, but we won't know how big the budget gap is (and consequently, how severe cuts to government could be) until we receive a baseline budget from the Legislative Budget Board. No exact date has been set, but it is not expected for a couple weeks.

Update at 12:15 pmBoth sides have rested in the sentencing phase of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's trial.  DeLay himself is expected to address the court when it reconvenes at 1:15 pm.

The defense only called one character witness: former US House Speaker Dennis Hastert. He testified about DeLay's political motivations and values.  Under questioning from assistant District Attorney Gary Cobb, Hastert said DeLay had not expressed remorse for the crimes he was convicted of in November.

Image by Dave Burnstein for KUT News

Texas comptroller Susan Combs estimates the state will generate $72.2 billion to spend on the 2012-2013 state budget. That's $5.6 billion less than the nearly $77.8 billion the state was certified to spend last legislative session two years ago. (Read the revenue estimate report here.)

The Comptroller says the state will bring in $76.5 billion over all, but Texas is already $4.3 billion behind on its current budget. The difference amounts to $72.2 billion.

Image courtesy US Congress

Updated at 6:44 pm: Texas lawmakers are reacting with shock to a shooting in Tuscon, AZ that killed at least five people including US District Judge John Roll and critically injured US Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  NPR reports the suspected gunman has been taken into custody.

Giffords, who was re-elected to a third term in November, was hosting a "Congress on Your Corner" event at a Safeway in northwest Tucson when a gunman ran up and started shooting, according to Peter Michaels, news director of Arizona Public Media.

The suspect fired indiscriminately from about four feet away, Michaels said. A congressional official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the gunman was using an automatic weapon.

US Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) was with Giffords the day before the shooting to discuss the healthcare repeal.  

"You know what she was doing is basically the same thing I do on a regular basis throughout Central Texas," Doggett told KUT News in a phone interview.

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

It's one of the most eagerly awaited events in Texas politics: on Monday, state comptroller Susan Combs will provider her revenue estimate. It's a projection of how much money the state will have to spend over the next 2012-13 biennium.

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Republican candidate who lost to State Representative Donna Howard in Austin's House District 48 has subpoenaed documents from the Travis County Clerk's Office. Dan Neil's lawyers are reviewing them today.

Mary Faro, a spokesperson for County Clerk Dana Dana DeBeauvoir, said attorneys from Howard's camp were there observing. She said the subpoena (posted below) commanded the Election's Office to provide documents locked in a closet that can only be unlocked by the County Sheriff.

KUT News

Ever since Arizona passed its controversial immigration law last year, some Texas lawmakers have been chomping at the bit for their chance to push similar legislation here.

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott sent a letter to staff this week, welcoming them back to work from the holidays and warning them they might be fired. With state lawmakers ready to begin a legislative session next week that will require closing a budget gap as big as $25 billion or more, is this an impending sign of the pain that will be wrought on Austin's economy?

Image courtesy US Department of Labor

State Representative Tryon Lewis (R-Odessa) filed House Bill 505 yesterday, a piece of legislation that would eliminate an optional state holiday celebrating labor and civil rights Cesar Chavez on March 31. The optional holiday would be replaced with Texas Hispanic Heritage Day on September 16.

U.S. Capitol
Image courtesy Andy-Beal www.flickr.com/photos/sel/

According to a new Rasmussen poll, the more things change in Washington, the more voters do not expect better results.  

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