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It's Not Over Until It's Over!

On this day — the clock on the regular session keeps ticking as both Houses have a tremendous amount that needs doing; Ross Ramsey and Patti Hart draw two different lessons from the nasty debate over payday reform; and when the clock struck midnight in the House, legislation didn’t turn into pumpkins.

Tick, Tock

With only about two weeks remaining in the regular session, the list of items that Legislative leaders have to finish doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter. The House and Senate continue to confer over the budget in an attempt to work out a deal. To make either the House or Senate budgets actually work, both bodies need to agree on a school finance bill that would slash the funding formulas, which currently obligate the state to spend much more on public schools than either budget provides. Then there’s redistricting, the House has passed its map to the Senate and the Senate has passed its map out of committee. As The Texas Tribune’s Jay Root pointed out on KXAN’s Sunday morning political talkshow, the Legislature hasn’t even gotten around to Congressional redistricting, yet. The entire segment is posted below the fold.

And now that both Rep. Jim Pitts and Sen. Steve Ogden are openly talking about the possibility of a special session, it seems ever more likely that we’re going to be spending a good bit of summer in Austin.

  • The Austin American Statesman’s Jason Embry previews what lies ahead for Legislators in the coming two weeks.

One Issue, Two Takeaways

The long and contentious debate between Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Southlake, and Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Houston, over regulating the payday loan industry in Texas provided two different “teachable” moments for two of the Capitol’s finest columnists.

The Houston Chronicle’s Patti Hart wrote in the Sunday paper that the issue highlights the natural conflicts of interest that occur with a citizen legislature.

Should we begrudge these public servants when, after all that fun, they go home to their jobs and try to earn a little money for themselves and their families?

Should it bother us if they vote on legislation that makes those jobs easier or more profitable?

That uncomfortable reality raised its head on the floor of the Texas House last week during debates on legislation to regulate the payday loan industry.

State Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, authored three bills because many consumers are trapped in a “cycle of debt” when lenders charge expensive fees for rolling over loans, and don’t permit partial payment of the principal.

State Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Houston, who operates 12 payday loan locations, fought hard against Truitt’s bills. In a speech to his House colleagues, Elkins acknowledged his personal interest. But he argued he was only offering expertise, as other lawmakers do on insurance, law or medicine.

“I hope you can give me some deference on this industry,” he said.

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