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In a marathon session that stretched into this morning, Texas Democrats filed a slew of amendments to strip a voting bill of its key components — but couldn't stop Republicans from passing the legislation critics have denounced as voter suppression. The bill is one of Republicans' top priorities this year, as lawmakers aim to implement a slew of voting restrictions that have been popping up in GOP legislatures across the nation. view article arw

The Republican-led effort to allow Texans to carry handguns without any kind of license cleared what is likely its biggest remaining hurdle in the Capitol on Wednesday, when the Texas Senate moved in a nail-biter vote to bring the measure to the floor and then passed it. The measure – already passed by the Texas House – heads to a conference committee for the two chambers to hash out their differences, unless the House accepts the Senate amendments. Then, the bill heads to Gov. Greg Abbott, who said last week he would sign the permitless carry bill into law. view article arw

The House voted 81-64 to advance a pared down version of priority GOP legislation. Lawmakers huddled off the chamber’s floor throughout the night to cut a deal and again rework Senate Bill 7 through a flurry of amendments. As opposition to Texas Republicans’ proposed voting restrictions continues to intensify, state lawmakers’ deliberations over the GOP priority legislation could soon go behind closed doors.  The House early Friday voted 81-64 to advance a pared down version of Senate Bill 7, leaving out various far-reaching voting restrictions that have prompted widespread outcry from voting rights advocates, advocates for people with disabilities, and local officials in the state’s biggest counties. The legislation still contains some provisions opposed by those groups — including a prohibition on counties sending unsolicited applications to vote by mail.  Facing more than 130 proposed amendments from Democrats late Thursday — and a procedural challenge that could have delayed the entire bill’s consideration — lawmakers huddled off the chamber’s floor throughout the night to cut a deal and rework SB 7 through a flurry of amendments passed without objection from either party. view article arw

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - The Texas High School Coaches Association is hoping for the state legislature to once again strike down a bill that would allow for home school students to participate in events, both academic and athletic, sponsored by the University Interscholastic League. Representative James Frank of Wichita Falls will have House Bill 547 voted on Wednesday in Austin. view article arw

You may not know this, but Texas has a history of abolishing its property tax. The state comptroller said that for the first 100 years after independence, a state property tax provided up to 50% to 75% of all tax receipts. But Texas dumped its state property tax in 1982. Nearly 40 years later, an East Texas lawmaker wants to do it again. State Rep. James White (R-District 19) wants to replace the property tax with a consumption tax. He's proposed the change in House Bill 59. view article arw

From 2010 to 2020, the population of Texas grew by more than 4.5 million people, making our state the second-most populous and fastest growing state in the country. Our cities are growing at an incredible rate. Because of this, many people often overlook the importance of rural Texas to our state. Many see a divide between urban and rural Texas, with the two having vastly different and conflicting interests. However, I believe that as rural Texas goes, so goes all of Texas. Let me explain. view article arw

Two bills that were advanced by the Texas Legislature this week attempt to protect the state’s oil and gas industry from efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The House on Tuesday gave its final approval to Senate Bill 13, which would require state entities — including state pension funds and Texas’ massive K-12 school endowment — to divest from companies that cut ties with or “boycott” fossil fuel companies. The legislation bites back at some Wall Street investors that have pulled financial support for the oil industry in an effort to curb carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. “Oil and gas is the lifeblood of the Texas economy,” state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said on the House floor Monday. “In the world of capital, there’s a movement to deny funds to businesses that will not sign on to extreme anti-fossil fuel policy.” view article arw

In the latest episode of our podcast about the Texas Legislature, Evan Smith talks to LaTonya Goffney, the superintendent of Aldine Independent School District, about public education’s disrupted year — pivoting online, learning loss, budget woes, and what it will take to put the whole thing back together by this fall. view article arw

State Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, on Monday apologized to his colleagues in the Texas Legislature, his family and those involved in a late April car crash that led to his arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. “My name is Dan and I’m an alcoholic,” Huberty said in an emotional speech from the House floor. He said Monday he began seeking treatment immediately after the incident and acknowledged that he has struggled with alcoholism throughout his adult life. To a standing ovation from his colleagues in the lower chamber, Huberty added that he has completed three of the 12 steps of recovery.    (04) view article arw

On some of the major issues facing the Texas Legislature — police behavior, expanding Medicaid or allowing unlicensed carry of handguns — voters and lawmakers aren't always in sync.  That said, few Texans are paying close attention to their lawmakers in Austin. Only 10% said they’re following the Legislature “extremely” closely, while 40% said they were watching “somewhat” closely. The other half? Not very closely, 33%, and not at all closely, 17%.    (03) view article arw

After an early misfire, House Republicans on Thursday succeeded in pushing their proposed restrictions on voting to the legislative forefront as the Texas Legislature’s 2021 session enters its final sprint.  The House Elections Committee’s Republican majority voted to gut Senate Bill 7, the priority voting bill that has already passed the Senate, and replace the bill’s language with that of House Bill 6, a significantly different voting bill favored by House leadership. That maneuvering will put the Senate on the defensive to resurrect its legislation and likely tee up end-of-session tension between the two chambers over competing visions for which proposed restrictions ultimately make it to the governor’s desk.    (03) view article arw

