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From Would-be U.S. Senators to Budgetary Horror Movies

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Day Four of the 82nd Texas Legislature

Well the Legislature put in a very full three-day work week, and most of them have already fled Austin. Never fear. They’ll be back here Tuesday to party it up at the governor’s inauguration, and then kick into gear on Wednesday and Thursday—budget discussions in the state House and rules fights in the state Senate. Hopefully they’ll be well-rested. For those looking to try the legislating lifestyle, an opening’s just arrived. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced yesterday she wouldn’t be running again for U.S. Senate, kicking off a whirlwind of excitement for officials hoping to move up the ladder. Then again, she’s said she was leaving before…

1. Get in Line

If you’re out of work, or just looking for a change of pace, you might consider running for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s U.S. Senate seat. Lord knows you won’t be the only one—and heck, you probably won’t even be the least qualified. When Hutchison announced yesterday that she wouldn’t be running for a fourth term in 2012, it took all of two seconds for contenders to start lining up. The Texas Tribune even went so far as to make a handy-dandy chart of potential candidates, with a meter as to how likely they actually are to make a bid. It’s rare that offices open up in Texas—when Gov. Rick Perry first became governor, the Backstreet Boys were still popular. This is the first big chance for a variety of current elected officials to make a bid for higher office, like two railroad commissioners and a certain lieutenant governor. Whoever wins will leave their whatever office they’re currently in, opening up new space. Who says it’s hard to find job openings? [Texas Tribune]

2. Brokedown Budget

The lead-up to this year’s state budget debate has had horror-movie timing. You-can’t-believe-how-bad-this-will-be lead ups reached a crescendo earlier this week when state Comptroller Susan Combs revealed the state had only $72 billion to spend—$27 billion less than they need to maintain current services. Yesterday, House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, one of the chief authors of the budget, announced members would receive the first version of the bill early next week. This is the Freddie Kruger close-up. The first draft, written assuming no new revenue, no new taxes and no use of the $9 billion Rainy Day Fund, will be filled with drastic cuts to every part of state government. Name a horror movie that scary. [Texas Observer]

3. When Raises Were Still Popular

There was a time when increasing pay to public employees wasn’t such a bad thing. But apparently when there are threats of layoffs and furloughs, jacking up certain salaries isn’t such a good idea. Just as the Texas Youth Commission, which got slammed by lawmakers yesterday when the Statesman revealed that over the last four months, top officials got raises between 3.5 to 10 percent, bringing all the salaries over $100,000. Of course, lawmakers will have more time to criticize the commission when it comes on the floor’s Sunset bill, a bill that reviews agencies for waste and inefficiencies. The Sunset Commission already recommended TYC merge with the Juvenile Probation Commission. So all-in-all, not such a great week for these guys—luckily they can afford a weekend getaway. [Austin American-Statesman]

4. The Bodyguard(s)

Well apologies to Whitney Houston, it seems that Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus have both gotten bodyguards. Gov. Rick Perry already has his security detail. With the recent shootings in Arizona, security has loomed large in the Capitol and state lawmakers all seem eager to ramp up protection. Fair enough. Here at the List, though, we’re hoping this also means a revival of classic song. [Austin American-Statesman]

5. Flip-Flops

Indecision is always popular among politicians considering a run for office. They tell you for weeks that they haven’t decided yet, they’re still not certain of their plans, blah-blah-blah. But our state’s lieutenant governor may fall on the other side of the line. Just after Hutchison announced she would not seek a fourth term (see Item 1), Dewhurst—who was already answering questions when her announcement was made—told reporters his “plate was full.” He would talk to reporters about the open Senate seat in June or July, he said. A few hours later, a press released emerged that not only does he “fully intend to explore running” but “should I run, I will run with the intention of winning.” In case you thought he was going to run with the intention of losing. [San Antonio Express-News]