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The Brief: Top Texas News for April 1, 2011

In the House budget battle, it's two bills down, one to go. But this one's a doozy.

State Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio,  debates on proposed amendment #28 to HB4 on March 31, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

In the House budget battle, it's two bills down, one to go. But this one's a doozy.

The Texas House gave early OK to two bills on Thursday that collectively balance the budget for the remaining fiscal year. House Bill 275, which authorized use of the Rainy Day Fund, passed by a vote of 142-2. But HB 4, which outlined about $1.5 billion in cuts to state agencies, split the House, as expected, along party lines.

Lawmakers filed 65 amendments to HB 4, many from Democrats attempting to restore funding for public education, higher education and health care. Republicans are "unwilling to protect those priorities, and they are willing to sacrifice them in favor of ideology," said state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Republicans, who have a supermajority in the House, sidelined virtually every Democratic amendment. "This is an opportunity so they can get something and run back home and say you voted against something," said Rep. James White, R-Hillister, according to the San Antonio Express-News. "This is ridiculous."

The bill ultimately passed by a vote of 100-46.

But today, the major player, HB 1 — the $164.5 billion proposal for 2012-13 that cuts $23 billion from the current budget — hits the House floor. Expect a similar but lengthier (far lengthier) amendment parade from lawmakers, who have already fired hundreds of changes, many overtly political, at the legislation. One amendment, as the Tribune's Brandi Grissom reported last night, would seek to privatize all state jails.

Passage is expected, but debate will likely last late into the night and into the weekend. As always, look for our live blog on the debate and live stream from the House floor.

Culled:

  • The Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Thursday quickly approved a guns-on-campus bill, which will now head to the full Senate for debate. Similar legislation cleared the Senate in 2009 but stalled in the House.
  • In his first comments addressing the issue, Gov. Rick Perry called the firestorm generated by the recent hiring of a controversial adviser to the University of Texas System Board of Regents a "waste of time." Perry tells the Austin American-Statesman the controversy has distracted the university from helping make Austin the next Silicon Valley.
  • In her story today on the storm surrounding the state's decision to change one of the drugs it uses in lethal injections, the Trib's Brandi Grissom reports that Rick Thaler, director of the Correctional Institutions Division at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, did not consult any medical professionals before making the decision to switch the drug.

Must-Read:

Programming Round-Up:

  • Session '11 (Austin, KXAN, Sunday, 9:30 a.m.): State Reps. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston; John Zerwas, R-Simonton; and Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin
  • Inside Texas Politics (Dallas-Fort Worth, WFAA-TV, Sunday, 9 a.m.): Michael Hinojosa, superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District

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