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The Brief: July 29, 2013

A deal struck over the weekend may have saved the Legislature from yet another special session.

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The Big Conversation

A deal struck over the weekend may have saved the Legislature from yet another special session.

As the Tribune's Aman Batheja reports, negotiators from the House and Senate on Saturday reached a compromise on transportation funding — the only agenda item left for lawmakers in the current special session, which ends Tuesday.

After days of back-and-forth between the two chambers, leaders reached a deal that would ask voters next year to approve moving some of the future oil and gas tax revenue currently intended for the Rainy Day Fund into the state highway fund. The constitutional amendment election was pushed to 2014 over concerns that putting both the roads measure and a water measure — which will be put before voters this November — on the same ballot could prove a tough sell.

The negotiators also reached an agreement on a contentious provision in the roads measure that would halt the diversion to the Rainy Day Fund when its balance drops below a certain amount. As part of the deal, the Legislative Budget Board would periodically set the minimum balance, or "floor," for the fund, but language establishing the amount would not be added to the state Constitution, as some Republicans have called for.

"There are people that are against this because it doesn’t have a floor and people against this because it does have a floor, so you figure that out," said state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso.

Whether leaders will be able to corral the two-thirds vote needed from each chamber needed to pass the legislation, however, remains unclear. Gov. Rick Perry last week threatened a third special session if a deal falls through.

Both chambers convene today at 2 p.m.


•    Western Conservative Summit: Cruz wins straw poll (The Denver Post): "U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, won the a straw poll at the 2013 Western Conservative Summit, event organizers announced Sunday. Cruz, who received multiple standing ovations during his speech Saturday, won the straw poll with 225 votes or about 45 percent. … Cruz beat out Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for the top spot. Walker, who gave the summit’s keynote address on Friday, won 65 votes or about 13 percent."

•    G.O.P. Senators See an Upside in a Problematic Issue: Abortion (The New York Times): "It reads like a who’s who of the next generation of Republican Party leaders: Marco RubioTed CruzRob Portman. But what is bringing all these marquee political names together is not the Iowa State Fair or a Tea Party rally on the National Mall. Rather, they are all talking discreetly about how to advance a bill in the Senate to ban abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization. … Plans under discussion among the staff members of a handful of Republican senators and anti-abortion groups would involve bringing the measure up for a vote, probably as part of debate over a spending measure, sometime after Congress returns from its August recess."

•    Abbott's role at cancer agency under fire (Houston Chronicle): "In the more than four years he served on the state cancer agency's governing board, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott exercised no oversight as the agency made misstep after misstep in awarding tens of millions of dollars to commercial interests."

•    Rep. Sensenbrenner: DOJ is legally justified in going after Texas (The Hill): "The Obama administration has every right to challenge Texas' unilateral adoption of new voting laws, a top Republican argued Thursday. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said the Voting Rights Act authorizes the Justice Department to seek a court order requiring states to get federal approval before implementing new election procedures, as Attorney General Eric Holder said he will do Thursday in the case of Texas."

Quote to Note: "It’s no aspersions on Liz Cheney, and I like her too. And at some point, I think she’ll have an opportunity to serve. This is about getting the majority in the Senate. And we have to support our friends and people who have done a good job." — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn to Politico on Cheney's decision to challenge incumbent Republican Mike Enzi in the Wyoming U.S. Senate race


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