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The Brief: May 16, 2013

A day after a budget breakthrough appeared imminent, negotiations were thrown back into limbo.

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The Big Conversation

A day after a budget breakthrough appeared imminent, negotiations were thrown back into limbo.

On Tuesday, lawmakers appeared to have reached an agreement on water funding, one of the last major sticking points between the House and the Senate. The progress put talk of a special session to rest.

On Wednesday, however, the possibility of legislative overtime was revived after a group of House conservatives revolted against a controversial rider in the budget that would set up a framework for Medicaid expansion in Texas, as the Tribune's Becca Aaronson reported.

The conservatives threatened to bring down the budget — possibly forcing a special session — if leaders kept the rider, which laid out the state’s terms for Medicaid reform if Texas negotiates a deal with the Obama administration to expand the program under the Affordable Care Act.

Speculation about a special session receded again, however, after a House aide indicated that the rider would likely be pulled.

Meanwhile, negotiations on other issues like public education and transportation continued Wednesday. As The Dallas Morning News reports, the House and Senate tentatively agreed to send $330 million to public schools to help them implement an overhaul of the state's teacher pension fund.

Lawmakers are expected to announce a final budget deal today.


•    House rejects term limits for top state officials (Austin American-Statesman): "Voters will not be deciding if they want term limits for the state’s top elected officials after the Texas House on Thursday handily defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to limit terms."

•    Coordinating Board Nears End of Tough Sunset Process (The Texas Tribune): "The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board received mixed messages but got closer to winding down a difficult legislative session on Wednesday with the House's passage of Senate Bill 215. … In what seemed like a contradiction to the local control sentiment, state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, successfully added an amendment to require the coordinating board to ensure that clubs on campuses around the state are permitted to restrict their membership."

•    IRS Sent Same Letter to Democrats That Fed Tea Party Row (Bloomberg): "The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure after admitting it targeted anti-tax Tea Party groups for scrutiny in recent years, also had its eye on at least three Democratic-leaning organizations seeking nonprofit status. … Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries."

•    Findings expected in explosion probe (San Antonio Express-News): "State and federal officials will announce findings Thursday of a nearly monthlong investigation into the April 17 explosion at a fertilizer storage plant in West. The State Fire Marshal's Office and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are set to release results of a joint investigation less than a week after the Texas Rangers announced a criminal investigation."

Quote of the Day: "The attorney general will not cast aspersions on my asparagus." — U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, after a heated exchange with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at a congessional hearing on Wednesday


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