The Big Conversation:
Competing rallies on Wednesday provided a stark backdrop to the House vs. Senate tug-of-war playing out in the Capitol.
While one group of protesters called on the Legislature to roll back its proposed sweeping budget cuts, others demanded that lawmakers cut even further. The warring protests, which together attracted thousands, mirrored the debate playing out between the House, which on Sunday approved an austere budget bill that cuts billions of dollars from nearly all areas of state government, and the Senate, which has refused to cut as deeply as the House.
"It's not a perfect bill, but it's a bill that stays within our revenue," Talmadge Heflin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Fiscal Policy, said of the House legislation. "What [the Senate now] needs to do is focus on cuts rather than look for more revenue."
State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said the House's proposed cuts would put the state at risk. "We must not pack our kids into overcrowded classrooms," Watson said. "We must not dismantle our parents' and our grandparents' nursing homes. We must not undermine our economy."
Meanwhile, as for the action inside the Capitol, Sen. Steve Ogden said the Senate's budget plan now looks to add $16 billion to the House proposal.
"I've said we've got three priorities: public ed, health care and criminal justice," Ogden told the San Antonio Express-News. "I think that the Senate's proposal adequately funds all three of those right now. ... The question I'm wrassling with, is how much money do we have left for everything else?"
At a hearing today, the Express-News notes, lawmakers will consider a bill by Rep. Jim Pitts, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, that would speed up tax collections.
The Senate, meanwhile, has yet to announce where it will find the non-tax revenue it says it plans to add to the House budget proposal.
- Sen. Bob Deuell, chairman of the Senate Nominations Committee, says he's waiting on holding a confirmation vote for John Bradley, chairman of the Forensic Science Commission, until Bradley has ruled on the controversial Cameron Todd Willingham death penalty case. Bradley, who has famously called Willingham a "guilty monster," doesn't have the votes for confirmation. "The thinking is, even from most of his critics, if not all, is that he needs to chair that meeting," Deuell tells The Associated Press. "We don't want a new person to have to start over like he did."
- The House on Wednesday tentatively approved a bill that would ease end-of-course-exam graduation requirements for students as the state transitions from the TAKS to the more rigorous STAAR assessment test.
- A House committee is set to take up congressional redistricting today, and as the Amarillo Globe-News reports, the Panhandle may not fare as poorly in the process as once thought.
"Their interest is not in giving women options. Their ultimate answer is, 'The best we can do is an abortion.'" — State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, on the motives of family planning clinics, which were targeted during the budget debate last weekend
- Lowering of Confederate flag brings protest in East Texas, WFAA-TV
- New teachers struggling in tough market, Austin American-Statesman
- Circumcision Questions, Other Inquiries Mulled for Some Passport Applicants, The Texas Tribune
And on this week's TribCast: the Senate budget, pansexuals and Western civilization