The Brief: Top Texas News for June 28, 2011

Texas Capitol
Texas Capitol

The Big Conversation: 

After an almost 170-day stint in Austin, it may be closing time for the 82nd Legislature. Wednesday, 30 days after the special's start, is the constitutionally mandated drop-dead deadline to finish up.  

Lawmakers have to wrap business on SB 1, the broad fiscal matters bill home to the school finance plan and other measures critical to the budget, and HB 3, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association overhaul, in the next two days. After a down-to-the-wire compromise on the TWIA bill reached just yesterday, House and Senate will likely take up the bills today. Both are must-pass pieces of legislation.

As it stands now, SB 1 contains a provision Gov. Rick Perry doesn't like: one thats require online retailers (like Amazon.com) to collect sales taxes if they do business in Texas and directly or indirectly have physical locations in the state. The governor would also like lawmakers to take Amazon up on an offer to invest $300 million in warehouse and distribution centers in the state, employing 6,000 people, in exchange for operating for four-and-a-half years without collecting sales taxes from its customers.

But Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said yesterday a veto wasn't in the works. "I think he'll sign it," he said of the governor and SB1.  

 

As for the rest of the items on tap for the special session: to borrow a phrase from the Tribune's Thanh Tan, the special saw bills move like traffic, "at times speeding through, at others stuck in a perpetual stop and go."  

Yesterday was one of the days measures sped through. Both chambers made quick work of legislation covering a range of the special session's issues including school district mandate relief and healthcare cost efficiency. But as the Dallas Morning News' Christy Hoppe reports, the day ended with two of the governor's pet items "in tatters." Sponsors of controversial "sanctuary city" bills acknowledged yesterday that time had likely run out for their proposals. 

And legislation related to the second of those items — "official oppression on those seeking access to public buildings and transportation" or the so-called anti-TSA groping bill — passed both chambers yesterday, but in a significantly watered-down form. That's largely due to the involvement of Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, according to the Statesman's Jason Embry, who says in defeating the measure in its original form Straus "has once again prevailed over a relatively small, but highly motivated, group of activists."

 Culled: 

· During his Fed Up! tour, Perry used as evidence he wasn’t running for president the controversial views he put forward in the book. The Trib’s Jay Root reviews them for you. But here’s a taste: the GOP hopeful believes the federal government has overreached in its criminalization of marijuana and that states should set their own policy on same-sex marriage.

· The state risks violating an international diplomatic convention in its upcoming execution of a Mexican citizen, suggests New York Times legal analyst Adam Liptak.  "It is surprising that Texas does not recognize the risks it may be creating for its own citizens,” says a former top Bush administration attorney.

· Three years into President Barack Obama's term, partisan deadlock has subsided and Texas is finally getting its U.S. attorneys. The federal prosecutor posts will go to U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Lee Pitman in the Western District and assistant U.S. attorney Ken Magidson in the Southern. And according to the San Antonio Express-News, Sarah Saldaña and interim U.S. Attorney John Bales will likely snag the spots in the Northern and Eastern districts.  (Yours truly wrote about the missing U.S. attorneys in April of last year.)

"I don't pretend to understand the House. I have enough challenges with running the Senate that I'm not going to get into the House business." — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, on why the lower chamber has delayed passing the Senate's version of sanctuary cities legislation. 

 

Must Read: 

Rick Perry, Bob McDonnell at latest Koch brothers summit — Politico

Amidst Two Major Losses, Advocates See Small Victories in School Finance — The Texas Observer

Personal info of 3.5 million Texans exposed online — Houston Chronicle

 

 

Bill banning sanctuary cities headed toward failureEl Paso Times

A&M System May Name Jay Kimbrough Interim Chancellor — The Texas Tribune

Lawmakers get busy in closing hours of session — Houston Chronicle

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