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The Brief: July 1, 2011

Since most Texas counties have fireworks bans in effect this July 4 weekend, what better way to celebrate than recalling the legislative fireworks of recent weeks and imagining those still to come on the campaign trail?

A boy waves an American flag at an immigration rally held in Dallas on May Day.

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Since most Texas counties have fireworks bans in effect this July 4 weekend, what better way to celebrate than recalling the legislative fireworks of recent weeks and imagining those still to come on the campaign trail?

With a full day of post-session recovery now behind us, it’s a good time to do a bit of looking back (As the Trib’s Thanh Tan reports today, some Tea Party voters, disappointed that some pet issues were left unresolved, will be doing so in anger.).

The Austin American-Statesman took the opportunity to break down the winners and losers of the grueling 170-day marathon of a session this morning. Perhaps not surprisingly, the first “winner” on the list is Gov. Rick Perry, who has been in California this week being urged to run for president. Reporter Mike Ward writes that Perry “walks away from the legislative session with a list of victories on most of the issues he identified as important.” Even less surprising is the Statesman’s first listed “loser:” Democrats, who “had almost no say on the budget that was the session's defining issue.”

It is, of course, impossible to recall the debates of the past months without wondering what they portend. The impact of some of the major decisions from the recent sessions, both regular and special, remains to be seen. School finance, for example, will be conducted in a fundamentally different manner (based on what lawmakers decide is available through appropriations, instead of what the law dictates is necessary to educate students), breaking with the way things have been done since 1949.

Critical issues are looming on the horizon. As Diane Smith of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram points out, “Texas lawmakers adjourned without fixing the state's prepaid college tuition program, which now faces a $600 million shortfall and could go broke as early as 2014 by some estimates.”

But for those who’ve had enough of school finance and other wonky topics, campaign season is just around the corner.

Major races are shaping up left and right. On the left, for example, state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, are already needling each other in the anticipated Congressional District 25 race. And on the right, in Congressional District 33, former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams and former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams  — both recent Republican U.S. Senate race dropouts, as the Trib’s Ross Ramsey notes today — are preparing to go head to head.

So, there’s plenty to ponder and prepare for this holiday weekend. We hope your Fourth of July is a happy one. And travelers that may be getting on a plane this weekend should remember: the anti-groping bill did not pass.

CULLED:

• This morning, Brazos County businesswoman Rebecca Boenigk will be jumping into the race to replace state Rep. Fred Brown, R-Bryan, who announced his retirement on Wednesday. One challenger she will definitely face is former NFL lineman Seth McKinney, son of former (as of today) Texas A&M University System Chancellor Mike McKinney, who has also declared his candidacy.

• How much is nearly two decades of a life worth? Anthony Graves, who was imprisoned that long for a crime he didn’t commit, received a check for $1.45 million from Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, on Thursday. Additionally, Graves will receive monthly annuity checks starting next year. "I am delighted we have been able to pay Anthony Graves the compensation he deserves," Combs said in a press release.

• In a conference call with reporters, Jay Kimbrough, the newly named interim chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, said the key to addressing ongoing concerns about higher education in Texas will be “communications.” He said, “There needs to be an open dialogue where everybody can talk and come up with ideas.” A former chief of staff to Gov. Rick Perry, Kimbrough also asserted that Perry was not micromanaging universities. "There is certainly no crisis at this university system or any university system in this state," he said.

Jim Doyle, a retired airline mechanic from Conroe, on why he filed a complaint against former state Rep. Norma Chavez, D-El Paso, over failing to properly report campaign contributions and expenditures, for which she paid a $1,000 fine this week: "I know that she was pretty liberal."

MUST READ:

Perry backers seek space at GOP straw poll in Ames, Des Moines Register

Perry and Latinos Coexist Uneasily in Politics, The Texas Tribune

As Texas colleges take budget hit, students to pay price, The Dallas Morning News

Most of Texas at highest intensity level of drought, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Texas fights EPA rule that targets pollution from its power plants, The Dallas Morning News

 LCRA leans on experience with new leader, Austin American-Statesman

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