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The Brief: July 31, 2013

Pleas from lawmakers failed to ward off an immediate third special session on transportation.

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Pleas from lawmakers failed to ward off an immediate third special session on transportation.

About an hour after legislators adjourned the second special session without a deal on transportation funding, Gov. Rick Perry, as promised, called them back right away on Tuesday for yet another round of overtime

"When it comes to transportation, the stakes facing our state could not be higher, and a failure to act now could take years — if not most of a decade — to correct, as traffic congestion increases and harms our quality of life," Perry said in a statement, adding, "Inaction is a Washington-style attempt to kick a can down the road — but everybody in Texas knows we're rapidly running out of roads to kick that can down."

Perry's call came a day after a compromise plan to help fund the cash-strapped Texas Department of Transportation fell short of the required 100 votes in the lower chamber, which on Tuesday stood mostly empty.

Though the Senate on Tuesday quickly approved the funding plan after reconvening, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, reiterated his and several other lawmakers' warnings that opposition to the deal in the House wouldn't abate.

"I don’t think that you can keep pushing uphill the same bill that was losing support, not gaining, as the summer wore on," he said, according to The Dallas Morning News.

"The governor has made it clear that this isn’t an issue that he is willing to allow us to step back and take a more comprehensive approach to," he added. "So we’re here. We should do what we can that attracts the necessary votes — and take it piecemeal if that is what he is asking us to do."

Other lawmakers, from both parties, weren't so forgiving.

"Another special session is a terrible thing for Texas taxpayers. We had 30 days to pass these bills, and we couldn’t get it done," state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, told the Austin American-Statesman. "Taxpayers should really be upset. This shows a lack of scheduling, commitment and leadership."

"This third special session is an expression of failed leadership," state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Houston, tweeted.

Both chambers adjourned until Monday.


•    New Session Brings Renewed Hope for Campus Construction (The Texas Tribune): "Despite broad bipartisan support, Texas lawmakers have been unsuccessful this year in their efforts to pass a bill issuing tuition revenue bonds — or TRBs — to fund campus construction around the state. Returning for yet another special session, which Gov. Rick Perry called on Tuesday, may provide them with an opportunity to try again. 'I don't think any of us have ever given up hope,' said state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin. 'We would certainly like to see TRBs on the call.' … It's also possible that the governor could opt to add 'campus carry,' which has also struggled to gain traction in recent regular sessions, as a distinct item on the call, easing its entry into the special session conversation."

•    Cruz seeks 'millions' of activists for Obamacare defunding fight (The Washington Times): "Outspoken conservative Sen. Ted Cruz said Tuesday the fight to defund Obamacare in the next 60 days 'is likely to prove the most important battle that this Congress faces.' Speaking before bloggers at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative nonprofit in Washington, the freshman Texas Republican called on 'hundreds of thousands' or even millions of grassroots critics of the Affordable Care Act to sign petitions and call their lawmakers in Washington before this September’s spending debate."

•    A year after upset victory, Cruz still upsets fellow Republicans (Austin American-Statesman): "For U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, his stunning primary victory a year ago ushered in a 'new paradigm in politics – the primacy of the grass roots,' that will receive its toughest test in his new effort to defund the Affordable Care Act at the end of September, or shut the government down trying. 'Under ordinary Washington rules we cannot win, but if the grass roots gets mobilized at historic levels, I believe we can and will win,' Cruz said in an interview in his Washington office Monday, days before the first anniversary of his come-from-behind defeat of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst."

Quote of the Day: "I have no plans and I have no life." — State Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, to the Statesman


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State government Transportation Joe Straus Texas Legislature