Texas Senate passes agencies bill

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ The Texas Legislature convened a special session today and immediately took steps to extend the life of several key state agencies.

The Senate quickly passed the bill extending the Department of Transportation, the Department of Insurance and three other smaller agencies until Sept. 1, 2011. The House is expected to pass the bill as early as Thursday. Those agencies were supposed to be part of the normal renew and review process under Texas law during the regular session. But they got shoved aside when partisan bickering over a voter identification bill and a standoff on transportation funding stalled bills in the final days before lawmakers left town.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry called the Legislature back to Austin to address three issues: preventing the agencies from expiring in 2010, authorizing $2 billion in bonds for road building and the transportation contracts. But there are several signs lawmakers may not be interested in Perry's desire to extend transportation officials' ability to enter new public-private contracts. Lawmakers will try to wrap up the special session before the July Fourth holiday weekend.