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The Brief: April 30, 2013

A technicality has ended debate, for now, on one of Gov. Rick Perry's top legislative priorities.

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The Big Conversation

A technicality has ended debate, for now, on one of Gov. Rick Perry's top legislative priorities.

After hours of heated deliberation on Monday, House Bill 11 — which would have drawn $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to help fund state water projects — was derailed on a point of order.

"My understanding is it’s doorknob dead," said the bill's author, state Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland.

The legislation sparked a debate over the use of the Rainy Day Fund itself. Democrats argued that if the fund is used for water projects, it should also be tapped for public education. Meanwhile, many Republicans, backed by conservative activists and groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation, called the bill irresponsible, saying the fund should only be used for emergencies.

The point of order, raised by state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, allowed Republicans to avoid a tough vote on the bill, which was backed by Perry, who before the debate met with the House GOP caucus to try to win support for the measure. He warned lawmakers on Friday that a special session may be in store if they don't fund water projects.

The vote, however, already faced some challenges: Tapping the Rainy Day Fund requires a two-thirds majority, meaning the bill would have needed bipartisan support.

Though Ritter's bill failed, other water legislation is still alive. The Senate on Monday passed two measures — one of which the House has already passed — that would create a revolving fund to distribute the water money. In light of the debate Monday, state Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, also signaled a new urgency to pass a funding bill.

"If we don’t fix this, I think a lot of people’s political careers will be on the line," he said.


•    AG: Domestic Partner Benefits Violate Constitution (The Texas Tribune): "The state Constitution prohibits government entities from recognizing domestic partnerships and offering insurance benefits to those couples, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote in an opinion on Monday. In the nonbinding opinion, Abbott determined that local jurisdictions that offer such benefits 'have created and recognized something' — domestic partnerships — 'not established by Texas law.'"

•    Mexico ends open access for US security agencies (The Associated Press): "Mexico is ending its unprecedented open relationship with U.S. security agencies that developed in recent years to fight drug trafficking and organized crime. All contact for U.S. law enforcement will now go through 'a single window,' the federal Interior Ministry, the agency that controls security and domestic policy, said Sergio Alcocer, deputy foreign secretary for North American affairs."

•    Houstonians Launch Campaign Against Perry, UT Regents (The Texas Tribune): "A new internet video sponsored by three prominent University of Texas at Austin alumni accuses Gov. Rick Perry and some University of Texas System regents of being 'intent on tearing down' the constitutional mandate to maintain UT-Austin as an institution 'of the first class.'"

Quote of the Day: "Well, there is an alternative. You could just not be a bunch of squishes." — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, describing an exchange he recently had with a group of Senate Republicans over gun legislation


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