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The Brief: April 27, 2011

The Senate will soon take up a budget bill with one proposal that has garnered some high-powered opposition.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst (l), talks with Sen. Dan Patrick on the floor of the Texas Senate on April 18, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

The Senate will soon take up a budget bill with one proposal that has garnered some high-powered opposition.

As reported by the Austin American-Statesman, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said Tuesday that he "disagreed" with senators' decision last week to draw $3 billion from the Rainy Day Fund, the state's $9.4 billion emergency savings account.

The Senate, this session acting as a moderate check on the conservative House, has been searching for sources of revenue to avert the sweeping cuts to social services, like public education and Medicaid, included in the controversial House bill, which passed earlier this month.

But Gov. Rick Perry and other conservatives have warned against any further use of the fund, which the governor already authorized draining by $3.1 billion for the current biennium. On Tuesday, Perry reiterated his opposition. "I'm not going to put Texas' economic future in jeopardy by spending money that we don't have at this particular point in time," he said.

Dewhurst, though, noted that decisions made this week won't be final. "This is a process," he said. "We want to keep it moving; we want to get it into conference [committee]," where the Senate bill will be reconciled with the more austere House bill.

It still remains unclear whether the Senate will have the votes — 21 are needed — to bring the bill to the floor, and Perry's comments, said Sen. Steve Ogden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, don't "make it any easier."


  • Expecting "much, much more significant campaign" this time around, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul announced on Tuesday the formation of a presidential exploratory committee, raising questions of just how far the long-shot candidate — now with a larger national profile — will go this time.
  • A technicality on the House floor Tuesday derailed House Bill 400, which would have replaced the 22-student cap in kindergarten through fourth grade with a 25-student limit. State Rep. Borris Miles, D-Houston, who raised the point of order, called eliminating the class size cap "ridiculous" and said he would continue to challenge the bill, which could hit the House floor again as soon as Friday. Rep. Rob Eissler, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, attacked Miles' objection. "We're in the cat-and-mouse game now," Eissler said. "That should tell you how badly they don't want this to pass."
  • The House will take up a new redistricting plan for state representatives today. The map, as the Tribune's Ross Ramsey reports, proposes 107 districts in which Republicans beat Democrats in statewide elections in 2010.

"It will really establish, and I don’t mean to be funny, a dog Gestapo."David Simpson, R-Longview, on the so-called puppy mill bill, which the House tentatively approved Tuesday


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