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Heroics in Austin today

Let it never be said that politics is without drama.

Today in Austin, something amazing happened.

Last month, the Texas House passed H.B. 626 which, among other things, would establish a law that requires people registering or re-registering to vote to file a birth certificate, unexpired passport or citizenship papers with their county's registrar.

A good half of us who were born here, don't actually have those documents. I don't, for one. So that means I'd have to pay my county's registrar $23 for a reprint, just so I could vote.

The Supreme Court once called this a poll tax.

So, the Texas House approved the poll tax bill, and today the Texas Senate tried to pass it. They failed, but just barely.

According to The Dallas Morning News, one Democratic Senator was absent with the flu. When roll was taken this morning, and it was discovered he was not present, Lt. Governor Dewhurst immediately moved to call a vote as to whether the bill could move forward for debate. A two-thirds majority is required in such instances.

After a rush vote, a total of 19-9 was tallied: one short of what Democrats needed to prevent the poll tax from being passed. However, one Democrat, John Whitmire of Houston, stood and shouted at Dewhurst for not counting his vote. His other colleagues rallied, and a shouting match broke out.

At one point, Dewhurst threatened to have Senate Democrats removed from the capitol.

Finally, Dewhurst caved, and allowed a second vote, to confirm the first tally was correct. He insisted it would result in no change, because he had failed to count a Republican vote too.

At the absolute zero hour, with just seconds remaining before the bill would be pushed through, Democrat Carlos Uresti of San Antonio came bursting into the Senate chambers and held up two fingers, signifying a vote of 'no'. Mr. Uresti had been out sick with the flu, and Senate Democrats had to frantically race against time to rouse him from his sleep and rush him into the capitol chambers. The final vote was 20-11, just one vote shy of the two-thirds majority the Republicans needed.

The Republicans are foaming at the mouth to get this bill passed, and if a single Senate Democrat is absent for one day between now and May 23, it'll be over.

I'm no fan of the Democrats, but if they can keep this one at bay, I'll at least write some nice words.

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