Lege Notes

• Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn has had her spats with other state officials, but this week it went beyond a mere potshot at Gov. Rick Perry's leadership. Instead, Strayhorn dropped a bombshell Tuesday by announcing that the revenue driver for HB 3 fell $2.3 billion short of the money needed to provide promised tax relief. Such a pronouncement, unexpected and with no real notice, sent shock waves through the GOP leadership of the House. At a hastily called news conference the same day, Speaker of the House Rep. Tom Craddick and Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, who sponsored HB 3, denounced Strayhorn's tactics, saying she had signed off on the viability of the bill and the neutrality of the amendments. "Signing off" obviously is in the eyes of the beholder. Strayhorn used her own news conference to say that Craddick told her that her help was not needed to balance the numbers on HB 3 over the long weekend when the bill was being reworked, so she offered only a cursory "okay" on the bill's components. Craddick and Keffer say the House stands behind the bill, as passed, which may become a moot point if the Senate comes up with a stronger revenue alternative. – Kimberly Reeves

• Religious leaders showed up at the Capitol on Tuesday to elbow legislators to take action on legislation that would ban last-minute candidate attack ads paid for with secret corporate or union money. "These anonymous attack ads poison our democracy," said Phil Strickland of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission. "Voters have a right to know the individuals funding sleazy ads." The group joined members of the Texas Catholic Conference and Texas Impact in calling on the House Elections Committee to hold hearings on HB 1348, which would ban the secretly funded attack ads within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary. – Amy Smith

• Seeking to take politics – that is, conservative ideology – out of women's health care issues, some 30 House members have organized a Women's Health Caucus to serve as a watchdog over policy actions at the state level. Caucus co-chairs, Reps. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, and Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, announced the formation of the group at a press conference Wednesday. They said the caucus would operate on three guiding principles: individual responsibility, access to health care, and access to services related to sexual and domestic violence. "This is about education – not just women's health, but the family as a whole," Thompson said. Topping the agenda thus far is Thompson's HB 1485 – calling for health coverage for annual human papillomavirus and cervical cancer screenings – and HB 1486, which would create a cervical cancer task force. Caucus vice-chair Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, said the group grew out of an idea to have a single, unified voice representing women's health issues. "Ideology should not drive health care policy," she said. "Women's health should never be politicized." Caucus officers include Reps. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, secretary, and Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, treasurer. – Amy Smith

• Gov. Rick Perry's Texas Enterprise Fund, a $300 million slush fund created on the backs of poor people in 2003, could get reined in this session with fewer dollars and tighter controls. The day after the Senate Finance Committee approved a $139 million budget, putting more money into social services and less into Perry's business development pot, a House committee considered a bill that would shed more light on how the fund is used to lure companies to Texas. In testimony Tuesday, Don Baylor, an analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, suggested adding some accountability measures to the program, such as requiring employers to pay at least the minimum wage, to provide periodic wage data to the state, and to offer some form of health insurance plan for employees. He also suggested earmarking some of the fund's dollars for state and local workforce development needs, and posting funding contracts online for public viewing. – Amy Smith

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