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Hot List: Day 98 of Legislature

by Published on
Texas State Capitol in Austin, Tex.
Patrick Michels

The Lead

The top campaign donor in Texas, Bob Perry, passed away late Saturday night at his Nassau Bay home near Houston. The Houston Chronicle has a story about his significant impact on Texas politics. Perry, a wealthy homebuilder, gave tens of millions mostly to Republicans, and bent public policy in Texas toward his conservative worldview. He donated heavily to Governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry, as well as millions to PACs and other Republican candidates across the country. He famously bankrolled the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign that damaged John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid. In 2003, he prodded the Legislature to create his own state agency—the Texas Residential Construction Commission—that served the interests of the homebuilding industry, until public backlash forced lawmakers to abolish it.  That was the kind of influence Bob Perry had. He was 80 years old.

Meanwhile, at the Capitol, the session is speeding up with just over a month until the finale. The budget is headed to conference committee where lawmakers will iron out differences between the House and Senate versions. Rep. Jim Pitts, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said a supplemental education spending bill is on the way.

Weekend Headlines:

1. Gov. Rick Perry proposed dedicating growth in motor-vehicle sale revenue to improving roads. This would be on top of using the rainy day fund, halting diversions from the dedicated transportation fund and utilizing low interest rates to make financing easier, as the Quorum Report writes.

2. The Senate has passed a bill to help South Texas hospitals get hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds for indigent healthcare, the Rio Grande Guardian reports.

Line of the Day:

“They have the audacity to act as though they’re underpaid. They’re enriching themselves by having their living expenses paid for ad infinitum,” —Dave Palmer, a California based campaign finance watchdog, told the Texas Tribune about Texas legislators.

What We’re Watching Today:

1.  The Senate State Affairs Committee will hear a constitutional amendment, SJR 4, by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) on religious liberty. The amendment would bar government from infringing on a person or group acting (or not acting) out of religious faith. Seems harmless, but it could impact all kinds of policy, including this.

2. The Texas Legislative Study Group will release Texas on the Brink, a report that ranks Texas compared to other states. A sampling: Texas ranks first for the highest percentage of uninsured people and 50th in the percentage of students graduating from high school. Yikes.

3. If you’re in Austin, the whole Texas Observer bunch will be talking politics at tonight’s Mid-Session Review at MonkeyWrench Books.