Patrick Michels

Hot List: Day 113 of the Legislature


The Lead:

You know the session has gotten serious when the first major bill dies in the House on a point of order.

That’s what happened yesterday, when a major water bill that would have directed $2 billion from the rainy day fund to pay for water infrastructure projects was stopped on point of order, or procedural error, after hours of debate. As the Observer’s Forrest Wilder reports, House Democrats banded together to kill House Bill 11 with a point of order, “only because their demands to put more into Texas’ schools, and fully undo the cuts from 2011, were going unheeded.”

Last session saw $5.4 billion in cuts to public education, and Democrats saw this as their last point of leverage as a way to push for more funds for public education.

On the other side of the water debate, according to the Quorum Report (subscribers only), Gov. Rick Perry went against the Texas Public Policy Foundation—a conservative think-tank and Perry’s traditional ally—in a press conference earlier in the day to advocate using the rainy day fund to pay for the water plan.

How the House will get the water plan funded is somewhat hazy now, but the bill has a small chance to pass on to the Senate if it reaches a vote before the upcoming deadline for the House to pass House bills.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee heard a bill, dubbed the “Michael Morton Act,” that would require Texas prosecutors to provide evidence to defense lawyers in criminal cases and could prevent wrongful convictions, The Texas Tribune reports. Morton spent almost 25 years behind bars after being falsely convicted of his wife’s murder in the 1980s.

2. The Austin American-Statesman reports that the House approved a bill Monday that would eliminate standardized writing tests for  fourth and seventh grades and would trim down testing in all grades. It was a voice vote, and there was no opposition.

Line of the Day:

“Here was their argument. They said: ‘Listen, before you did this, the politics of it were great. The Democrats were the bad guys. The Republicans were the good guys. Now we all look like a bunch of squishes.’ Well, there is an alternative. You could just not be a bunch of squishes.” —U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in a video calling out Republican colleagues for joining Democrats to filibuster gun-control legislation in the U.S. Senate.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The House will hear a sunset bill that will reinstate, for 12 more years, the Texas Commission on the Arts. The commission manages grants to Texas nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, designates cultural areas and promotes tourism.

2. The Senate Education Committee will hear a bill that would create a pilot program in the Dallas Independent School District that graduates students in three years straight into a career-preparatory program, part of a larger K-12 movement to eliminate the “four by four”—four mandated years of math and science courses—and allow for more students to filter directly into the workforce instead of taking the college path.

3. Senate Education Committee will also hear a bill that would—in light of the school finance lawsuits against the state’s unfair public ed funding system—create a report to evaluate the current funding system and how the Texas Education Agency weights each student’s needs.