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The Brief: May 24, 2011

After days of stop-and-go budget negotiations, lawmakers may have just inched closer to a special session.

Sen. Florence Shapiro (l), R-Plano, visits with Health & Human Services Committee chairman Sen. Jane Nelson on May 3, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

After days of stop-and-go budget negotiations, lawmakers on Monday night — with less than a week left to finish business — may have inched closer to a special session.

The House hit a roadblock late Monday when Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, raised a procedural objection — Democrats' weapon of choice this session — to a school finance bill, SB 1581, as the Tribune's Morgan Smith reports. House members had reportedly expressed concern that they didn't have enough time to tackle the notoriously complex system of public school funding, which must be altered to account for the $4 billion in cuts to public education that lawmakers have already approved.

The bill, which has already been derailed multiple times, was the hopeful resting place of finance proposals from three different lawmakers, including Sen. Florence Shapiro, the Plano Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

"They seem to be dragging their feet on just about everything that has anything to do with school finance," Shapiro said after the bill's death. "I'm extremely concerned."

With the deadline — midnight tonight — for the House to approve Senate bills quickly approaching, a deal on school finance could still be struck in the budget conference committee, the panel of five senators and five representatives tasked with hashing out differences between House and Senate legislation. But with less than a week left in the session, the specter of summer overtime still looms.

As for the final budget, much of which lawmakers have already worked through, leaders said Monday to expect a vote this weekend. The session, if you needed reminding, ends Monday.


  • Gov. Rick Perry for president? The buzz is still swirling this week, but according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, he'd have to win over his home state, where only 4 percent of Republicans cite the governor as their preferred presidential nominee. Top honors belong to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, with 12 percent, who edges out former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich by a point. Even U.S. Rep. Ron Paul outguns the governor, with 10 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whom Politico says establishment Republicans have now deemed the front-runner, gets 7 percent, with former Govs. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Jon Huntsman of Utah at 4 percent and 1 percent, respectively.
  • Upset with the Legislature's inaction on congressional redistricting, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, has filed a lawsuit asking a state court to intervene. "We're in a situation where the Legislature can't draw a map, and so from our standpoint we filed a lawsuit to ask the court to draw a map," said an attorney representing Barton.
  • A statewide smoking ban, successfully tacked onto a fiscal bill in the Senate last weekend, still faces an uphill battle in the Legislature, but a new campaign among supporters to paint the measure as a money-saver could keep the bill alive.

"America is done with Texas for awhile. He makes George W. Bush look like a Yankee." — A former Bush administration official to Politico on why he thinks Gov. Rick Perry won't run for president


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