Thousands rally at Capitol as special session begins

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by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and Associated Press

kvue.com

Posted on July 1, 2013 at 7:39 AM

Updated Monday, Jul 1 at 7:52 PM

AUSTIN -- 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.

Lisa Anderson took a day off from work Monday to head to the State Capitol grounds. She's determined to let lawmakers know how she feels about Republican-sponsored bills that that limit where, when and how a woman may obtain an abortion in Texas.

“There's a generation of women and girls who don't realize what's at stake here,” Anderson said. “Why are we having this arguement again? We settled this decades ago, I thought.”
 
Anderson was just one in a crowd more than 5,000 strong as women and men from Texas and across the nation gathered at the south steps to show their support for abortion rights.

“If you look around and see the people that are here they're pretty unhappy with our legislators,” said Alan Riechter, who came to be part of the rally. 
 
Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks and the band Bright Light Social Hour helped warm up the crowd. Then lawmakers took to the podium.

“Today and for the next 30 days, let's make sure they hear you,” said State Senator Leticia Van De Putte.
 
The Democratic legislators who helped run out the clock on the last special session asked the crowd to keep fighting for what they believe in.

“If we take the crazy energy that we have today and we commit ourselves to this effort, we'll win the war against Texas women, and we'll win the fight for Texas’ future,” said State Senator Kirk Watson.
 
But the crowd's loudest cheers were reserved for their heroine of the hour, State Senator Wendy Davis, who's filibuster during the last special session helped kill the abortion bill.

“Texans are proud of their state. Texans are leaders, and we will move beyond partisan politics,” Davis said. “Together we can do what they won't...stand up for Texas.”
 
The abortion bill goes back to committee Tuesday and should be sent to the House next week.
 
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. 

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