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Hot List: Day 99 of the Legislature

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Texas State Capitol in Austin, Tex.

The Lead:

It took a mere 98 days, but Gov. Rick Perry finally unveiled his proposal for a $1.6 billion business tax cut at a news conference at the Austin Chamber of Commerce yesterday.

The timing is curious. The announcement comes well after both the House and the Senate budgets have been decided, after the bill-filing deadline and with less than six weeks remaining in the session. Perry urged lawmakers to pass a tax cut back in January, but this is his first stab at a specific proposal. The timing has many criticizing the initiative as political pandering.

Whether serious proposal or political stunt, the plan would need a minor miracle to pass this late in the session.

Weekend Headlines:

1. Legislators took a stab at payday lending reform yesterday in the House Investments and Financial Services Committee. It won’t be an easy journey for those who oppose the industry,as the Dallas Morning News reports.

2. House members debating the sunset bill for the Texas Ethics Commission in committee yesterday. The bill, which emerged from the sunset review of the agency, calls for greater transparency in campaign finances. Open government advocates praised parts of the bill but argued it doesn’t go far enough to empower the now-toothless Ethics Commission to oversee campaign fund-raising and spending. The AP has more.

3. Tea partiers met at the Capitol to criticize Gov. Perry’s proposals to expand spending for transportation. There’s just no pleasing some people.

Line of the Day:

“The state of Texas gets an ‘F’ on the environmental comprehensive issues, but what that really means is, it gets an F in healthcare.” —Rep. Lon Burnam speaking on Texas’ rankings on environmental issues in the recently released “Texas on the Brink” study.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. HB 5, which would reduce the number of standardized tests high school kids must pass to graduate, is up in the Senate Education Committee this morning.

2. The sporting goods sales tax debate is up again in House Appropriations subcommittee on Budget Transparency and Reform, as are two bills that consider Medicaid expansion.

3. House members will hear a slew of environmental bills up in the Natural Resources and Environmental Regulation committees. That includes Rep. Cindy Burkett’s HB 3117, which would allow the attorney general to undercut local governments. The AG could settle lawsuits brought by local governments against polluters without the locals’ consent.

4. Legislators will hear Rep. Eric Johnson’s bill in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee that would reduce felony charges for prostitution.