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Detail of Texas Capitol dome.

The Lead:

Well, kids, we’ve reached sine die—the 140th, and last, day of the 83rd Legislature’s regular session. (The circus is apparently staying in town for an immediate special session on redistricting, but more on that in a minute.)

First, as usual, the 139th day saw frenetic lawmaking. The House and Senate passed all the major bills on their calendars yesterday—and even wrapped up at a decent hour—including the budget and all its related bills, HB 500 which enacts hundreds of millions in tax cuts for business, a pretty decent ethics reform, and two Medicaid reform bills.

There will be many headlines from this session: undoing some cuts from 2011, tapping the rainy day fund for water projects, passing $1.4 billion in tax cuts without fulling restoring the 2011 reductions to public schools.

What we’ll remember about this session in the year’s to come will be Medicaid expansion—or lack thereof.

It had been clear for weeks (and perhaps months) that Medicaid expansion was dead at the Capitol. But yesterday lawmakers drove the point home, passing a bill that bans Medicaid expansion in Texas.

The Lege on Sunday sent the governor SB 7, a Medicaid reform bill. The measure includes an amendment tacked on by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) that forbids the state from expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. That eliminates even the smallest chance that the Health and Human Services Commission would negotiate a “Texas solution” on Medicaid. It gave Republicans a chance to vote against a key provision of the national health reform law they hate so much.

But it means Texas will turn away an estimated $100 billion—yes, $100 billion—in federal funds over nine years that will now go to other states. Refusing Medicaid will deny health coverage to roughly 1.5 million Texans.

Gov. Rick Perry may well have sacrificed the chance expand health coverage to millions—and reap the economic boon of $100 billion flowing into the state—for presidential ambitions that few pundits think are realistic. That decision—and the Legislature’s choice to go along with it—will be remembered and debated for years to come.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. Hey, they passed a budget. Good on them. Details from the Observer here.

2. The Lege also enacted two major education reform bills that will expand charter schools and reduce the number of high-stakes tests. The record vote in the House on the testing bill was unanimous—a rare sight indeed. The Observer‘s Patrick Michels has more.

3. HB 500, which exempts hundreds of millions from the franchise tax, avoided a filibuster threat from Sen. Rodney Ellis and is headed to the governor. The Statesman has more.

4. The Tribune has a roundup of the transparency bills the Lege passed and finds the session lacking. They did pass the sunset bill for the Texas Ethics Commission yesterday that includes a few good reforms such as forbiding retiring lawmakers from spending their campaign accounts for two years after they leave the Lege.

5. Don’t go on vacation yet. The Houston Chronicle notes that a special session on redistricting could be imminent.

Line of the Day:

“The majority still refuses to take responsibility for their actions in 2011. Instead, even with lawsuits looming that have determined the State of Texas is not meeting its constitutional obligation, they’re allowing billions of our tax dollars to sit unused rather than investing it in the future of our children and this state.” —Rep. Abel Herrero on budget, which doesn’t fully restore cuts to public schools and would leave more than $8 billion in the rainy day fund.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. Those correcting amendments. There’s not supposed to be any substantive lawmaking today—just correcting minor mistakes—but every now and then an industrious lobbyist tries to sneak something through.

2. The parties.

3. The end of the Hot List. We don’t produce the Hot List during special sessions, so this is our last one until 2015. Happy Sine Die!

Texas State Capitol in Austin, Tex.

The Lead:

It’s the penultimate day of the session, and lawmakers have much left to do. The House still must pass the budget and approve two supporting measures—HB 1025 and SJR 1—key to the budget deal.

Meanwhile yesterday’s developments weren’t kind to the cause of transparency in politics. As the Observer‘s Olivia Messer writes, Gov. Rick Perry’ vetoed a bill that would have required disclosure of dark money. The bill, SB 346, would have forced politically active nonprofits to make public who was donating the money for their political activities.

The veto wasn’t unexpected. The bill had been primarily aimed at Michael Quinn Sullivan and his tea party group Empower Texans, which in recent elections has been marshaling funds in its nonprofit corporation, a 501(c)(4), and using the money to attack Republicans they view as insufficiently conservative, including Speaker Joe Straus and members of his leadership team. By spending through its nonprofit (instead of its PAC), the group doesn’t have to disclose where the money comes from. This is often referred to as “dark money.” SB 346 would have changed that. But MQS, as he’s often called, is close to the governor’s office, so hence the veto.

