• Texas took its first baby steps toward regional mass transit earlier this month with Senate passage of Sen. John Carona's Senate Bill 1570, authorizing the Texas Transportation Commission to begin studying and hopefully building a statewide high-speed rail system. The bill is now in House Transportation.
• Austin Rep. Donna Howard's House Bill 772, requiring video webcasts of State Board of Education meetings, has passed the Senate and now heads to the governor's desk. It would be pretty tough for even Rick Perry to veto a basic open-government move like this one.
• Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio (and Austin), secured passage of his bill requiring first-time driver's license applicants ages 18-20 to complete a drivers education course. The bill now goes to the House.
• Lawmakers are still waiting for the final version of the state budget to come back to the floor from conference committee. Meanwhile, Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, has removed his rider which prevented any state cash from going to stem-cell research.
• The House has passed HB 2962, raising Children's Health Insurance Program buy-in from 300% to 400% of the federal poverty level and dismantling many of the enrollment restrictions passed in 2003.
• Smoking ban up in flames: SB 544, which would ban smoking in enclosed public places, workplaces, and the seated parts of a sports venue, is stuck on the Senate intent calendar and appears doomed for lack of votes.
• After suffering a heart attack last week outside the House chamber, Rep. Ed Kuempel, R-Seguin, is recovering well and is breathing on his own.
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