The Brief: Top Texas News for March 14, 2013

Ted Cruz at a panel on the future of Texas politics, at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 22, 2012.
Ted Cruz at a panel on the future of Texas politics, at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 22, 2012.

The Big Conversation

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday offered some pointers to conservative activists preparing for their annual confab in Washington.

A day before the kick-off of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, at which Cruz will deliver the closing speech, Texas' junior U.S. senator headlined the annual Weyrich Awards Dinner last night in Washington. At the event, as Politico reports, Cruz spoke of the future of the Republican Party, Sen. Rand Paul's recent filibuster and the reputation he has earned in his first three months in office.

"It is wonderful to be among friends or, as some might say, fellow wacko birds," Cruz said, alluding to Sen. John McCain's recent jab at him and Paul. "If standing for the Constitution, standing for liberty, standing for values makes one a wacko bird … then I am pleased that birds of a feather flock together."

Cruz, who earlier in the day delivered his first formal Senate speech, told the audience that Republicans could lose more ground nationally in 2014 if they "fail to stand for principle," and he encouraged the party to craft a more forceful, positive message that appeals to the middle class.

 

"One of the most painful things about being a conservative is how many elected Republicans do not understand that our policies work, and they work especially for those struggling to climb the economic ladder," he said. "We’re not going to win the argument unless we understand that our ideas work."

He added: "President Reagan didn’t have to agonize over a speech about how to convey that because he lived it. He understood this is who we are as Americans, and every one of us in this room understands that also."

Cruz will deliver the closing speech at CPAC, a high-profile annual conservative gathering in Washington, on Saturday night. Gov. Rick Perry, who has recently been thrust into the spotlight over the state's resistance to Medicaid expansion, is also scheduled to speak at the conference.

Culled

•    Senate Finance Approves $195.5 Billion Budget (The Texas Tribune): "The 15 members of the Senate Finance Committee unanimously voted on Wednesday for a $195.5 billion two-year budget that undoes some of the cuts from the 2011 legislative session. … The committee also made a concerted push to address how the state tackles mental health issues, allocating $226 million more for mental health and substance abuse services along with an additional $15.2 million dedicated to mental health issues at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department."

•    Texas lawmakers clash on tying jobless benefits to drug tests (The Dallas Morning News): "Republican state leaders have called for drug-testing jobless Texans now that federal law allows it. But lawmakers sparred Wednesday over its necessity, fairness and effectiveness in a sometimes testy hearing on a bill to create the program."

•    Senate overwhelmingly approves bill to create new Valley university, med school (The Monitor): "Texas senators overwhelmingly approved legislation creating a new Rio Grande Valley university and medical school Wednesday with a 30-1 vote. The House has scheduled a vote on an identical bill in that chamber for Tuesday, potentially setting up a rapid passage to conference committee and then the governor’s desk."

•    Bill seeks reimbursements from state officials for political travel (The Associated Press): Elected officials who have publicly funded security details should reimburse the state when they go outside the state on private business, a Texas lawmaker said Wednesday. Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, presented his bill to the House State Affairs Committee, saying it is a cost-saving measure that members of both parties should welcome.

Quote of the Day: "I believe that, on balance, the permitted presence of concealed weapons will contribute to a less-safe campus environment." — University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa in a letter to Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday

Must-Read

 

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