Second special session begins, recesses until July 9

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by TINA SHIVELY / KVUE News, WFAA and Associated Press

khou.com

Posted on July 1, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Updated Monday, Jul 1 at 5:29 PM

AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Legislature has recessed for the week, less than an hour after convening its second special session.

That was just long enough to refer abortion legislation to committees for public hearings.

Lawmakers convened Monday to consider new abortion restrictions derailed last week by a Democratic senator's filibuster and raucous protests.

Although there will be no further action on either floor until next week, committees will be in session this week. The chairman of the House State Affairs Committee said he'd cut off testimony on the bill at midnight Tuesday and expects the full House to get it next week.

Gov. Rick Perry called lawmakers back for an additional 30 days to pass a new law that limits where, when and how a woman may obtain an abortion in Texas.

The first special session ended in dramatic fashion last week with a now-famous filibuster.

Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis talked for more than 12 hours straight to keep the legislature from passing tougher abortion laws.

When rules silenced her, hundreds of protesters in the Senate gallery cheered so loudly that senators on the floor couldn't take a vote before a midnight deadline.

Monday a protest of the controversial abortion regulations bill expected to be considered by lawmakers in this second special session took place on the south steps of the Capitol. Sen. Davis, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, and NARAL President Ilyse Hogue addressed the crowd.

More than 5,000 demonstrators packed the area outside the Capitol for the afternoon rally. Wearing burnt orange shirts and carrying signs critical of many Republican leaders and the legislation, the protesters heard from politicans and entertainers who are against the bill. Davis, upon her arrival, triggered a loud roar from the crowd.

"I believe in Texas more than ever," she said. Texas lawmakers have "forgotten their duty to represent all of us."

Mounted police officers from Houston were set up Monday morning alongside Department of Public Safety mounted police to control the crowd.

Inside in the rotunda and throughout the building, barriers were set up to control the thousands expected to attend Monday afternoon's special session.

The state's Republican leadership has guaranteed the abortion regulations bill will pass this time around. Gov. Rick Perry has urged lawmakers to work faster this time. He wants abortion bills debated and approved long before the deadline so a filibuster won't work.

"I just refuse to say I believe it will happen. I'm an eternal optimist. I believe in people; I believe in the power of democracy, and I'm going to fight with every fiber I have to keep it from passing," said Davis.

It's not just abortion legislation, lawmakers will also consider funding for transportation projects -- a measure that would set a mandatory life sentence with the possibility of parole for 17-year-olds who commit capital murder. KVUE's political reporter Mark Wiggins says those bills will get Senate committee hearings Tuesday morning.

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