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The Brief: May 21, 2013

Though a budget deal was struck last week, lawmakers aren't done arguing about it.

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The Big Conversation

Though a budget deal was struck last week, lawmakers aren't done arguing about it.

Adding to the uncertainty over the fate of the deal, the House on Monday postponed a vote on Senate Joint Resolution 1, which would put a plan for a water infrastructure fund before Texas voters.

The measure, a critical component of the budget agreement, could struggle to win the support of some Democrats holding out for more education funding and conservative Republicans worried about how the fund will be used.

A dispute over whether to use rebates of a fee on electric bills to help fund business tax relief also sparked a debate between House and Senate leaders, as The Dallas Morning News reports.

But state Rep. Jim Pitts, the House's chief budget writer, remained hopeful that lawmakers would approve the budget deal in time to avoid a special session — which Gov. Rick Perry has threatened to call if lawmakers fail to send him a bill that contains $2 billion in water funding and $1.8 billion in tax relief.

"There’s a lot of moving parts to this bill, but I think we’ll get the votes," Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said of SJR 1.

Meanwhile, the House on Monday also voted on a slew of amendments that lawmakers attempted to tack onto a Texas Ethics Commission reform bill. Amendments that would, for instance, put lawmakers' personal financial disclosure forms online and require railroad commissioners to resign if they run for another office were approved, though the measures must also pass the Senate.

As the Tribune's Becca Aaronson reports, the House also unexpectedly voted to amend a Senate Medicaid services bill to include language that would ban the state from expanding the program under federal health care reform. The amendment, as well as 25 others added by the House, will go before a conference committee, which will resolve the differences between the two bills, before heading to the governor's desk.

Capitol Notes
Compiled from Tribune reports

•    A Green Light for Lawmakers' Pension Hikes, Double Dipping: "In the span of a few minutes on Monday, the House gave the green light to pension increases for state elected officials and then watched the effort to ban 'double dipping' by politicians die without a vote."

•    House Signals Approval for Campus Construction Bonds: "The House gave tentative approval to billions of dollars in bonds for campus construction projects on Monday. The version it approved totaled nearly $2.7 billion, up from about $2.4 billion initially approved by the Senate."

•    Innocence Commission Clash Impacting Other Bills: "A battle over legislation that would create an innocence commission to review wrongful conviction has turned personal — and potentially deadly for a handful of bills authored by state Sen. Joan Huffman."

•    House Backs Mental Health Jail Diversion Program: "The House on Monday approved Senate Bill 1185 by Sen. Joan Huffman, which would create a pilot program that connects mentally ill inmates with social, clinical, housing and welfare services during the first weeks after the person's release from jail."

Quote of the Day: "I personally don’t think it’s fair to the people, but this is her decision to make." — State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, responding to Democratic Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon's pledge to kill some of Huffman's legislation in retaliation for her opposition to an innocence commission bill


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