The Brief: Top Texas News for March 28, 2013

The Big Conversation

Key legislation aimed at easing the state's water woes took a major step forward on Wednesday.

After four hours of debate, the Texas House yesterday approved House Bill 4, which would create a revolving fund from which local communities could borrow money to finance water infrastructure, like reservoirs and pipelines, and conservation projects.

During floor debate, the bill's author, state Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, said that if lawmakers didn't act, the state — whose population continues to boom amid a crippling drought — could be 3 trillion gallons short of water by 2060. State officials have said shortages could cost the state billions of dollars.

"As Mother Nature has reminded us in the last couple of years, we can’t change the weather," Ritter told lawmakers. "But with sound science and foresight and planning, we can conserve and develop supply to meet our future demands."

 

"It’s time for the Legislature to step up and fully implement the water plan," he added. 

Financing for the fund would come from separate legislation — still awaiting approval in a House subcommittee — that would allow a one-time withdrawal of $2 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund.

Only two representatives, Republicans David Simpson of Longview and Van Taylor of Plano, voted against the bill. As The Dallas Morning News notes, several proposed amendments, including one from Taylor that would have barred the withdrawal from the Rainy Day Fund out of concern for the state's credit rating, failed. Conservative groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation have also cautioned lawmakers against dipping into the Rainy Day Fund.

The bill now moves to the Senate, which is working on its own version of the legislation.

Culled

•    Perry asks TxDOT to temporarily fund control towers (Austin American-Statesman): "The Texas Department of Transportation may dampen the fiscal turbulence shaking the state’s small airports and potentially fund 13 Texas air traffic control towers slated for closure in the next few weeks. Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday asked the Texas Transportation Commission to consider providing emergency assistance to keep the control towers open for the next 90 days, calling them a 'vital safety network.'"

•    Dewhurst Raises Concerns With UT Law Foundation Review (The Texas Tribune): "Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst indicated Wednesday that he shares the concerns of state senators who have called on the University of Texas System regents to use the attorney general's office for an external review of the UT Law School Foundation."

•    Obama plans to visit Peña Nieto in May (San Antonio Express-News): "Economic ties, enhanced border security and U.S. immigration reform will be on the agenda when President Barack Obama visits Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in May, officials said Wednesday. It will be the first meeting in Mexico City between Obama and Peña Nieto since the Mexican president took office in December."

•    Speed Incentives, Toll Lanes Get Senate Attention (The Texas Tribune): "The Senate Transportation Committee heard testimony Wednesday on two bills addressing criticisms stemming from the proliferation of toll roads and toll lane projects around the state."

Quote of the Day: "Oversight of Park Service is my job! Natural Resources Thus the Congressional Plate in window." — The message U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, wrote on a parking ticket he received from a U.S. Park Police officer earlier this month in Washington, D.C.

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