The Brief: Top Texas News for May 8, 2013

Gov. Rick Perry speaks with a reporter on Feb. 21, 2012, a month after dropping his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Gov. Rick Perry speaks with a reporter on Feb. 21, 2012, a month after dropping his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

The Big Conversation

Amid pressure from Gov. Rick Perry, the House has signed off on one of his top legislative priorities this session: business tax cuts.

The lower chamber on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to House Bill 500, major tax reform legislation intended to give about $400 million in relief to Texas businesses. (Perry, who recently proposed $1.6 billion in tax cuts, has threatened to call a special session if legislators fail to pass "significant tax relief" this year.) 

After hours of debate on Tuesday, though, the amount of tax relief climbed to $667 million after lawmakers from both parties added amendments aimed at reducing the franchise tax burden on individuals, small businesses and specific industries, like oil and gas.

Democrats slammed the legislation, filed by state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, for taking money away from the state while other areas like public education await funding.

"Today it’s raining for rich people in Texas," said Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Tension laced the hours-long debate. As the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw reports, one testy exchange between Hilderbran and Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, even silenced the House.

Some Republicans also expressed concerns over the bill's rising cost.

"There are a number of people on the floor that do not want to bust the spending cap," said Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. "Obviously the bigger this bill gets, the more this could be likely."

After a final vote on the bill in the House today, the bill will move to the Senate, where lawmakers have expressed concerns about its price tag.

Culled

•    King Pulls Measure on Public Integrity Unit Oversight (The Texas Tribune): "State Rep. Phil King on Tuesday pulled an amendment that would transfer power over the state’s public integrity away from Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. But King said he has the support to attach it to future bills."

•    UT regents expected to OK $334.5 million plan for med school (Austin American-Statesman): "A years-long effort to establish a medical school at the University of Texas is about to reach a major milestone. A committee of the UT System Board of Regents is scheduled to review the university’s $334.5 million proposal Wednesday, and the full board is expected to sign off Thursday."

•    As Clock Ticks, Medicaid Expansion Dwindles (The Texas Tribune): "The likelihood of Texas expanding Medicaid coverage — even through a private market alternative — is looking slim. And some members of the House's Tea Party faction said they would vote against the budget if a rider opening the door to expansion talks were attached."

Quote of the Day: "Speaking the truth, shining light on substantive disagreements of our elected representatives is not bullying. It is the responsibility of each of us." — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in response to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who on Monday called Cruz a "schoolyard bully"

Must-Read

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