Supporters of disclosure even saw their backup plan foiled. Anticipating a veto, they had attached the disclosure provisions in SB 346 to another bill—the measure reauthorizing the Texas Ethics Commission. But, as Quorum Report noted, a conference committee yesterday—at about the same time Perry was releasing his veto statement—stripped the disclosure language from the Ethics Commission bill. So much for that.

With one day left in the session, it looks likely that we’ll endure another campaign cycle with some political nonprofits influencing elections without disclosing their funders. Good times.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The Senate passed SB 21, requiring drug tests for some applicants for unemployment benefits. The Statesman has more details. Democrats had managed to defeat a separate bill requiring drug tests for welfare applicants. Unemployed Texans weren’t so lucky. The bill now goes to the governor, who’s expected to sign it.

2. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on efforts to save the Texas Railroad Commission and its oversight of oil and gas drilling. Rep. Dennis Bonnen, employing his well-known light touch, told the paper that the commission had opposed his sunset bill reauthorizing the commission. “I take that as a clear sign that they’re not interested in the agency continuing.” Ah, sarcasm, the grumpy man’s wit.

3.  Lawmakers reached a deal on the System Benefit Fund, which is supposed to help low-income families with their electricity bills, though the Lege has diverted the money to other purposes in recent sessions. The deal, endorsed by Rep. Sylvester Turner, will ensure that low-income families get help on their bills. Quorum Report has details.

Line of the Day:

“This is a sad day for integrity and transparency in Texas. Governor Perry’s veto of SB 346 legalizes money laundering in Texas elections. The Governor’s veto is ironic since money laundering is illegal in other endeavors.” —Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) in a statement.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The clock. All substantive bills must pass by midnight. Day 140 is usually reserved for resolutions and correcting amendments fixing non-substantive mistakes. It requires super-majorities to do any legislating tomorrow. It’s possible, but not easy. So, today’s the day to get things done.

2. The budget. The Senate passed the budget yesterday. The House must pass SB 1, HB 1025 and SJR 1 or a special session is guaranteed.

2. A 30-day special may well happen anyway. Redistricting, the Railroad Commission sunset bill, tax cuts, and any number of other issues could lead the governor to call a special session. We’ve learned never to predict special sessions one way or the other. Gov. Perry has the sole authority to decide when and why to call the Lege into special session. That’s comforting, ain’t it?

Texas State Capitol in Austin, Tex.
Patrick Michels

The Lead:

The regular session ends on Monday, and the big question at the Capitol is: Will there be a special session?

But the more immediate question is: Will there be a budget? On Thursday, the House rejected a new version of HB 1025, a supplemental spending bill that’s critical to the budget deal. Among many other things, the bill allocates $200 million for schools. The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday with some changes, including one added by Senate Finance Chair Tommy Williams that ties the schools funding to a provision that would return to taxpayers money that had been intended to help poor families with electric bills. The Dallas Morning News has more details.

That sets up a conference committee between the Senate and House that will have to work fast to reach a deal to save the budget in the regular session. Good times.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. Senate and House negotiators reached a backroom deal yesterday on two education bills, the Texas Tribune reports. The bills—HB 5 and SB 2—would expand the state’s number of charter schools and reduce the number of standardized tests.

2. The Boy Scouts of America announced yesterday it would reverse its policy and allow gay scouts. Many across the country are hailing the decision as a huge step forward for gay rights, but Gov. Perry didn’t see it that way. He issued a statement saying he is “greatly disappointed with this decision.”

3. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is calling for a special session to pass conservative bills on abortion, guns and drug tests for welfare applicants, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Line of the Day:

“The Boys Scouts of America has been built upon the values of faith and family for more than 100 years and today’s decision contradicts generations of tradition in the name of political correctness.” – Gov. Rick Perry, on the Boy Scouts of America’s decision yesterday to end a ban on gay members.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. We’ll be keeping an eye on both chambers, which will churn through bills passed by both chambers and conference committee reports.

