Ailing senator helps quash voter ID bill
09:49 AM CDT on Thursday, May 24, 2007
By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst declared a much-debated voter identification bill dead Wednesday night as the Senate faced a midnight deadline for passage of all bills in this year's legislative session.
His declaration prompted Democratic Sen. Mario Gallegos of Houston, who has been recovering from a liver transplant but has stayed in Austin to prevent a vote on the bill, to thank the lieutenant governor and all of his colleagues before departing the Capitol.
"It's time to go home and do what the doctors tell me," Mr. Gallegos said, adding that he had no regrets. "It's something that had to be done. If I hadn't been here, they would have passed it."
Mr. Gallegos returned to the Capitol on Monday against his doctors' wishes to preserve a Democratic blockade of the GOP-backed legislation, which would have required Texans to show a photo ID or two other pieces of identification to vote. The Senate's 11 Democrats blocked action on the proposal under the chamber's long-standing rule that requires a two-thirds vote of the 31-member chamber to take up any bill.
The measure passed the House earlier this year but has been stalled in the Senate. Republicans say it's an important piece of legislation to fight voter fraud, especially illegal immigrants voting. Democrats contend that's a problem that doesn't exist and say the measure will harm minorities and the elderly.
Besides thanking Mr. Dewhurst for ending the partisan standoff over the bill, Mr. Gallegos also thanked Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, a family physician, for monitoring his health this week and arranging to have a hospital bed placed in a room adjacent to the Senate chamber for Mr. Gallegos to rest.
"I'll be back," the Democrat promised other senators before leaving. "If you want to fight this battle again, I'll fight it – but with a healthier Mario Gallegos."