The Big Conversation
A new order of business for lawmakers has kicked the special session into a slightly higher gear.
After two weeks of mounting frustration about the slow pace of the special session, Gov. Rick Perry on Monday added transportation funding to lawmakers' agenda, which had so far only included redistricting.
"Texas’ growing economy and population demand that we take action to address the growing pressure on the transportation network across the state," Perry said in a statement. "As we enjoy the benefits of a booming economy, we have to build and maintain the roads to ensure we sustain both our economic success and our quality of life."
The Texas Department of Transportation this year said it needed $4 billion just to maintain current levels of congestion around the state, but during the regular session it received only $400 million.
Though sure to prove far less contentious than other issues — like abortion restrictions — that lawmakers have urged Perry to add to the call, the search for road funding could incite some jousting among lawmakers, particularly Republicans. Perry, however, said late last month that he would only consider adding items that stood a chance of passing, indicating that a deal may be within reach.
Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said recently that Perry's office would likely be "very supportive" of a resolution Williams co-authored with Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, that would ask voters to divert some of the money that normally goes to the state’s Rainy Day Fund into the state’s highway fund.
Many lawmakers, however, are hoping transportation isn't the last of Perry's additions to the special session: On Monday, 69 members of the House urged the governor to to add tuition revenue bonds for campus construction projects to the agenda.
"In light of today's historically low interest rates and the critical need for investment in our higher education facilities, it is vital that we address this issue without further delay," the members wrote.
• Texas redistricting-deal outlines emerge (El Paso Times): "The contours of an agreement might have emerged Monday as a special committee of the Texas House debated maps of congressional and legislative districts. A Republican lawmaker and an attorney for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus said there was a consensus that minority groups would accept maps that create one to two more congressional districts in which Texas minorities hold sway and five to seven more seats in the state House."
• Officials: Perry vows veto of state funding unless Lehmberg resigns (Austin American-Statesman): "Gov. Rick Perry is vowing to veto funding for the state’s Austin-based ethics-enforcement unit unless Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigns, officials confirmed Monday. Perry has until Sunday to veto bills passed by the Legislature during its regular session that ended in May, including the state budget that contains about $7.5 million to fund the Public Integrity Unit for the next two years."
• Perry Signs High School Curriculum, Testing Bill (The Texas Tribune): "When Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 5 on Monday, he ended weeks of speculation that he might veto the high-profile education legislation because of concerns that it would weaken high school graduation standards. The bill, by House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, drops the number of state standardized tests high school students must take to graduate and changes the courses needed to earn a diploma."
• Perry Takes Job Raid, Ad Buy to the Big Apple (The Texas Tribune): "After a couple of high profile job-poaching trips to California and Illinois, Gov. Rick Perry is planning a new raid — this time on the Big Apple. And he’s putting big money behind the state’s big mouth: $1 million for a TV advertising campaign promoting the Lone Star State's pro-business approach and strong economy, officials say."
Quote of the Day: "Frankly, I don’t understand their math." — Gov. Rick Perry on conservatives' criticism of the state budget
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