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The Brief: May 20, 2013

With a budget deal struck, the spotlight now shifts to Gov. Rick Perry.

Gov. Rick Perry leaves the House chamber after speaking and visiting with members on May 13, 2013.

The Big Conversation

With a budget deal struck, the spotlight now shifts to Gov. Rick Perry.

On Friday, after a week of dramatic stop-and-go negotiations between lawmakers over issues like water and education funding, budget leaders reached an agreement that would restore about $4 billion of the $5.4 billion in cuts made to public education last session. The deal would also put in motion a plan to draw $2 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund to finance much-needed water projects.

The House and Senate still must approve the budget bill before the session ends, on Memorial Day, but it remains unclear whether Perry will sign off on the legislation. 

Though the deal includes $2 billion in water funding, as Perry has demanded of lawmakers, it offers only about $1 billion in tax relief. The governor has called for $1.8 billion in tax cuts, threatening a special session if legislators don't send him a budget to his liking.

Perry's office wouldn't say yet where the governor stood on the deal.

"We will take a look at the bill and make a decision on it once the Legislature sends it to us in its final form," Perry spokesman Josh Havens told The Associated Press.

The spotlight also now falls on a host of other issues on which lawmakers will pass bills in the session's final days. Legislation reforming the Texas Ethics Commission, for instance, will force lawmakers into several tough votes today, as the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw reports

The Austin American-Statesman also has a rundown of the other major issues still on lawmakers' to-do list, including at least one — redistricting — that could keep the Legislature in town this summer regardless of Perry's thoughts on the budget.


•    Measure Allowing Driver's Permits for Undocumented Immigrants Stalls (The Texas Tribune): "An amendment that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain a permit to legally drive and purchase insurance in Texas was derailed Friday on a point of order. But state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, the chairman of the powerful House State Affairs Committee who authored the amendment to a Senate bill, said he isn’t giving up."

•    House Backs Bill to Crack Down on Medicaid Fraud (The Texas Tribune): "The House decorated an omnibus Medicaid fraud bill on Friday with a variety of amendments in a last ditch effort to save near-death health care legislation. The original version of Senate Bill 8, which the House tentatively approved, would allow Texas to take a more proactive approach to preventing and catching Medicaid fraud."

•    Medical association backs Medicaid expansion (San Antonio Express-News): "A resolution endorsing the expansion of Medicaid was approved by Texas Medical Association delegates Saturday at the group's annual meeting in San Antonio."

•    Military sex offenders rarely punished, while victims are discharged (San Antonio Express-News): "The newspaper spent seven months examining how the military treats sexual assault reports, interviewing dozens of victims, advocates and experts and reviewing thousands of pages of military documents. From the accounts of sexual-assault survivors in every branch of the military, a stark panorama emerges: Many victims were drugged or forced to drink and were raped, attacked as they slept, beaten unconscious and coerced into sex by their superiors. They were strongly discouraged from disclosing the crimes, or forced to report assaults to commanders who are closely connected to the accused."

•    Texas behind the curve on regulating fertilizer plants (Austin American-Statesman): "Many states simply have more eyes looking at such facilities than Texas, where no state agency regulates any aspect of ammonium nitrate safety, either to protect workers or the general public. Texas is also one of only four states that lacks a statewide fire code and associated rules on storage of the chemical. Those rules are perhaps the strongest protection against unsafe handling of ammonium nitrate, which authorities have long known can blow up catastrophically under certain conditions."

Quote of the Day: "It’s a culture of cover-ups and intimidation that is giving the administration so much trouble." — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn during an appearance on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday


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