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In This Debate, the Climax Came Early

Did the House need to stay until 5:30 a.m. on the budget? It could be argued the debate was over after the first record vote of the day.

State Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, carries literature laying out House Bill 1 as he prepares to discuss the appropriations bi...

As was mentioned elsewhere in this issue, the House stayed and talked for a long time about the budget.

Did they need to stay until 5:30 a.m.? It could be argued the debate was over after the first record vote of the day.

House Appropriations Chairman John Otto, R-Dayton, was forced to amend his chairman’s amendment out of the gate to insert language that provides funding for incentives for the film industry.

The language had been inadvertently left out of the budget, but it gave the opportunity to the Tea Party contingent in the House to push a vote to try to kill the vote.

They got the vote, and they got 18 votes for their position.

Of those 18 votes, 14 had voted against re-electing Speaker Joe Straus on the first day of session. Five of them ended up voting against the budget — Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving; Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler; David Simpson, R-Longview; Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington; and Molly White, R-Belton.

Later votes demonstrated that the Democratic bloc wasn’t going to muster enough votes to get its priority issues into the budget.

And that set the tone of the evening as anticipated fights over vouchers, abortion and in-state tuition for undocumented students failed to materialize.

Instead, we were left with mildly embarrassing actions like a move to cut the feral hog abatement program and the prioritizing of abstinence education above HIV prevention programs.

For the leadership team, the budget kept the same basic shape throughout the day, setting up the real conflict to come — with the Senate.

*****

Perhaps lost in Tuesday night's House budget hubbub, representatives of Texas petroleum producers and cities announced a deal on urban drilling legislation. 

Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, and Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League, signed a letter promising to "support or be neutral to" the committee substitute to House Bill 40 – Rep. Drew Darby's proposal to clarify where local control on drilling begins and ends. 

The deal stands, the letter said, as long as neither side puts forth new polarizing amendments.

*****

GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz opened his campaign headquarters in Houston, hosting an open house where, as the Tribune's Patrick Svitek reported, "his supporters were shuttled in groups up to the seventh floor of the office tower housing his campaign headquarters, an L-shaped space complete with a nursery for staffers' children and the Cruzes' own daughters, 4-year-old Catherine and 6-year-old Caroline."

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday night that the Cruz campaign was claiming to raise about $4 million over the first eight days of the campaign. More significant is the disclosure that nearly all of the donations came from small-dollar donations.

The New York Times' Derek Willis wrote that if Cruz "can continue his early small-dollar success, it strengthens his argument that he represents grass-roots conservatism better than a candidate with stronger ties to the Republican establishment, like Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor."

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