The year started out somewhat softly, and was highlighted by Barack Obama’s second inauguration. The State Legislature initially convened a member short, following the death of Mario Gallegos the previous year. After a competitive and increasingly brutal special election campaign, Sylvia Garcia was elected to the State Senate. The Legislature debated a plethora of diverse issues, and came up with novel and bold solutions for most of these. Meanwhile, the lead-up to the Houston municipal elections began with former City Attorney Ben Hall mounting an ostensibly high-profile challenge against Mayor Annise Parker. By the end of the regular Legislative session in May, members had passed a comprehensive Education reform bill targeting curriculum and standardized tests as well as a bill to spend over $2Billion on Water projects. Shortly after the end of the session, Governor Perry called back legislators for a special session on redistricting, criminal justice, transportation and abortion. The session quickly rubber-stamped the redistricting maps, but the rest of legislation was put on hold after Democrats successfully used every dilatory tactic at their disposal to prevent a bill regulating abortion clinics (and effectively closing most of them) from being finally considered before the end of the session. These tactics included a 13-hour filibuster by State Senator Wendy Davis that transformed her into an international sensation. A second (and later third) session was later called to pass all these measures, and resulted in the Legislature being in session throughout the summer. By the autumn, City of Houston elections had heated up considerably amidst conflict over the quantity of debates or candidate forums. Meanwhile, Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson announced his retirement and was replaced by Nathan Hecht. In November, Mayor Annise Parker and City Controller Ronald Green were both re-elected by wide margins, as did most members of the City Council. After being reelected, a newly emboldened Parker announced her support for progressive causes such as Wage theft regulation, same-sex benefits and Payday lending reform. The slates for statewide offices, including the Democratic Party, also formed around this time, with Wendy Davis running for Governor and Leticia Van de Putte running for Lieutenant Governor. Also, at the time of the filing deadline, Justice Larry Meyers announced a party switch to the Democrats, letting the party effectively claim a statewide post for the first time in nearly 15 years. Steve Stockman, a local Congressman, also announced a right-wing challenge to Senator John Cornyn. At the time of Houston runoff elections, more progressive candidates were elected, including a pair of challengers that defeated Helena Brown and Andrew Burks, respectively.
Texpatriate also remembers those who have passed away in the past year, including Gaynelle Jones, Raymond Telles, Jack Hightower, Mike Anderson, Leonel Castillo, Reuben Senterfitt and Nelson Mandela.
Wishing you a safe and happy New Year’s eve and a prosperous 2014!