When a largely united bloc of Democrats teamed up with nearly two dozen Republicans to tack an across-the-board pay raise for schoolteachers onto the proposed state budget late Thursday, state Rep. Jim Dunnam said he felt a sea change in the Texas House.
Dunnam, a six-term lawmaker from Waco who leads the House Democratic Caucus, said the 90-56 vote for the pay raise might have been the first time since the Republicans won control of the chamber four years ago that its leaders were unable to exert their will over the rank-and-file membership on an issue of substance.
"I think what it demonstrated was that we have a working bipartisan majority that can get things done on some very key issues," Dunnam said after House members adopted their version of the proposed $150.1 billion two-year state budget. "When we tried that two years ago or four years ago, we got rolled about every time."
Texas House Dems also succeeded in including a provisions in the proposed budget to forbid spending tax money for private-school vouchers and for expanding the rolls of the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid. The majority of the budget still sadly reflects the skewed priorities of the Republican majority, but these are major victories that weren't possible before.
Democrats lost the Texas House in 2002, but gained 7 seats in general and special elections since, including 5 in 2006 (defeating several key Republicans). They are now only 6 away from retaking the majority.
UPDATE: Excuse me for piling on to Adam's post here, but here's a good link from Burnt Orange Report on another way in which Tarrant County is also turning blue. Democrats got Dallas County in November, and should set their sights on Tarrant County in 2008 as part of the campaign to wrest the Texas Leg from Republicans.