2. The budget. Can the House and Senate settle their differences on HB 1025 before Sunday’s final midnight deadline?

The Lead:

The House and Senate spent most of yesterday at a standoff, waiting for the other to budge on two major pieces of legislation that are key to the state budget. Senate Finance Chair Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) broke the impasse by introducing House Bill 1025, which is the supplemental spending bill. The House previously supported the bill when it included $200 million in additional spending for education, but Gov. Rick Perry got involved and helped derail the agreement when he told the Senate too much money was allotted to education.

That led to a tense few days between the House and Senate. But everyone apparently came to their senses, and Williams proposed a bill accepted, even lauded, by his Democratic counterparts last night. Under the plan, the basic education allotment per-student-spending would reach $5,040 in 2015, which Williams claimed would be the highest ever.

As the Senate was passing HB 1025, the House finally took up Senate Joint Resolution 1 that it was holding hostage to get the $200 million for schools under HB 1025. The House quickly approved the resolution that asks voters to OK creating the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, which would distribute $2 billion for water infrastructure projects under HB 1025. With both bills passed, the budget deal can go forward.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) tearfully told the House that he wouldn’t seek reelection to spend more time with his family, as the Texas Tribune reports.

2. Democrats successfully killed all abortion-related bills this session before they got to the House or Senate floors this session, writes the San Antonio Express News.

3. Protestors in favor of Medicaid expansion interrupted a speech yesterday by Gov. Perry who responded that he would meet with them at his office. The Tribune writes that the 15-minute meeting didn’t go far.

4. The Observer’s Beth Cortez-Neavel documents the impact of the split between UT-Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. Hundreds of employees lost their jobs.

Line of the Day:

“I’ve had committee dinners since I’ve been here for seven terms. Lobby pays. They follow rules. Everybody knows up front. And we even post it, so we are all in compliance.” –Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) told the Texas Tribune about a dinner bill for 140 people that totaled $22,241.03. Sorry we missed that one.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. With several deadlines passed, the House and Senate will now focus on conference committee reports and bills passed by both chambers.

Texas State Capitol in Austin, Tex.
Patrick Michels

The Lead:

Five days left till sine die, and the deadlines are coming fast. Today’s the last day for the Senate and the House to pass bills and joint resolutions from the opposite chamber on third reading.

The House agreed—except for Rep. David Simpson’s lone “nay” — to postpone voting on Senate Joint Resolution 1, a key component of this session’s budget deal, yet another day. (That gets the bill around last night’s midnight deadline for voting on Senate bills and resolutions on second reading). The Dallas Morning News has the details.

The House will take up SJR 1 today. It’s a constitutional amendment to create SWIFT, the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, and pave the way for the Lege to fund water infrastructure projects.

The word is the House will postpone a vote on SJR 1 up to Thursday, if necessary, until the Senate hears House Bill 1025.  The emergency spending bill is the House’s attempt to add $200 million to the public school system, and Gov. Rick Perry has threatened to call a special session if the bill doesn’t pass. Right now, the level of trust between the House and Senate isn’t too high.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The Senate passed a much-amended House Bill 500, the controversial bill that would exempt quite a few businesses from the franchise tax, according to the Quorum Report (subscribers only). Sen. Tommy Williams tacked on an amendment that ties the passage of the bill to SJR 1, to muck up the budget game of chicken between chambers even more.

2. The House tentatively passed a bill Tuesday that allows for “hotter,” or more radioactive, waste to be dumped at a site dangerously close to water tables. The Observer‘s Forrest Wilder reports this is just one more favor granted to a major GOP donor.

3. The Senate passed House Bill 29 yesterday, which requires universities to offer a flat-rate, four-year tuition option for incoming students. But the Texas Tribune reports the Senate Higher Education Committee’s restrictions on university regents might solicit a veto from Gov. Rick Perry.

4. Last but certainly not least, House Democrats managed to kill SB 11, the drug screening-f0r-welfare-applicants bill on the floor last night. Dems lined up points of order and stalled the bill until it—and about 50 other Senate bills on the calendar behind it—were dead. The Statesman has details.

Line of the Day:

““We believe, simply, that this bill is wrong,” —Democratic Rep. Chris Turner on SB 11, which would have required drug screening for some welfare applicants.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. HB 1025 in the Senate and SJR 1 in the House. Here’s hoping the House doesn’t move the vote to Thursday.

