10 Things to Know about the Texas Legislature
AUSTIN, Texas - Say so long to the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature. If you didn't follow along the last 140 days, this is what you missed:
1. YOU'LL DECIDE IF TEXAS STARTS A NEW $2 BILLION WATER PLAN
Lawmakers set aside the money to get drought-parched Texas through the next 50 years with enough water. But if voters don't ratify a November ballot measure to create a new water fund, those dollars go unspent and a signature issue of the session goes down in defeat.
2. FAR FEWER STANDARDIZED TESTS FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
They'll only take five to graduate instead of 15. An overhaul of curriculum requirements will also let some students receive a diploma without taking Algebra II.
3. HISTORIC CLASSROOM SPENDING CUTS MOSTLY RESTORED
Public schools won back $4 billion stripped during a 2011 budget crunch. Far more than most expected, but critics grumble it only gets per-student spending back to the same level as four years ago.
4. FAR-RIGHT CONSERVATIVES LEAVING UNHAPPY
They didn't get tougher abortion restrictions and blasted GOP budget-writers for spending too much. The biggest political drama wasn't Republicans vs. Democrats, but restless conservatives unhappy with party leaders who controlled the checkbook and the bill pipeline.
5. DEMOCRATS CAN CLAIM VICTORY -- FOR NOW
They made restoring school spending their No. 1 goal and succeeded. But the minority party stands to get steamrolled if GOP Gov. Rick Perry orders a special summer and revives failed conservative touchstones.
6. SECOND CHANCE FOR TROUBLED $3 BILLION CANCER-FIGHTING AGENCY
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas will go on, fully funded, despite an ongoing criminal investigation into how the agency spent taxpayer dollars. But everyone on its 11-person governing board is ousted.
7. MORE SPENDING TO EASE CONGESTED HIGHWAYS A DEAD END
Expensive plans to ramp up road construction proved a bridge too far. A big bipartisan appetite for more transportation projects wasn't bigger than the stomach to pay for it.
8. POWER STRUGGLE AT UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS CONTINUES
The Senate confirmed Perry's three appointments to the University of Texas System regents, including a Texas A&M graduate, no less. But it came with a warning that firing popular Austin campus president Bill Powers would make sure "all hell would break loose."
9. TRANSPARENCY PUSH WINDS UP IN THE DARK
Lawmakers formed a new committee on transparency to prove they were serious about open government. But all that talk amounted to no major changes, and Perry has already vetoed a bill that would have required politically active nonprofits to disclose donors.
10. PERRY DIDN'T GET TAX CUT DEMANDS AND STAYED MUM ON FUTURE
Perry wanted $1.8 billion in tax cuts, but lawmakers met him only part of the way. Some want him to call a special 30-day session packed with a conservative agenda, but the real question for Perry now is whether his political future includes another run for governor in 2014 -- or maybe another presidential bid.
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