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Hot List: Day 128 of the Legislature

by Published on
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.