2. The Senate has yet to hear HB 972, which would allow for licensed concealed handgun owners to pack heat on university and college campuses.

3. Today’s also the last day for the House to consider Senate Bills on the Local and Consent calendar, including a bill that would set requirements for election interpreters and one that would update the definition of “autism and other pervasive developmental disorders.”

The Lead:

It’s not every day you see the Texas Legislature vote to tighten ethics standards, but that’s what happened yesterday when the House initially approved the Ethics Commission sunset bill.

As first written, Senate Bill 219 made minor changes to the agency that oversees campaign and lobby disclosures. But House members added a series of amendments on the floor that transformed the legislation into one that, as the Observer’s Beth Cortez-Neavel reports, would “force Railroad Commissioners to resign from the position if they decided to run for other offices; mandating that lawmakers’ financial disclosure forms are posted online (without their home addresses); requiring that 501(c)(4) nonprofits report their donors if they get involved in Texas elections, and requiring legislators and their families to report any government contracts in which they hold more than a 50-percent stake.”

Rep. Charlie Geren added the amendment that would require politically active nonprofits—501(c)(4) groups like Empower Texans and its head Michael Quinn Sullivan—to disclose their donors. You might be thinking, “didn’t that bill already pass?” And indeed it. The amendment was a version of SB 346, which has already been sent to the governor, who’s expected to veto it. By attaching it to the Ethics Commission sunset bill, Geren may have found a way to circumvent Rick Perry’s veto.

 Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The House voted for an amendment yesterday to ban Medicaid expansion. As the Texas Tribune‘s Becca Aaronson reports, Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) added an amendment to a Medicaid bill that would ban HHSC from expanding Mediciad under Obamamcare. The amendment could always be stripped out in conference committee, but if it does survive, it could preclude any deal with the feds on Medicaid expansion.

2. Yesterday, Dan Patrick celebrated the imminent death of the curriculum management program CSCOPE. Patrick announced that “the era of CSCOPE lesson plans has come to an end,” the Observer’s Patrick Michels reports. And once again the land was safe from the menace of curriculum tools.

3. The Dallas Morning-News reports that the House’s initial approval of a ban on cell-phone tracking without cause has police associations none too pleased.

 Line of the Day:

“The big lesson here is that if you can generate a witch hunt that includes enough incendiary and distorted claims, then there are politicians at the Capitol who are ready to throw their supposed commitment to local control out the window,” —Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller in a statement this morning in response to CSCOPE administrators turning over thousands of financial documents to Senator Dan Patrick’s (R-Houston) office.

What We’re Watching Today:

1.  SB 11—the watered-down bill that would implement drug testing for some welfare applicants—is slated for debate on the House floor today.

2. Tommy Williams’ transparency bill—SB 14—is also set for debate in the House. The bill would institute a number of provisions to give the public more information on schools, taxes, and government spending.

Texas State Capitol in Austin, Tex.
Patrick Michels

The Lead:

Just one week left in the legislative session, and as usual lawmakers are cramming last-minute law-making like it’s the night before final exams.

The House has a long calendar of bills today, but the big one deals with ethics reform. Senate Bill 219 relates to the functions of the Texas Ethics Commission and concerns itself with transparency for political contributions, expenditures, advertising, and lobbying.

House members have pre-filed 34 amendments to the bill. As the Texas Tribune‘s Emily Ramshaw writes, some of the amendments could result in tough votes for lawmakers. That includes a proposal to require lawmakers to disclose contracts their family members hold with government agencies. One amendment would shift the Public Integrity Unit, which investigates allegations against state officials, from the Travis County DA to the Attorney General’s office. That’s a change some Republicans have long sought and an idea recently boosted by Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg’s DWI arrest. (Some Republicans would rather have a Republican AG investigating state officials rather than a Democratic DA).

Ethics debates are always fascinating. We’ll see how far House members are willing to go in regulating themselves.

Weekend Headlines:

1. A budget deal was reached late on Friday afternoon. Negotiators from House and Senate agreed on a water infrastructure fund of $2 billion, $3.4 billion to public education, and agreed to have public schools contribute $530 million toward Texas’ Teacher Retirement System, the Observer‘s Beth Cortez-Neavel reports. 

