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The Brief: Feb. 26, 2015

Senate budget writers directed their displeasure at the Texas Racing Commission during a contentious hearing on Wednesday in which the head of the finance committee declared herself "livid."

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The Big Conversation

Senate budget writers directed their displeasure at the Texas Racing Commission during a contentious hearing on Wednesday in which the head of the finance committee declared herself "livid."

In their base budget, senators zeroed out the commission's funding to send a message that they were angry with the commission's decision over the summer to implement a rule allowing historical racing at racetracks. Tracks would like the new gaming technology, which is now the subject of a court challenge, to boost revenues for the beleaguered racing industry.

The panel questioned commission Chairman Robert Schmidt for more than 40 minutes with little indication that senators were moving toward a forgiving mood, reported the Tribune's Ryan McCrimmon.

“Right now your budget is zero, and I’ve had nothing here today that’s convinced me that it needs to change,” committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, told Schmidt.

Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News reported Nelson also as saying“This isn’t about gambling to me. It’s not about horse racing to me. It is about an agency that has gone rogue, in my opinion. If an agency doesn’t respect the difference between making laws and following laws, we’ve got big problems on our hands.”

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 10 a.m.

•    House Appropriations meets at 7:30 a.m. to take up budget recommendations for agencies under Article V of the budget (E1.030). The subcommittees on Articles I, IV & V (E1.018) and Article II (JHR 131) meet later in the morning.

•    House Transportation meets at 8 a.m. to get updates on energy sector roads and on the TxTag situation (E2.012). The House Select Committee on State & Federal Power & Responsibility meets at 10:30 a.m. or on final adjournment to take invited testimony on Article V of the U.S. Constitution (E2.036).

•    Senate Finance meets at 9 a.m. to consider state agencies contained in Articles I, V and VII (E1.036). Senate Nominations meets at 8 a.m. with appearances expected by the nominees to the University of Texas System Board of Regents (2E.20).

•    Advocates for reproductive justice, members of the faith community and Texas lawmakers rally on the south steps of the Capitol for Reproductive Health Care Advocacy Day. The event begins at 1:30 p.m.

•    Gov. Greg Abbott is in Houston to deliver afternoon remarks to the Greater Houston Partnership Luncheon and visit pre-K classes as he kicks off a State of the State tour.

Trib Must-Reads

Federal Government is Very Unpopular With Texas Voters, by Ross Ramsey

Regent Appointments Head to Nominations Hearing, by Bobby Blanchard

Conservative Texas Lawmakers Target United Nations, by Neena Satija and Ryan McCrimmon

Revamped Cancer Agency Faces New Questions, by Edgar Walters, Alana Rocha and Justin Dehn

Lawmaker's Bill a Silver Bullet to Stop Train, by Aman Batheja

Otto Promises to Fund Health Care for Retired Teachers, by Jim Malewitz

Nichols' Car Sales Tax Plan Moves to Senate Floor, by Aman Batheja


Texas agency at center of contracting scandal may face stricter rules, Austin American-Statesman

Lawmakers worried sticker change will create 'chaos', Houston Chronicle

Ban of e-cigarette sale to minors advances to Senate floor, The Dallas Morning News

Legislator files complaint on Austin judge who married same-sex couple, Austin American-Statesman

Senate higher ed chair wants to make colleges earn tuition increases, Houston Chronicle

Oil Bust Empties Out Private-Jet Parking Lot in Texas, Bloomberg

Senators Move to End Deadlock Over Funding of Homeland Security, The New York Times

New format adds twist to CPAC expectations for GOP hopefuls, Washington Post

Quote to Note

“You’ve only been here about a month. There's a learning curve here, and institutional knowledge."

— State Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, advising freshman colleague Don Huffines, R-Dallas, during a Senate Transportation hearing to listen more to experienced senators

Today in TribTalk

It's time to change Confederate Heroes Day, by Jacob Hale

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Immigration: The Next Five Years on Feb. 27 at at the University of Texas at Brownsville

•    A Conversation With State Sen. Kel Seliger and State Rep. John Zerwas on March 5 at the Austin Club

•    On the Road: A Symposium on Water on March 10 at Texas State University in San Marcos

•    Meet the Mayors: Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price on March 12 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With UT-Austin Dell Medical School Dean Clay Johnston on March 26 at The Austin Club

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Health care Politics Public education Greg Abbott Jane Nelson Joe Pickett Kel Seliger Robert Nichols