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Agenda Texas: 2014 Looms for Lawmakers

On the latest Agenda Texas, from KUT News and the Tribune: While there's still plenty of time and bill debates left in the 2013 session, many lawmakers are already looking ahead to the next election cycle.

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We’ve still got a few weeks left in this year's legislative session. And while the bills have begun to fly around the Capitol, spring is also the time when a young lawmaker’s mind turns to other things: the next election.

But is it too soon to be thinking about 2014 and beyond?

"Well, the reality is that every legislative session plays out against the backdrop of whatever the next election cycle is," said Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith.

The big election question this session isn't necessarily who is voting for or against what, but whether or not Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott move on to different positions.

"A number of ambitious and smart and hungry Republicans have been made to stand to the side," Smith said. "It's kind of like the pressure in a bottle that's going to push the cork out and skyward."

The cork, in this case, represents Perry. All eyes will be on him in June as he announces his future plans. Smith is still betting he will not run for governor in 2014, and will instead focus all his energies on running for president again in 2016.

And if you want even more proof that politicians always have the next election in the back of their mind, you got it Thursday. The Senate Finance Committee passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would spend $6 billion on water infrastructure and roads out of the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, better known as the Rainy Day Fund.

But was the new plan to fund road and water projects needed?

Perry talked about spending money on water and transportation in his State of the State address. On Friday he even proposed sending billions in future motor vehicle sales taxes to pay for roads.

The House already appeared to have more than enough support to spend billions from the Rainy Day Fund for water projects. And yet this proposed amendment, sending the question to the voters, has come forward.

That may be because one of several things the proposal does is provide cover to Republicans worried about casting a vote to increase state spending and drawing down the state’s piggy bank. Doing either could bring an opponent in the next GOP primary.

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