2. Speaking of ethics, the Tribune’s Jay Root examines the conflicts of interest that emerge when lawmakers legislate on issues that effect their businesses. He centers the story on Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) who oversees bills dealing with HOAs and runs one of the country’s largest HOA-management companies.

3. The AP reports on major proposed changes to the Texas Water Development Board that would accompany the $2 billion in spending on water projects. The number of board members would be cut in half, and the current board and executive director would be replaced.

Line of the Day:

“I never make summer plans.” —Rep. Todd Hunter, on Thursday regarding House plans to reach a budget. Maybe now he can rent that condo in Maui.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. Senate Joint Resolution 1 is on the floor today. It’s a spending vehicle authorizing funding for water projects, and would establish the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT).

2. A bill that would authorize certain educators to carry concealed handguns in schools is also on calendar. Senate Bill 17 has received plenty of praise from national gun groups.

3. We’re also keeping an eye on Senate Bill 791, which alters the kinds of low-level radioactive waste that Waste Control Specialists can accept at its West Texas dump. That bill, authored by Sen. Kel Seliger, is scheduled for debate on the House floor.

Texas State Capitol in Austin, Tex.
Patrick Michels

The Lead:

Lawmakers negotiated late into the night in an attempt to finalize the 2014-2015 state budget. Conference committee members have agreed on a number of spending issues, including how much money to put into public education ($3.2 billion) and water infrastructure projects ($2 billion).

But as the Texas Tribune reports, Medicaid expansion remains a problem. The budget doesn’t include money to expand Medicaid for working poor families under Obamacare (don’t be silly). But conference committee members have included a rider that would set up a framework under which Texas would expand Medicaid if it chose to. That’s apparently too much for some House Republicans. The House GOP caucus voted earlier in the session against Medicaid expansion. And some Republicans are threatening to vote against the budget if it includes the Medicaid provision. Now’s the time for deal-making. Once the conference committee sends the budget back to House and Senate, the bill can’t be changed.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. Yesterday, the House voted down a proposal to impose term limits on elected officials. SJR 13 would have limited the governor, lieutenant governor and four other statewide officials to two consecutive terms in office. So much for that.

2. The House did approve an amendment by Rep. Matt Krause that would allow university student groups to discriminate against prospective members. We had termed this proposal a “bad bill.” As the Observer‘s Patrick Michels reports, Krause’s bill had died, but he brought it back as an amendment to the Higher Ed Coordinating Board sunset bill.

3. The Senate gave final approval to SB 15, a bill that would place stricter limits on university regents’ power to fire campus presidents, the Associated Press reports. The subtext of this bill has been the fight between the UT Regents and President Bill Powers.

4. The story of the day came from the Texas Tribune‘s Emily Ramshaw, who reported that doctor and GOP activist Steve Hotze has recorded songs (yes, you read that correctly) about his opposition to Obamacare. The Trib story includes a sampling of Hotze’s heavily autotuned tracks.

5. And congratulations to Quorum Report, which turned 30 yesterday.

Line of the Day:

“Let’s say there’s a red hat club. Anybody who wants to come in and subvert that, ‘I don’t like red hats.’” —Rep. Matt Krause, torturing an analogy during House floor debate trying to explain why university student groups should be allowed to discriminate against who can join.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The House is scheduled to debate Sen. Dan Patrick’s charter school bill today. SB 2 would increase the number of open-enrollment charter schools in Texas.

2. The Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Matters will hear HB 500 this morning. The bill reforms the franchise tax, including hundreds of millions in tax exemptions for businesses. The franchise tax’s less-than-expected collections have contributed to the state’s budget woes since its creation in 2006.

3. Gov. Rick Perry will ceremonially sign SB 1611—the Michal Morton Act—this afternoon. Sens. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) and Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Reps. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and Tryon Lewis (R-Odessa) will be present for the ceremony. So will Michael Morton, who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1987 and exonerated with DNA evidence in 2011. The bill aims to improve Texas’ criminal justice system by ensuring that defense attorneys have access to all key evidence.

Texas State Capitol in Austin, Tex.
Patrick Michels

The Lead:

A budget deal appears close. That’s the news yesterday from the budget conference committee—where five reps and five senators are hashing out how the state will spend its money the next two years.

