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The Brief: June 29, 2011

After a short-lived scare to the contrary, today will really — and finally — mark the end of the 82nd legislative session.

House Speaker Joe Straus (r) greets Republican members at a press conference after the chamber adjourned sine die on May 30,…

The Big Conversation:

After a short-lived scare to the contrary,  today will really — and finally — mark the end of the 82nd legislative session.

If the House can get past a few last steps, that is.

The lower chamber must approve a final piece of budget-related legislation, HB 79. The omnibus funding bill for the courts isn't expected to be controversial, but yesterday's initial failure to pass the crucial SB 1  — which carries the school funding plan and is the reason for the special session — proved the House's expertise at bucking expectations. (And the Trib's Ross Ramsey and Thanh Tan note, the courts bill's Senate sponsor is Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, better known as the man who killed anti-sanctuary cities legislation.)

As the Austin-American Statesman reports, because of what amounted to " a lot of little things" in the broad-ranging revenue-generating bill frustrating enough Republicans, 32 of them joined Democrats in initially voting against the measure. Then, after a brief caucus meeting, GOP members returned with what Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, called a "clarification" and passed it. More than 20 changed their votes.

House lawmakers will also take a swing at passing legislation that criminalizes so-called "groping" by TSA agents at airports. But the fate of the newest item on the governor's call for the special session is shaky.

The hardline bill handed down by the Senate — which adjourned for good yesterday — isn't how leadership in the House prefers to tackle the issue. And there's another wrinkle. Because the deadline for the end of the special session is midnight tonight, the bill must clear all the hurdles in the lower chamber in one day. That means it requires 120 — or four-fifths — of House lawmakers to vote in favor of it. 

The law would expand the federal definition of "official oppression" to prohibit federal employees from improperly touching a person's private areas, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. A violation could get a TSA agent up to one year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine.

Culled:

· Gov. Rick Perry will return to California to meet with top GOP donors in Beverly Hills, Orange County, and Sacremento. Top Republican party officials in that state view the trip as a turning point: "I sense that he is beyond considering running for president. He is now planning to run for president," says one.

· At least 10 members of Texas' 32-strong congressional delegation have a lower net-worth in 2010 than they did the previous year — mostly due to the soft real estate market, the Houston Chronicle says. U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio were among the hardest hit. Cuellar's holdings dropped $871,000 to about $590,000; Smith says his changed because of accounting that better reflects his stake in a family ranch.

· In the midst of blazing wildfires and at the end of the state's driest eight month period in history, the U.S. government will declare all of the state a federal disaster zone because of drought conditions. That means farmers and ranchers in those areas will qualify for special aid — and that "Texas agriculture could sustain its worst single-year loss, potentially topping the 2006 record of $4.1 billion.

"The Senate wasn't its usual good partner. They were in an anxious mood — ironically, I suppose — to hurry to the airport." — Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, on why, in an atypical show of pique toward the upper chamber, he shut out the Senate's messenger yesterday to prevent them from leaving. 

Must Read: 

New kind of Austin-Boston connection may help GOPSan Antonio Express-News

Both sides square off as Senate hearing weighs DREAM Act  — Houston Chronicle

Southeast Texas, unlike the rest of the state, is swimming in powerBeaumont Enterprise

Water-Starved Town May Face Draconian Restrictions — The Texas Tribune

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