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The Brief: May 15, 2013

Days after a stalemate threatened to force lawmakers into legislative overtime, chances of a special session for the state budget have dwindled.

The chamber of the Texas House

The Big Conversation

Days after a stalemate threatened to force lawmakers into legislative overtime, chances of a special session for the state budget have dwindled.

On Tuesday, lawmakers said they had neared an agreement on funding for water projects, an issue that last week helped bring budget negotiations to a standstill.

Though the lower chamber had previously refused to consider a Senate-backed bill that would put a $5.7 billion funding plan for water, public education and transportation before Texas voters, a House committee has agreed to take up the legislation this week. In a compromise between House and Senate members, the education and transportation components of the bill will likely be removed, leaving only $2 billion in funding for water projects — the amount Gov. Rick Perry has pressed lawmakers to approve.

The issue would still go to voters, but only as a constitutional amendment to create a water fund.

"That’s what we insisted, that we were not going to start doing a referendum-type of government in Texas like they do in California," said state Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, the House's chief budget writer. "We were elected, 150 members over here, 31 members over there, to make these decisions."

Lawmakers also reached a compromise on education funding, agreeing to add $3.2 billion back to public schools (as the Senate had proposed) without the use of the Rainy Day Fund (as the House had proposed).

Though questions continued to circulate Tuesday over funding for several other session priorities, including transportation and tax relief, Pitts indicated that a special session no longer appeared imminent.

"I think we’re in good shape," he said.

Culled

•    Hearing on Innocence Commission Bill Draws Heated Testimony (The Texas Tribune): "The brother of an exoneree who died while wrongly imprisoned shouted at a senator and former prosecutor on Tuesday during a committee hearing that turned explosive, saying her attitude was deplorable and she should get a new job before storming out while muttering an expletive."

•    No Reforms for Railroad Commission This Session (StateImpact Texas): "A name change and several ethics reforms on the table this legislative session for the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees oil and gas drilling, died in a House committee on Tuesday."

•    Martinez Fischer Grills UT System Regent in Hearing (The Texas Tribune): "State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, wants to know: Who are the peacocks? Who are the charlatans? And who are they fighting? Those were just a few of the questions he had for University of Texas System Regent Brenda Pejovich on Tuesday at a meeting of the House Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations."

•    Leader of Fort Hood sex assault prevention program accused of abuse (The Associated Press): "A soldier assigned to coordinate a sexual assault prevention program at Fort Hood is under investigation after being accused of 'abusive sexual contact' and other misconduct and has been suspended from his duties, the Army announced Tuesday."

•    Texans weigh in on investigation of IRS (Austin American-Statesman): "For Julie McCarty, president of the thriving Northeast Tarrant Tea Party, the breaking open of the IRS scandal was cause to rejoice. 'I’m excited,' McCarty said Tuesday. 'It’s finally getting some light shed on this thing that we’ve been dealing with for two years.'"

Quote of the Day: "I will bet you a Coke that we are going to have a special session." — State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, to a witness during debate over campus-carry legislation on Tuesday

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