Hot List: Day 3 of the Legislature

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The Lead:

Should be a quiet day at the Capitol. The Senate has adjourned till Monday. The House plans to convene at 10 a.m., though without rules passed or committees assigned, House members can’t do all that much. The Lege has a habit of starting the session slowly, and today is exhibit A.

Some lawmakers will no doubt be attending the second day of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s conference a few blocks from the Capitol in downtown Austin. The conservative think-tank, once a political outlier, now hosts a conference that signals the direction of public policy in the state.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The Senate took all of 30 seconds to approve its rules with little debate yesterday. OK, it wasn’t that fast; it only felt that fast. Seriously, when does the Senate ever move that quickly? Of course, the major point of dispute, the Senate’s two-thirds rule, was already settled. The two-thirds rule, which requires a two-thirds vote before the body can debate a bill, survived the latest attempt by conservatives to do away with it. That preserves some power for Senate Democrats and other small factions—like, say, rural Republicans opposed to school vouchers. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told the Observer’s Olivia Messer and Liz Farmer that the Senate benefits from the rule because it forces senators to work together.

2. Dewhurst also said, in a later interview with the Texas Tribune, that lawmakers should set aside money for education in casecourts rule against the state in the ongoing school finance lawsuit, which probably won’t be resolved till after the session. A large number of school districts are suing the state over what they see as a flawed system for funding schools. As for restoring funding for schools during the session—and undoing some of the $5.4 billion cuts from 2011—Dewhurst told the Observer, “my advice to people is don’t get greedy.” So basically, don’t expect much to change unless the Lege is under a court order.

3. The big three: Perry, Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus held their start-of-session joint presser yesterday. Perry again endorsed using the state’s budget surplus for tax cuts, though as the Houston Chronicle notes, he’s short on details.

Line of the Day:

“I think under any scenario over the last decade, [funding for public schools] has been pretty phenomenal.” —Gov. Perry speaking at yesterday’s joint press conference about the state’s funding for education, which was cut by $5.4 billion in 2011.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The TPPF conference. Gov. Perry will speak at the conference this morning, and the rest of the schedule is a who’s who of Texas politics. Today’s schedule includes policy panels on health care, education and criminal justice. Tomorrow, on the conference’s final day, Newt Gingrich will make an appearance or three.

2. Did we mention the Lege starts slowly?

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.