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The Brief: Jan. 30, 2013

Largely devoid of any conservative red meat, Gov. Rick Perry's State of the State address may have offered some clues to his political future.

Gov. Rick Perry, left, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst at Perry's State of the State address on Jan. 29, 2013.

The Big Conversation

Largely devoid of any conservative red meat, Gov. Rick Perry's State of the State address — according to his critics — may have offered some clues to his political future.

In his half-hour address before the House and Senate on Tuesday, Perry, as the Tribune's Aman Batheja reported, mostly avoided hot political topics like immigration, abortion and gun control. Instead, Perry emphasized issues like infrastructure, education and the budget while touting the state's economic success.

The governor urged legislators to draw $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for one-time water and transportation projects, and called for $1.8 bill in tax relief for Texans (though he stopped short of specifying in what form). He also called for an end to budget gimmicks.

"It’s the decisions made here, in this chamber, in this building, that will determine what Texas will look like 50 years from now," Perry said.

Republicans praised Perry, but the governor's critics called the address a marked departure from his 2011 State of the State speech, which preceded his 2012 presidential run and included calls for controversial measures like abortion sonogram legislation.

"He didn't talk about so many of the things that were part of his speech two years ago that really were representative of that extremist agenda," state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, told the San Antonio Express-News. "I think he's obviously trying to set himself up for a higher office, and perhaps understands that that's not reflective of what the nation wants to see."

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, echoed Davis, saying: "He didn't pick on women. He didn't pick on immigrants. This is reminiscent of governor who has just been briefed on his latest poll numbers."

In fact, a new poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling, a firm that fared well in 2012, showed Perry as potentially vulnerable in 2014. According to the poll, 47 percent of Republican primary voters said they would prefer a different candidate as their party's nominee next year. In a matchup with Attorney General Greg Abbott, Perry now leads by only 3 points, 41 percent to 38 percent. 

Capitol Notes
Compiled from Tribune reports

•    TEA Chief: Don't Give Up on Accountability System: "Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams on Tuesday called on educators to hold the line on the state's accountability system amid a 'ranging conversation' at the Legislature about how to address concerns about the role of high-stakes testing."

•     Lawmakers Renew Push to Ban Texting While Driving: "At a briefing Tuesday, lawmakers and relatives of people killed while texting and driving renewed a push to make the practice illegal. A proposal passed during the last session but was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry."

Texas news from across the state and around the web

•    Obama's Immigration Plan Inspires Some, Irks Others (The Texas Tribune): "A day after a bipartisan group of U.S. senators offered a plan to fix the country’s immigration system, President Obama offered up his own — and warned lawmakers to get serious about the issue or deal with him."

•    Texas woman's execution halted; DA won't appeal (The Associated Press): "The first woman scheduled to be executed in the U.S. since 2010 won a reprieve Tuesday, mere hours before she was scheduled to be taken to the Texas death chamber."

•    Two Dallas-area lawmakers in House Democratic leadership (The Dallas Morning News): "It was a big day for North Texas Democrats. State Rep. Yvonne Davis of Dallas on Tuesday was elected leader of the House Democratic Caucus. Davis represents House District 111 in southern Dallas County and has been in the Legislature since 1993. … Democrats also elected Chris Turner of Grand Prairie as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. That means he’s the second highest ranking Democrat, behind Davis, in the House Democratic leadership. Turner represents House District 101 in Tarrant County.

•    Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham having trouble bringing guns to hearing (Politico): "Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are asking for help in bringing unloaded guns to Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing. The senators have run into hurdles with local and federal law enforcement."

•    Students show strong improvement on STAAR retake (Austin American-Statesman): "High school students who had previously failed the state’s tougher new standardized tests showed strong improvement after retaking the end-of-course exams in December, according to results released Tuesday. Nearly 73 percent of students in the Class of 2015 have now passed the ninth-grade writing exam that is required for graduation, a significant jump from the 54 percent who had passed as of last summer, the Texas Education Agency reported."

Quote of the Day: "Your city’s longstanding policies stripping citizens of their constitutional right to keep and bear arms have, in turn, produced some of the very highest crime and murder rates in the Nation." — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in a letter criticizing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for asking banks to reconsider doing business with gun makers


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