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The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 8, 2011

The talk of budget woes may be inescapable, but don't expect gloom from Gov. Rick Perry during his State of the State speech today.

Governor Rick Perry, Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst after their first weekly breakfast meeting saying th…

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

The talk of budget woes may be inescapable, but don't expect gloom from Gov. Rick Perry during his State of the State speech today.

As the Tribune's Ross Ramsey writes today, Perry — who has repeatedly called panic over the multibillion-dollar shortfall overblown — is expected to instead use his address, the sixth of his career, to "sell the state's fiscal troubles as an opportunity to reshape the government."

The two notables, both targeting higher education: He'll call on the state's universities to offer a $10,000 bachelor's degree, and he wants legislators to consider basing funding for universities on the number of students they graduate.

But the woes won't likely go unmentioned. Public education, job creation and health care can't be discussed without a mention of the budget, and expect all those topics to make it in. Border security, lawsuit reform and environmental regulation, too.

The venue will offer the governor, as in years past, the opportunity to make news while reflecting on the state's state. For a look at how the governor's focus on certain subjects has changed throughout his decade in office, check out a visualization here.

And perhaps needless to say at this point, be on the lookout for any signs of bigger ambitions. Politico's the latest with a is-he-or-isn't-he piece, this time taking a look at Perry's emergency items.

Watch a stream of the speech on our home page at 11 a.m., and follow our liveblog, too.

CULLED:

  • El Pasoans can breathe a sigh of relief (and hop in the shower) after three days of harsh water restrictions, a result of last week's severe winter weather, paralyzed much of the city, closing schools and businesses. The city's utility lifted restrictions — residents were instructed to use water for drinking purposes only — on Monday night, reporting improvements in reservoir levels, but still recommended that water be boiled before consumption. And on Monday, while some city officials praised the El Paso water utility for its performance during the crisis, others were less pleased.
  • Proceedings concluded Monday in the election-contest hearing to decide the winner of the disputed House District 48 seat between state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, and Republican Dan Neil, who lost to Howard in November by 16 votes. State Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, is set to recommend a winner Friday to a committee, which will then make its own recommendation to the full House.
  • Texas finally scored a new federal judge Monday with the U.S. Senate's unanimous confirmation of Magistrate Judge Diana Saldaña of Laredo — the Senate's first confirmation of an Obama appointee to a federal judicial post. 

"I think Mr. Neil, with his background in football, knows that at the end of the game, if somebody's got 23 points and the other person's got 24 points, the person with 23 points loses."Randall "Buck" Wood, lawyer for Democratic state Rep. Donna Howard, during closing arguments Monday in the election contest filed by Republican Dan Neil, whom recent counts have shown fewer than 10 votes behind Howard

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