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Hot List: Day 66 of the Legislature

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All those early morning Senate Finance Committee sessions on the budget have paid off. The committee passed Senate Bill 1 on to the full Senate yesterday, approving the $195.5 billion budget that will undo some of the 82nd session’s monumental cuts. The Texas Tribune reports that public schools would receive $1.4 billion more under the plan. Senators also allocated more money for mental health, higher ed and Child Protective Services. The infamous Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) was left out of the Senate’s funding plan, and a few criminal justice facilities would be shut down to save money. In all, the Senate plan adds $6.7 billion (or 7.7 percent of general revenue funds) to the meager spending levels from 2011.

The committee did tack on a “rider,” to SB 1, as Quorum Report notes, that included a broad list of thresholds that must be met before the state could take part in any Medicaid deal under Obamacare. But at least the Lege is closer to finishing its only constitutionally required task each session: figuring out the biennial state budget.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The House Federalism and Fiscal Responsibility Committee heard testimony on a slew of pro-Second Amendment, anti-federal gun control bills. It was quite the show.

2. A highly contentious bill that would mandate drug-testing for unemployment benefits got thrown around in the Senate Economic Development Committee. The Dallas Morning News has the details.

3. Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) said a bill heard Wednesday requiring state officials to report out-of-state travel expenses to the Texas Ethics Commission was not directed at Gov. Rick Perry, as the Houston Chronicle reported. Riiiiiight.

Line of the Day:

“I say the Second Amendment is in order of importance, the first amendment. It is America’s First Freedom, the one right that protects all of the others. Among freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, of assembly, of redress of grievances, it is the first among equals. It alone offers the absolute capacity to live without fear. The right to keep and bear arms is the one right that allows ‘rights’ to exist.” —Michelle Prescott testifying at yesterday’s anti-gun control hearing.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. It’s a usual exciting Thursday at the Capitol today: the Senate is taking a another long break, and the House will hear congratulatory resolutions.The House Appropriations Committee continues to deliberate on its version of the budget.

2. The action today will be in the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, which will hear several “campus carry” bills that would allow faculty, students and staff to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. The committee will also hear a bill authorizing school employees to carry guns in public schools and a few bills on drawing blood at DWI roadside (and boat-side) stops.

3. House Natural Resources will hear HB 4, a bill that would establish a special Water Implementation fund that could be used to finance water conservation, water reuse or water education.