Hot List: Day 28 of the Legislature

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The Lead:

The Texas House is ready to roll up its collective sleeves and get to work at long last. Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) released the House committee assignments on Thursday before noon, just in time for a lunch break and adjournment for the weekend. We’ll be keeping an eye on a few newly created House committees: the Committee on Criminal Procedure Reform and the Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations. With House committees beginning to meet this week, the pace of work at the Capitol will pick up.

Weekend Headlines:

1. The Observer’s Liz Farmer reports that Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), at a press conference on Thursday, pushed for a bill that would reorganize Texas’ high school graduation tracks to allow for more career and technical education. Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) will draft similar legislation in the House.

2. Gov. Rick Perry addressed the State Board of Education on Friday, the Texas Tribune reports. He touted the creation of more charter schools and support for Sen. Patrick’s legislation (see above). No pressure guys, Perry said, “You are dealing with the two things most precious to people: their children and their money.”

Line of the Day:

“Once [students] fail that first STAAR test they get frustrated and begin dropping out. … I think it’s very important that there are some choices, and it’s equally as important that those choices have the same rigor and same academic challenges.” —Rep. Joe Deshotel

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The House Appropriations Committee will meet today for the first time, beginning at 9 a.m. sharp to consider the state budget. The committee must first deal with a supplemental spending bill for the current 2012-2013 fiscal year, including more than $4 billion in Medicaid IOUs leftover from 2011, and also address the 2014-15 House budget recommendations, including whether to restore any funding to public schools.

2. The Senate Finance Committee is still working its way through its budget hearings. The committee is scheduled this morning to hear testimony on the judiciary, and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, TxDOT, and the Workforce Commission, among others.

3. Today is the last day of the school-finance trial in state district court. Attorneys for the state and the many school districts suing for a better education system will present closing arguments this morning. State district Judge John Dietz may issue a ruling this afternoon. Whatever the ruling, the case will ultimately end up before the Texas Supreme Court.