The Brief: Top Texas News for May 13, 2013

The Big Conversation

With about two weeks left in the session, comity in the Capitol is showing signs of fraying.

After months of amity among lawmakers and bipartisan accord on major issues, disagreement between the House and Senate over the budget threatens to upset the session's harmony — and potentially force lawmakers into legislative overtime.

Though both the House and Senate already passed their own budgets with relatively little drama, a rift between the two chambers has emerged over how to fund the major issues of the session, like water and transportation, as The Associated Press reports.

"There's somewhat desperate moves right now because the options are so limited at this point in the session," state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, told the AP. 

The biggest dispute concerns the state's Rainy Day Fund. Though the Senate has proposed drawing $5.7 billion from the fund for water, transportation and education under a proposal that would go on the ballot in November, the House has resisted calls to put the issue before Texas voters. The House's own plans to draw from the Rainy Day Fund as part of a proposal that would bust the state's spending cap face opposition in the Senate. 

"Texans expect their elected leaders to make difficult decisions, and the House will not shy away from those decisions," House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said in a statement last week.

The push for water funding took on even more urgency after Gov. Rick Perry recently told the Legislature to send him a budget that includes $2 billion for water or risk a special session.

Though negotiations between the chambers had reportedly stalled late last week, the House's chief budget writer, Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, predicted that a compromise would be reached by the end of the regular session.

Culled

•    Texas attorney general enters cancer agency’s political maze (The Dallas Morning News): "A succession of problems has beset CPRIT: conflicts of interest, allegations of favoritism, widespread resignations, and an $11 million grant made to a Dallas company without the required scientific or business review. But the attorney general, the state’s chief legal officer, demonstrated little apparent interest, based on his correspondence. Over the past five years, Abbott exchanged only nine emails with key state officials concerning CPRIT, an examination of records by The Dallas Morning News found."

•    West, Texas, paramedic 'vigorously denies' link to explosion (Los Angeles Times): "A paramedic arrested for possessing bomb-making materials after he responded to the massive fertilizer plant fire in West, Texas, has denied any connection between the fire and the charges he faces. Bryce Reed, 31, released a statement through his attorney Saturday saying he 'vigorously denies' charges filed against him Friday."

•    Castro cruises to third term as mayor (San Antonio Express-News): "Mayor Julián Castro captured a third term in office Saturday in an election marked by little campaigning and abysmal voter turnout. Castro's best friend — and twin brother — U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro introduced the mayor to scores of supporters attending the Saturday night victory party at El Mirador's King William Garden House."

•    Analysis: Despite effort to add seat, Hispanics face loss of representation on Dallas City Council (The Dallas Morning News): "Dallas is becoming increasingly Hispanic, but its City Council is moving the other direction. Efforts to add Hispanic representation hit a major pothole Saturday, with one Hispanic incumbent ousted and a Pleasant Grove activist tossed into a runoff."

Quote of the Day: "Without a doubt he is among the smartest students I’ve ever had. … I’ve had great students but he has to be at the top of anyone’s short list, in terms of raw brain power." — Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz to The Daily Caller on U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz

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