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The Brief: May 18, 2015

With two weeks left in the legislative session, here are a couple of takes on the state of play on taxes and the budget, the only piece of legislation that must be passed.

Happy Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, watches passage of SB 1 budget bill on a 30-1 vote April 14, 2015.  Lone no vote was Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston.

The Big Conversation

With two weeks left in the legislative session, here are a couple of takes on the state of play on taxes and the budget, the only piece of legislation that must be passed.

The Houston Chronicle's Mike Ward writes that the conflicts between the House and Senate on taxes, the budget, guns and border security are now largely resolved with the remaining talks aimed at allowing as many sides as possible to claim credit for the agreements.

"Barring a last-minute blowup, leaders in both chambers agree they expect an early announcement on tax cuts will presage a deal on the budget and the other issues — a conciliatory mood that contrasts with that early in the session, when the Senate and House appeared to be polar opposites on many issues. That early antagonism between Senate and House leaders could have foreshadowed a sure-fire political explosion. But accommodations have been reached."

Writing for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dave Montgomery shares details on the work of the budget negotiators while also reporting optimism that a final deal will be struck:

“It’s amazing when you close the doors and learn about what the other side is thinking, what their priorities are,” (Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane) Nelson said. “And I’m telling you, we agree on a whole lot more than we disagree on, so I’m very optimistic. We’re going to get this done.”

After the latest breakthrough, Nelson said, she is confident that property tax relief will emerge from the Legislature, although she declined to offer specifics on the compromise.

“We’re able to meet all of our needs and give some of it back,” she said. “I’ve been down here when times were tough and we had some really, really painful cost reductions. This is a much nicer problem to have.”

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: Ethics at Center Stage, Hurting for Attention, by Ross Ramsey — In February, Gov. Greg Abbott asked lawmakers to dedicate this legislative session to ethics reform. With only two weeks left, he's still waiting.

Abbott Leans Into Possible Role as 2016 Kingmaker, by Patrick Svitek — Once reluctant to get involved in his party's 2016 presidential primary, Gov. Greg Abbott is increasingly warming up to his potential role as a kingmaker.

In Iowa, Perry Looks to Stand Out in GOP Field, by Patrick Svitek — Former Gov. Rick Perry embarked on a five-day swing through Iowa on Saturday, emphatically looking to distinguish himself from a crowded field of 2016 hopefuls.

Allies Remember a Driven Hillary Rodham During '72 Texas Visit, by Abby Livingston — Hillary Rodham joined her then-boyfriend Bill Clinton in Texas in 1972 to work during George McGovern's failed presidential campaign. During that time she made many friends, who remember a serious and driven law student.

A Look at Hillary and Bill Clinton's Favorite Texas Haunts in 1972, by Todd Wiseman and Abby Livingston — It wasn't all campaign drudgery for Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton when they lived in Texas for a few months while working on George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign. Take a look at some of their favorite haunts.

The Day Ahead

•    The Senate convenes at 11 a.m.; the House convenes at 1 p.m.

•    A House-originated "Right to Try" bill, HB 21, is up for consideration at Senate Health and Human Services, scheduled to meet at 8 a.m. (E1.016)

•    The Senate's subcommittee on border security will take up the House's border security bill, HB 11, at its meeting set to start at 8 a.m. (2E.20)

•    Senate State Affairs is scheduled to take up House bills on reform of the state employee retirement system, HB 9, and on open carry of handguns by permit holders, HB 910. (Senate Chamber)


New details revealed on Ken Paxton’s securities referral deal, The Dallas Morning News

What Greg Abbott’s pre-K gambit says about his politics and priorities, Austin American-Statesman

Oil wells in waiting may not meet expectations, Houston Chronicle

Chasnoff: Attack on mayor’s property preceded double homicide, San Antonio Express-News

State’s decisive legal loss could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands, Austin American-Statesman

Brenham residents struggle to come to grips with impact of Blue Bell layoffs, Houston Chronicle

Young dad Four Price rises from personal tragedy to political promise, Amarillo Globe-News

Governor's experience trumps senator's for presidency, say those who've done both, The Dallas Morning News

Long-time Texas conservative activist endorses Cruz for president, The Washington Post

Police: 9 dead in Texas shooting all members of biker gangs, The Associated Press

Quote to Note

“I’ve talked to some CEOs of very large businesses who have come to talk to me about budget items, and most of them don’t realize how huge our budget is. I asked them, ‘Could you put together a $210 billion budget in six months?’”

— Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, on the challenges facing budget writers piecing together a biennial budget for a state the size of Texas

Today in TribTalk

Stop penalizing Texas charter school families, by David Robinson — High-performing public charter schools are working to level the playing field for Texas students growing up in poverty. It's time for the state to do its part in leveling the funding.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    How'd the House Do? A Conversation About the 84th Legislative Session on May 21 at The Austin Club

•    How'd the Senate Do? A Conversation About the 84th Legislative Session on May 28 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation About Texas Monthly's Best and Worst Legislators 2015 on June 18 at The Austin Club

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Four Price Greg Abbott Jane Nelson Ken Paxton Rick Perry Ted Cruz