Hot List: Day 130 of the Legislature

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The Lead:

Just 10 days remain in the legislative session, and negotiations over the budget—the one bill the Lege has to pass—seem at a critical point.

The negotiations unexpectedly imploded yesterday due to sudden pressure from Gov. Rick Perry over disagreements on $700 million for schools. Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said Democrats were united in supporting a budget agreement in which $2.5 of general revenue went to schools and as would $1.4 billion in new property taxes.

Democrats had even resigned to accept that Republicans would divert $500 million previously dedicated to schools for other needs. But Perry said that deal still left too much being spent on schools, Turner said, though Perry later deflected blame. Two meetings on the budget were also cancelled.

But after more late-night meetings on Thursday, a budget deal may again be close. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told the AP that a budget agreement between House and Senate negotiators could be reached today. The AP reports the deal would bump new money for education back up to about $4 billion. That’s still short of restoring the $5.4 billion the Lege cut from schools in 2011, but it’s more money for schools than Perry was advocating. Stay tuned.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The House passed a bill that will raise the cap on the number of charter schools from 215 to 275 in 2019, the Observer’s Patrick Michels writes.

2. Perry signed the Michael Morton Act that will make all evidence accessible to defense attorneys in order to avoid gross injustices like the 25 years Michael Morton served in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, as the Observer’s Olivia Messer reports.

3. The Observer‘s Emily Mathis examines why the proposal to implement term limits for statewide officials failed in the House on Wednesday. Many House members didn’t want to cross governor-for-life Rick Perry, who had made no secret of his opposition to the term-limit proposal.

Line of the Day:

““There’s just a sense that these things are being handed out relatively willy-nilly because the school districts don’t have to pay the costs. There hasn’t been any apparent close oversight coming out of the comptroller’s office on these projects.” —Texans for Public Justice Research Director Andrew Wheat on tax breaks approved by the comptroller’s office.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The House Appropriations committee is supposed to meet at 8 a.m. to consider SJR 1, a vehicle that would devote rainy day fund money for water and transportation projects.

2. The House is dealing with an omnibus bill, SB 1458, that would rework benefits under the Teacher Retirement System. The bill currently includes a provision to raise the retirement age for full pension to 62.

3. A Senate bill authorizing the new combined university in South Texas will be up today in the House.

4. The House will also hear Senate Bill 198, which would prevent HOAs from restricting use of Xeriscaping or drought-resistant plants, which some geniuses at HOAs across Texas have tried to do.