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The Brief: Aug. 6, 2010

With a friend like the federal government, who needs enemies?

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst give a keynote speech. First general session of the Texas Republican Convention featuring Govern…

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

With a friend like the federal government, who needs enemies?

Following high-profile disputes with Washington over health care reform and environmental regulations, Texas may be on the verge of filing yet another lawsuit against the feds, this time over education — specifically, a congressional mandate that the state keep up its education spending levels.

Included in a jobs bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday and awaiting House approval next week, the mandate — authored by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin — requires the state to maintain its 2011 education spending levels through 2013 to qualify for $820 million in education funding.

Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who threatened the suit Thursday after consulting with Attorney General Greg Abbott, called the mandate — the only such state-specific requirement included in the bill — unconstitutional. Perry said the Texas Constitution prohibits lawmakers or the governor from committing to future legislative spending. "Washington is deft at placing targets on the backs of Texans, and this proposal paints a target on our school teachers and school children," Perry said in a statement.

Doggett and fellow Texas congressional Democrats wrote the provision in hopes of ensuring that federal stimulus dollars go toward education rather than be used — as the Legislature did last year — to plug the state's budget holes. "Compliance is very easy, unless there remains a hidden Republican agenda to avoid accountability and to engage in more of the shenanigans of last year, which replaced state education dollars with federal dollars, leaving our schools no better off than if we had done nothing," Doggett said in a statement. "Instead of concocting phony legalistic arguments to deny our local schools the funds that they so desperately need, Gov. Perry should join with us in support of public education."

The House is set to vote on the bill Tuesday. Dewhurst said he'd be "delighted to be named a plaintiff" in the lawsuit if the provision passes.

CULLED:

  • Granbury Republican State Sen. Brian Birdwell, whose residency status has stirred controversy and potentially increased his political vulnerability, now has a Democratic opponent.
  • Gov. Rick Perry's camp has a new attack video out this morning, this time blasting challenger Bill White for "profiteering off his public service since 1993."

  • Yet the two gubernatorial candidates, curiously enough, today find themselves on the same side of a heated issue: the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero — which neither candidate objects to. This pits Perry against other high-profile Republicans, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who have come out against the plan.

“The good news is there is no stump speech." — John Cullar, the Democrat selected to face Birdwell in Senate District 22, on his low-key nomination process, which took place at a Hillsboro cafe Thursday night

MUST-READ:

Thousands sign on for $10 billion BP suitHouston Chronicle

BP might still profit from oil beneath blown well — The Associated Press

Dallas County accused of illegally shackling pregnant inmates during laborThe Dallas Morning News

Former Foster Kids Struggle to Get Records — The Texas Tribune

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