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The Brief: April 4, 2013

A marathon budget debate today may keep House lawmakers at the Capitol past midnight.

The House chamber below a mostly empty gallery during the final days of the special session on June 27, 2011.

The Big Conversation

A marathon budget debate today may keep House lawmakers at the Capitol past midnight.  

As the Tribune's Aman Batheja reports, the House will take up its $193.8 billion budget bill today at 9 a.m., and lawmakers have said they expect the debate over the bill's 267 proposed amendments to last until Friday morning.

"It’s going to be a long day," said state Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson. "The female reps, we were teasing each other that tomorrow’s the time we have to dress ugly but comfortable."

Amid relatively little drama, the state Senate last month passed its own budget proposal that puts less money into schools but more into health care than the House plan. 

Several of the 267 amendments are likely to inspire heated debate on the House floor. A group of freshman Republicans, for instance, has filed more than three dozen amendments that would eliminate several state programs by moving funding to the Teacher Retirement System’s retiree health insurance fund. (The Texas Retired Teachers Association says it isn't endorsing the Republicans' amendments.)

Debate could also erupt over Medicaid expansion, a major component of federal health care reform, as well as over abortion, women's health care and funding for gender and sexuality centers on college campuses.

A so-called conference committee will form later in the session to merge the House and Senate budget bills.

Culled

•    Ted Nugent rocks Texas committee hearing with impassioned pro-hunting plea (The Associated Press): "Passions soared. Voices were raised. Somebody even talked about stripping down to a loin cloth. And that was before the crowd heard from Ted Nugent. Standing before the Texas House Committee on Culture, Recreation & Tourism on Wednesday, the rocker best known for 1970s hits such as 'Cat Scratch Fever' provided the crescendo to a debate on hunting deer raised in captivity."

•    UT Regent Hall Failed to Disclose Lawsuits (The Texas Tribune): "University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall didn't disclose a long history of courtroom battles before his Senate confirmation two years ago, a lapse that prompted some lawmakers to say they feel misled. Hall says he will provide the information now, but key lawmakers say they should have had it in hand two years ago."

•    Texas considers giving prosecutors more security (The Associated Press): "After two Texas prosecutors were slain in two months, law enforcement agencies across the state are considering steps to better protect attorneys who go after violent criminals, including providing round-the-clock security details and withholding personal information from public records."

•    3 bills inspired by EPISD scandal sail through Texas Senate (El Paso Times): "Three reform bills filed in response to the massive cheating scandal at the El Paso Independent School District sailed to passage in the Texas Senate on Wednesday."

•    Bills target LGBT rights and resources (San Antonio Express-News): "Efforts to expand rights and resources for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Texans are meeting both quiet and vocal opposition as policymakers debate equal rights and religious freedoms. Two bills in the state Legislature and one in the Texas A&M Student Senate could have a major impact on LGBT rights in the workplace and resources provided at college campuses in the state."

Quote of the Day: "Economically, what has happened in Texas over the course of the last decade has made this city an epicenter for a lot of technology, a lot of economic development. And I think the individuals in North Korea understand that Austin, Texas, is now a very important city in America, as do corporate CEOs and other people who are moving here in record numbers." — Gov. Rick Perry to CBS News on why North Korea may have included Austin on its list of nuclear missile targets

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