Texas Lawmaker Needs New Liver

The Associated Press
Friday, January 12, 2007; 1:29 PM

AUSTIN, Texas -- One of the state's senior lawmakers, just elected Senate president pro tempore, said Friday he needs a liver transplant and may miss most of the session.

Mario Gallegos, 56, a Houston Democrat who was elected president pro tempore of the state Senate on Tuesday, said his doctor had placed him on a transplant waiting list.

"He (the doctor) has long anticipated this possibility ever since I became sober almost a year ago," Gallegos said in a news release. "At this 'stand by' stage of the process, my physician cannot allow me to travel far from Houston, so I will temporarily be unable to be in the Texas Capitol."

Senate president pro tempore is a mostly honorary position based on seniority _ the lieutenant governor is the Senate's leader _ but it's a position that occasionally wields power. The president pro tempore takes over the duties of the governor's office when the elected governor and lieutenant governor are both out of the state.

Gallegos' absence also could give Senate Republicans the two-thirds majority they need to override Democrats' objections to bringing up bills for debate. Gallegos said he has asked Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to delay key bills until he can return, even though that timing remains unclear.

"I deeply appreciate his support in the matter," Gallegos said.

Dewhurst's office did not immediately comment.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the Senate planned to pick another president pro tempore.

Gallegos, who in 1995 became Houston's first Hispanic state senator, checked himself into a monthlong alcohol rehabilitation program in March.

© 2007 The Associated Press