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TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Aaronson tracks the latest on Medicaid expansion, Aguilar on lawmakers’ openness to driving permits for non-citizens, Batheja on surprising support for higher state spending, Root and Galbraith on the state’s search for answers after the West explosion, M. Smith covers the debate over high school standards, Grissom finds a shadow payroll at the Capitol, Hamilton on the man with a plan at UT, Rocha spots a special deal for lawmakers accused of crimes, KUT’s Philpott on obstacles to road funding and Ramshaw on the privileges of legislative membership: The best of our best for the week of April 15-19, 2013.

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After an explosion at a fertilizer plant leveled parts of the Central Texas town of West, officials are searching for answers about the tragedy that has left at least five people dead.

Amid hours of testimony from advocates in support of Medicaid expansion, state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, described his proposal for an alternative program to provide health coverage for the poor and uninsured.

Lawmakers seem amenable to allowing undocumented immigrants permits to drive after passing background checks and driving tests. Members of the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday didn’t vote yet, but gave the bill a relatively warm reception.

Gov. Rick Perry told House Republicans in a private meeting this week that he could support a budget that breaks the state's constitutional spending cap, according to several attendees. But many are still wary of doing so.

After a day of testimony in the Senate Education Committee, comprehensive legislation reducing state standardized tests and restructuring high school graduation requirements has now cleared its first hurdle in the upper chamber. Senators voted out House Bill 5, which recently passed the full House, after substituting much of its language with that of Senate bills the committee had already approved. 

Lawmakers spend thousands of dollars from their campaign accounts to supplement the salaries of their staffs. It’s a legal and long-standing practice, but some ethics experts say it presents the potential for conflict.

In 2011, University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa calmed turbulence in the higher ed community with his "Framework for Advancing Excellence." New conflicts have emerged, but Cigarroa said he's sticking to his plan.

While state code allows lawmakers due in court to delay their appearance while the Legislature is in session, most waivers for those charged with crimes result from simple agreements between the defense, prosecutors and judges.

On the latest Agenda Texas: Lawmakers want to spend billions to repair the state's crumbling roads, but that's putting some Republican leaders in a bind.

Many lawmakers are quick to name the sacrifices they make to serve. But life in the Lege is not half bad. The perks associated with the job — from exotic trips to luxury gifts — can dramatically augment their lifestyles.

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