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Analysis: Cutting the Texas budget, even with money on hand
If Texas legislators cut the state budget this year, it won't be because they didn't have the money. It'll be because they didn't want to spend the money they have.

Proposed bill would speed up the process of bonding out of jail
A bill aimed granting more defendants release from jail without paying bail would require judges to use a risk assessment system before making bail decisions — and to make those decisions within 48 hours of an arrest.

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions faces rowdy town hall
Addressing more than 2,000 people in Richardson, Sessions was frequently drowned out by boos and angry outbursts from the audience. Many of his answers were not entirely audible due to the crowd’s reaction as he began to speak.

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After road trip, Hurd and O'Rourke sign on to one another's bills
Two days after their cross-country road trip drew national attention, Texas U.S. Reps. Will Hurd and Beto O'Rourke signed on to legislation one another is working on.

In Texas House, uncertain fate of bathroom bill could reverberate
The Texas “bathroom bill” has made it to the House, where leaders are hinting that the controversial legislation may never reach the chamber's floor for a vote.

Former congressman charged with violating federal election law
Former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, has been charged with violating federal election law.

What you need to know: 

The Texas Legislature has another nine weeks to spar over its budget — an increasingly contentious issue as lawmakers debate a big question: How much will legislators spend from the state’s Rainy Day Fund?

  • The Rainy Day Fund is the state's savings account, and has allowed Texas to set aside excess money for use in times of unexpected revenue shortfall. Some lawmakers are openly discussing using it to get through this year's tight budget cycle. 
  • Many lawmakers — including prominent leaders — have long opposed using the Rainy Day Fund to cover ongoing expenses. In his State of the State address, Gov. Greg Abbott said: "I am confident we are going to be able to balance the budget without looting the Rainy Day Fund." 
  • Last week, the Texas House proposed withdrawing about $2.4 billion from the Rainy Day Fund.  The House has faced some criticism from conservatives in the other chamber for its budget. An earlier version earned the scorn of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who said: "I can’t explain the House budget...The House budgets money they don’t have. They don’t have it."
  • But the Texas House's chief budget writer said last week that without making withdrawals from the Rainy Day Fund, Texas would have to make major cuts to state programs.  As Ross Ramsey notes today: "If legislators cut the budget this time...it won’t be because they didn't have the money, whether from income, savings or accounting tricks. It will be because they didn’t want to spend the money they have." 

What we're reading

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(Links below lead to outside websites; paywall content noted with $) 

For many older Americans, costs rise under GOP health planThe Associated Press

Hidalgo County wants to continue building the border wall, The Monitor

'Monica's law' seeks protective order registry, Odessa American

Promises to keep, San Antonio Express-News ($)

Surge in violent crimes putting Austin police on edge, Austin American-Statesman ($)

A half million Texans could be without insurance under GOP health care plan, The Houston Chronicle ($)

Federal judge in Texas foster care suit scolds CPS leaders for withholding informationThe Dallas Morning News ($)

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A Texas woman 'voted like a U.S. citizen.' Only she wasn'tThe New York Times ($)

For your calendar

Join us on Tuesday, March 28, at KLRU's Studio 6A for a special screening of Beyond the Wall, The Texas Tribune's short documentary that explores the state's immigration issues through the eyes of undocumented immigrants, border patrol agents and a borderland rancher.

Quote to note

"Our elected leaders’ choice to make Texas’ most vulnerable citizens targets of bullying and violence is just plain wrong. Parents in Texas are already reporting increased bullying as a result of SB 6, in part because some districts are already enforcing the discriminatory rules it would impose."

— Wendy Davis, founder of Deeds Not Words and Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, about the effects of the so-called "bathroom bill" via TribTalk

The Brief is written and compiled by your morning news baristas, Bobby Blanchard and Sanya Mansoor. If you have feedback or questions, please email thebrief@texastribune.org. We're a nonprofit newsroom, and count on readers like you to help power newsletters like this. Did you like what you read today? Show your appreciation by becoming a member or making a donation today.

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