The Brief: Top Texas News for April 18, 2012

Texas' three leaders (l to r), House Speaker Joe Straus, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appear at the Texas Capitol for their traditional post-session press conference on May 31, 2011.
Texas' three leaders (l to r), House Speaker Joe Straus, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appear at the Texas Capitol for their traditional post-session press conference on May 31, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

Gov. Rick Perry reasserted himself in Texas politics this week, but one of the state's leading Republicans isn't jumping squarely in line.

Perry on Monday unveiled his so-called Texas Budget Compact, a pledge to cut spending, oppose any new taxes or tax increases and strictly limit the future expansion of government. The compact also calls for an end to accounting tricks to balance the state budget, the preservation of the state's Rainy Day Fund and the elimination of government agencies.

Perry urged state politicians to sign on to the pledge, which he said he wanted to circulate in time for the state's May 29 primary. Still, he said he wouldn't be keeping tally of who has or hasn't signed on to the pledge. "I’m not going to have a pledge for anybody to sign," he said. "People are either going to be for them or they’re not. There’s not a lot of gray area.”

But Joe Straus might disagree. Texans for Joe Straus, the speaker's political committee, said in a statement Monday that Straus supports the principles of the compact but that, per his own policy, he doesn't sign pledges. He went a step further Tuesday, suggesting to a group in Washington that Perry may have overreached in pushing the pledge. “We welcome the input of the executive, but the Legislature needs to assert itself from time to time as well,” Straus said, according to The Dallas Morning News. “It’s important that we remember the separation of powers and remember some of the lessons that we all learned or should have learned in civics class.”

Straus' hesitation toward the compact doesn't mean, however, that Perry — now receding from the national political spotlight — has lost any influence in Texas. As Tribune pollster Jim Henson, a government professor at the University of Texas, put it: “We knew he was going to be assertive. We knew he didn’t want to be irrelevant. Anyone who thought that Rick Perry was just going to come back to Austin to ride out the rest of his term really didn’t know Rick Perry.”

Culled:

  • The Tribune's Emily Ramshaw reports that the boards of the regional Planned Parenthood branches in Austin, Waco and Dallas-Fort Worth will vote today on a proposed merger that would create a $29 million-per-year mega-organization with 26 clinics up and down the Interstate 35 corridor. If approved, the organization, which would be called Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, would be the eighth-largest Planned Parenthood affiliate in the nation. “The timing is right, in terms of looking ahead at the challenges we will face politically, and from a health care standpoint,” said Leslie MacLean, the board chairwoman of Planned Parenthood of North Texas. “We felt like it was an obligation to look at all of the options to make us smarter and more efficient.”
  • Paul Sadler, the leading Democratic candidate in the U.S. Senate race, on Tuesday reported raising $72,800 for the first three months of the year — a paltry amount that he called "absolutely shocking," the Tribune's Jay Root reports. Sadler, a former state representative, attributed the weak numbers to donor fatigue and a lack of media attention on the Democratic side of the race. "We’re in uncharted waters," he said. "I don’t think we’ve seen a primary where there was basically no money given. And that’s basically where we are.”
  • The Secret Service said Tuesday that it will look into recent comments from musician and Waco-area resident Ted Nugent, who said at an NRA convention on Saturday, "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year." As Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie told Politico, “We are aware of the comments and we are conducting an appropriate follow-up."

"Given the choice between a Christian like Barack Obama, who embraces non-Biblical principles like abortion, and a Mormon like Mitt Romney, who embraces Biblical principles, there is every reason to support Mitt Romney in this election."Robert Jeffress, the Dallas pastor who, after endorsing Rick Perry for president last year, called Mormonism a "cult"

Must-Read:

Editor's note: A previous version of this post cited a story reporting that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst hadn't signed Gov. Rick Perry's budget pledge. Dewhurst has signed the pledge.

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