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The Brief: July 30, 2013

A major blow to a transportation plan has left the Legislature teetering on the edge of a third special session.

The Texas Senate on the opening day of the 83rd legislative session on Jan. 8, 2013.

The Big Conversation

A major blow to a transportation plan has left the Legislature teetering on the edge of a third special session.

A day before the end of the second special session, a deal on the only item left on lawmakers' agenda — transportation funding — fell 16 votes short in the state House, where it needed 100 to pass.

Aimed at financing the state's dire road construction needs, the deal would have raised about $900 million annually for the Texas Department of Transportation by diverting some future revenue currently intended for the Rainy Day Fund into the state highway fund. But a contentious provision intended to help maintain the Rainy Day Fund's balance proved too divisive, drawing bipartisan opposition.

After the measure failed, its lead sponsor, state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, urged Gov. Rick Perry not to immediately call lawmakers back but to instead wait until next year, after the 2014 primaries, as the Tribune's Aman Batheja reported.

House Speaker Joe Straus appeared to back Pickett's call for a break, saying in a statement: "Legislators know that Texas needs a much more comprehensive approach to funding our growing state’s growing transportation needs, and another 30-day special session will not change that."

On Monday, Perry, who has threatened to bring legislators back if no measure is passed, made no mention of a third special session but denounced lawmakers who opposed the deal.

"Legislators have been in Austin for nearly seven months now, and to go home without dealing with one of the most pressing issues facing all Texans is simply unacceptable," Perry said in a statement.

Both chambers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday at 2 p.m. Though the measure could still clear the Senate, Pickett said it wouldn't get another shot in the House.

"We're done. That's it," he said. "I wouldn't even try to put my colleagues through that."


•    Two special sessions likely cost Texans more than $1.6 million (Fort Worth Star-Telegram): "Each special session, which may last up to 30 days, costs around $800,000 once the 150 House members and 31 Senate members receive $150 a day for living expenses, as well as a small travel allowance. 'I am upset at the cost,' said state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake. 'I think we need to remember why we are having this extra special session. One state senator, in an effort to capture national attention, forced this special session.' 'I firmly believe that Sen. Wendy Davis should reimburse the taxpayers for the entire cost of the second special session,' he said. 'I am sure that she has raised enough money at her Washington, D.C., fundraiser to cover the cost.'"

•    Obama pledges to keep up fight on voting rights, including in Texas (The Dallas Morning News): "President Barack Obama assured civil rights leaders Monday that he will aggressively protect minority voters in Texas and other states, a month after the Supreme Court ended decades of federal election scrutiny. … State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, joined him and two dozen other activists for the private White House meeting. He also came away optimistic, even if Congress — as most analysts expect — doesn’t restore federal oversight. 'If you look at an issue as contentious as the Voting Rights Act, you want an all-of-the-above strategy,' said Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus."

•    Ted Cruz On Christie-Paul Feud: I’m Proud To Stand With Rand (BuzzFeed): "Texas Senator and potential 2016 Republican primary contender Ted Cruz said he stood with Rand Paul when asked about an ongoing feud between the Kentucky senator and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. … 'I am proud to stand side by side with Rand Paul. He and I have been fighting over and over and over again in the Senate to defend our constitutional liberties,' said Cruz.

Quote to Note: "There are a lot of Republicans in Washington who are scared. They're scared of being beaten up politically." — Cruz, during an appearance on Glenn Beck's radio show, on whether Republicans will vote to defund the Affordable Care Act


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State government Transportation Joe Pickett Texas Legislature