To casual observers outside Austin, this week's debate over photo identification at the polls might seem unimportant in the grand scheme of things. After all, lawmakers have a $20 billion shortfall, at minimum, to deal with — so one might think working on that would take priority over smaller issues.
Nancy Sims is a longtime political analyst with Pierpont Communications. She says items like the Voter ID bill could seem frivilous at first glance, but it's all part of the strategy to get things done before the budget consumes everyone's time and attention.
"They have to do things within a certain time frame. And there are issues that are easier to address early and issues that take a long time to work out."
The Voter ID bill is an intensely partisan issue and is the first item that has grabbed much public attention. But Sims says she doesn't think it will have a lingering effect on the tone of the session.
"The session is going to be tough regardless. You've got multiple partisan issues that will be making tensions great on all sides of the aisle. It's just going to be that way — you have redistricting and you have the budget and you have other issues that will have an effect on the tension. Ultimately, they all have to work together to adopt a budget the state can live with."
State senators passed the Voter ID bill with a vote of 19 to 11. It will head to the house next, where the nearly two to one Republican majority is expected to approve the legislation.