State Journal

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Now that all its members are back, the Texas legislature can turn its attention to pending legislation—not the least of which is the state budget.

For a while, it wasn't clear if any work would get done in the Texas House of Representatives.

That's because more than 50 Democrats from the legislature's lower chamber fled the state earlier this month to avoid a vote that would have redrawn lines for U.S. congressional districts in favor of Republicans.

Most of the Democrats involved in the nationally chronicled escapade went to Ardmore, Okla., north of Dallas. One went to Mexico, and a couple headed to New Mexico.

Even though state troopers launched a massive manhunt to find them, the disappearing act proved effective.

While the Democrats hunkered down in their motel rooms for nearly five days, the Republicans didn't have enough members at the Capitol in Austin for a quorum. The redistricting bill died when the deadline to move legislation to the Senate expired.

During the Democrats' sojourn, no major education-related bills were on the docket, according to Debbie Graves-Ratcliffe, the director of communications for the Texas Education Agency.

As legislative life returns to normal, lawmakers worked in a conference committee last week to resolve a $10 billion shortfall in the state's $104 billion budget for fiscal years 2004 and 2005.

Legislators were predicting big cuts to education.

Other education issues arose upon the return of the elusive Democrats. Lawmakers congratulated the winners of the Fort Worth school district's spelling bee, and the boys' basketball team of the Ambassadors of Christ Christian Academy in Fort Worth for winning a state title. They also made Hutto the official "Hippo Capital" of Texas. The lumbering and sometimes vicious animal is not native to central Texas, it's the mascot of the 500-student Hutto High School.

—Michelle Galley

Vol. 22, Issue 38, Page 14

Published in Print: May 28, 2003, as State Journal

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