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The Brief: July 25, 2013

Stalled negotiations over a transportation deal have pushed the Legislature to the brink of yet another special session.

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Stalled negotiations over a transportation deal have pushed the Legislature to the brink of yet another special session.

As the Tribune's Aman Batheja reports, Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday threatened a third special session if lawmakers can't reach an agreement on transportation funding — the only agenda item left for lawmakers — by Tuesday, the last day of the current special session.

"A bill that secures long-term funding for transportation projects in this state is too important to the vitality of the Texas economy, and the governor will absolutely call them back to get the job done," said Perry spokesman Josh Havens.

The Texas Department of Transportation has said it needs $4 billion in additional funding each year just to sustain current levels of road congestion. The House and Senate have each passed measures that would — if approved by voters — raise about a quarter of that amount by diverting future Rainy Day Fund money to finance highways. 

The chambers disagree, however, over the details in the funding plans, like whether to include a provision that would halt the diversion to the Rainy Day Fund when its balance drops below $6 billion. The Senate plan includes the provision, but House Democrats — who could unite to block the measure — oppose it.

"We’ve got two different philosophical approaches to this, and I don’t know if we can get there," said Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, one of the senators negotiating with the House.

Read the full story for more details about the competing plans.

Both chambers reconvene today at 2 p.m.


•    Dewhurst, Patrick Continue Push to End CSCOPE (The Texas Tribune)"An extended drama over a controversial curriculum tool used by Texas public schools took a new turn Wednesday as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst entered the fray with a letter to the State Board of Education and Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick pushed to add the issue to the special session agenda."

•    Firm that last inspected Texas Giant had ties to Six Flags executive (The Dallas Morning News): "The firm that conducted the last annual inspection of the Texas Giant was started by Patrick Hoffman, now a top Six Flags corporate executive. Hoffman transferred the company to a business partner in 2001, about the time he went to work for Six Flags."

•    Cornyn, Cruz side with Obama on bipartisan student loan deal (Houston Chronicle): "After lengthy debate over amendments, passionate speeches from both sides and a rare bout of bipartisan compromise, the Democratic-controlled Senate finally passed HR 1911 (often referred to as the 'Student Loan Bill') by a wide margin. … Both Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz voted in favor of the bill. If signed into law, the legislation will have an impact on over 650,000 Texas students."

Quote to Note: "If you look at other nations that have gone down the road toward gay marriage, that’s the next step of where it gets enforced. It gets enforced against Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages, who speak out and preach biblical truths on marriage, and that has been defined elsewhere as hate speech." — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network


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