House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts told the Texas Tribune Tuesday that the committee is moving toward an agreement that would provide $3.2 billion more money for public education—restoring only part of the $5.4 billion in education cuts from last session—and add $2 billion for water infrastructure projects.

Pitts said the committee’s plan would employ “the method the House came up with and the money the Senate had, $3.2 billion.” That means no rainy day fund money for schools. The plan apparently is to take the $2 billion from the rainy day fund for water projects. The fund is projected to have $11.8 billion by the end of next biennium.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. In an exclusive story, the Observer‘s Carolyn Jones reports that the Texas Department of Health State Health Services has $2.3 million in family-planning funds still sitting around unspent. That was while scores of clinics serving both low-income men and women have closed in the past year due to lack of funding, and approximately 140,000 low-income women have gone without care.

2. The Senate Education Committee heard a bill from the House yesterday that would further reduce standardized testing in public schools. The Observer‘s Liz Farmer reports HB 2836 would eliminate the STAAR writing testing for 4th and 7th graders.

3. The Dallas Morning News reports that a Senate committee voted out the controversial “campus carry” bill that would allow guns on college campuses. The bill now heads to the full Senate.

Line of the Day:

“There were lots of ways that money could have been deployed.” —Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, on the revelation that Texas’ health department left $2.3 million unspent while dozens of family-planning clinics closed.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The House is scheduled to debate a constitutional amendment that would impose term limits for Texas elected officials. But governor-for-life Rick Perry need not worry. SJR 13 would exempt current officeholders from the term limits.

2. After passing the Michael Morton Act earlier this week, the House will hear another key criminal justice reform—SB 344, which would make it easier for people to challenge their convictions in cases in which major advances in forensic science could result in an exoneration.

3. Last, but certainly not least, the House will take on the controversial curriculum tool CSCOPE that has ignited the tea party. Dan Patrick’s SB 1406 would bring CSCOPE and other curriculum tools under the oversight of the State Board of Education. There’s progress for you.

The Lead:

The Legislature went after mucus yesterday.

That would be Michael Quinn Sullivan (often referred to as MQS—or mucus) who leads the tea party group Empower Texans dedicated to electing more conservative Republicans to office. Sullivan, who fashions himself as a Texas version of Grover Norquist, and his group have poured money into campaigns of tea party challengers to Republican incumbents, including Speaker Joe Straus and his leadership team.

The Texas House took on Sullivan yesterday, giving initial approval to SB 346 that would require politically active nonprofits to disclose donors who give $1,000 or more. The bill would increase transparency for all political nonprofits, but there’s no doubt who House members had in mind—bill sponsor Charlie Geren even mentioned Sullivan by name during the floor debate.  True to form, Sullivan responded on Twitter.

As the Observer‘s Liz Farmer reports, Geren managed to fend off all amendments. Keeping the bill “clean” would steer it away from the Senate, where Sen. Dan Patrick famously tried to have a do-over after the Senate passed the bill earlier in the session and tried to take the bill back from the House (and the House refused).

If Geren can keep the bill identical to the Senate’s version, it would go straight to Gov. Rick Perry. The House must pass the measure on third reading today. Then the attention shifts to Perry, who’s been close with Sullivan. We could soon find out exactly how much pull Sullivan has with the governor.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The House approved the Michael Morton Act and a companion bill aimed at reducing wrongful convictions and holding prosecutors accountable for misconduct. The package was backed by Morton, who spent 25 years in prison wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. The Tribune‘s Brandi Grissom has more.

2. Budget conferees agreed yesterday to restore funding for CPRIT, the troubled cancer-fighting agency, which has proved that in Texas even cancer research isn’t immune from cronyism. The Statesman has the story (you need a subscription now).

3. Speaking of the budget conference committee, the Tribune reports that conferees could include a rider in the budget that would lay out a framework for Medicaid expansion.

Line of the Day:

“I think that’s what the problem is when you’ve got people running around giving millions of dollars, spending millions of dollars and keeping their contributors a secret.” —Rep. Charlie Geren during yesterday’s debate on SB 346 that would force political nonprofits to disclose major donors.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The House will vote on several high-profile bills on third reading, including the Michael Morton Act to prevent wrongful convictions and SB 346, MQS’s favorite transparency bill.

2. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will hear HB 166, which would establish the Tim Cole Exoneration Review Committee to investigate wrongful convictions.

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