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The Brief: Feb. 11, 2013

Hoping to flex what little muscle they have in the Legislature, Democrats this week plan to take aim at Republicans over public education.

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer D-San Antonio,  at back mike of house on February 7th, 2013

The Big Conversation

Hoping to flex what little muscle they have in the Legislature, Democrats this week plan to take aim at Republicans over public education.

Though still relatively powerless, Democrats have devised a strategy that they say may force Republicans to take tough votes on education that could hurt them in 2014.

Today, according to The Associated Press, state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, will push to make school finance a so-called emergency item on the Legislature's agenda. The designation allows lawmakers to consider legislation within the session's first 60 days.

Democrats also plan to introduce a measure — via an emergency Medicaid spending bill — that would restore the $5.4 billion in education cuts made in 2011.

Some Republicans, however, have said they hope to delay any action on education funding until the state Supreme Court settles a legal challenge to the state's school finance system, which a state district judge recently deemed unconstitutional. Some may even be hoping for action to be delayed until 2014.

As the AP writes, Attorney General Greg Abbott "can do Republican lawmakers a favor and slow-peddle the appeals process to make sure the lawsuit lasts well into 2014. Then Gov. Rick Perry can call a special legislative session after the 2014 primaries and before the 2014 general election. Such a special session would allow Republican lawmakers to vote for a school finance overhaul that boosts spending after they've made it past the notoriously conservative Republican primary voter. They would also solve the school finance problem before Democrats could attack them for not taking care of public schools, one of the most important issues for the general election voter."

Texas news from across the state and around the web

•    Ex-DA's Indignant Testimony Closes Dramatic Inquiry (The Texas Tribune): "An indignant and defensive Ken Anderson brought a dramatic end to a week of emotional testimony in the unusual court examination of whether he should face criminal charges for his 1987 prosecution of Michael Morton."

•    Transparency buzz elicits some action at the Capitol (Austin American-Statesman): "Should Texans know how much the state pays lawmakers in retirement? Is it OK for private foundations to supplement the salaries of state workers? Would government work better if voters knew how much debt it had before they are asked to approve more? These and other questions about government transparency have been bouncing around the state Capitol in recent weeks, and lawmakers are beginning to take some steps to address them."

•    Perry Sets Senate Runoff for March 2 (The Texas Tribune): "Gov. Rick Perry on Friday set a March 2 special runoff election to fill the open seat created by the death of the late state Sen. Mario Gallegos. The race is between state Rep. Carol Alvarado and former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia."

Quote of the Day: "One of the best things about not being in the Senate anymore is not having to sit in that room and either stand up and clap every 15 seconds, or sit on your hands for the whole thing." — U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to CNN's State of the Union on Sunday


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