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The Brief: May 23, 2011

A deal's been struck, but with just a week to go, lawmakers still have to piece together the budget puzzle.

The Capital at dawn opening day of the 82nd legislative session on January 11, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

A deal's been struck, but with just a week to go, lawmakers still have to piece together the budget puzzle.

House and Senate leaders announced Friday afternoon that they'd agreed on a budget that would spend $80.6 billion over the next two years.

"I'm pleased that the House and Senate have come to an agreement that will help balance the budget and protect Texas taxpayers while making a historic $15-billion cut in government spending," Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said in a statement. House Speaker Joe Straus said the "disciplined, fiscally conservative" budget "lives within our means."

The agreement, whose specifics have yet to be released, hinged on the passage of a key fiscal bill that would generate some of the money to bridge the gap between the stark House budget plan and the more moderate Senate proposal.

House members filed hundreds of amendments to the fiscal bill during debate Friday and Saturday, successfully attaching a statewide smoking ban and a business tax break worth about $2 billion, which could be stripped from the final version when it heads back a conference committee of lawmakers from both chambers.

For the full scoop, keep up with the Tribune's Thanh Tan, who has a look at the status of every bill that must pass for a budget to materialize — one of which, Senate Bill 1581, a school finance bill, the House will take up today.


  • The budget debate — and four months of lawmaking — seems to have had little effect on Texans' views on where cuts should be made, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. "People say they're paying attention to the legislative session. Either they're not, or the conversations are not having much impact — they're not moving the dial much," says pollster Daron Shaw.
  • With some Republican hopes dashed following Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' announcement Sunday that he won't seek the Republican presidential nomination, expect the renewed Rick Perry-for-president buzz to even further intensify as the GOP looks for a savior with star power in what Politico on Sunday deemed "the weakest primary field in recent memory." And at the risk of putting rumors to bed, Perry is also set to receive a visit this week from Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who is expected to run for the Republican nomination.
  • Texas' abortion sonogram law, just signed by Gov. Rick Perry, could face a legal challenge from a national abortion rights group, The Dallas Morning News reported Friday.


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