The legislation would prevent discrimination on the basis of hair texture or protective hairstyle associated with race.  AUSTIN, Texas — There's a movement across the U.S. to ban hair discrimination through the passage of The CROWN Act (The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act) legislation. And state lawmakers and supporters kicked off Texas CROWN Act Day on April 27.  Texas Rep. Rhetta Andrews Bowers, Rep. Ron Reynolds and other supporters spoke to the public amid the 87th Texas legislative session to push for the CROWN Act, which would prevent discrimination on the basis of hair texture or protective hairstyle associated with race.  view article arw

Texas will have 38 congressional seats as a result of the latest U.S. census. It's one of six states to gain seats, and it's the only state that will get more than one.  Texas will continue to see its political clout grow as it gains two additional congressional seats — the most of any state in the nation — following the 2020 census, the U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday.  Thanks to its fast-growing population — largely due to an increase in residents of color, particularly Hispanics — the state’s share of votes in the U.S. House of Representatives will increase to 38 for the next decade. The new counts reflect a decade of population growth since the last census, which determines how many congressional seats are assigned to each state. Texas is one of six states gaining representation after the census. The other five states are each gaining one seat. view article arw

The numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week showed the top line — that Texas has grown to 29,145,505. That’s enough to know how many seats Texas will have in the Congress that gets sworn in at the beginning of 2023, but not enough to know what its U.S. House districts will look like. Redrawing political maps to fit government to the population every 10 years is a swirl of tedium, ambition, power and law. It comes with a slew of public hearings and debates, on one hand, and countless backroom and private negotiations on the other. It starts with census numbers — that happened this week — zips through the Texas Legislature, and then ends up in the courts, where the litigation never seems to end. view article arw

Texas is on the brink of becoming the latest state to pass a law or implement executive orders this year that limit the abilities of transgender youth. Some of the measures are focused on youth sports and some are focused on those under 18 receiving medical treatment. On Tuesday, the Texas Senate gave initial approval to SB1646, which would ban people under 18 from receiving gender-affirming medical care. The Texas measure would also allow Child Protective Services to remove a child from a home if the child receives gender-affirming care. view article arw

SB 1365 Senate Committee Report

April 2808:40 AM
 

In 2015, the 84th Legislature passed H.B. 1842 to establish a turnaround model for low-performing public schools while providing school districts flexibility to address issues leading to low performance. Specifically, H.B. 1842 created a five-year timeline, with increasing interventions for school districts with low-performing campuses. Years three and five are pivotal points in the system: view article arw

Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday he would sign legislation allowing Texans to carry handguns in public without a license, breaking his silence on a proposal that has been building unprecedented momentum in the Texas Legislature. "I support it, and I believe it should reach my desk, and we should have 'constitutional carry' in Texas," Abbott told North Texas radio host Rick Roberts. As recently as a week ago, Abbott had declined to say whether he supported such a proposal, which the House passed earlier this month. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said the Senate does not have the votes for the legislation, but he is trying to find a way to move it through the process. view article arw

Instead of suspending students for minor disciplinary infractions, the state's second-largest school district plans to set up in-school options by harnessing technologies that became common educational tools during the pandemic.   Aiming to upend policies that have disproportionately punished Black students, the Dallas Independent School District is moving to rewrite its school disciplinary code, ending suspensions for low-level infractions like disrupting class or using profanity.  Instead of kicking students out of school, the district plans to use digital tools that have become part of school life during the pandemic to create in-school “reset centers” where students can Zoom into classes and access mental health professionals and teletherapy.  If approved by the Dallas school board as expected, the new policies in Texas’ second-largest school district would be unprecedented in the state and among the most progressive discipline reforms in the country, education experts said.    (27) view article arw

When Speaker Dade Phelan called the Texas House to order Monday, he declared that the Capitol community had been shaken to its core by the allegation that a lobbyist used a date rape drug on a legislative staffer. “I am disgusted that this sort of predatory behavior is still taking place in and around our Capitol,” Phelan said in a short speech, two days after news of the allegation had come to light. For many watching though, “still” was the operative word.    (27) view article arw

The Texas Legislature is considering bills that would ban homeless encampments statewide, almost two years after the city of Austin decided to lift a similar local ban — a move that critics say triggered the proliferation of tent cities throughout Austin.  If lawmakers approve the legislation and Gov. Greg Abbott signs it into law, it would become the latest instance of the Republican-led state government overruling local ordinances. State lawmakers also are trying to stop cities from decreasing police funding after the “defund the police” movement sparked by last year’s national protests against police brutality.    (27) view article arw

House members filed nearly 240 proposed tweaks to the massive spending plan and spent hours taking votes on controversial issues ranging from Medicaid expansion to school vouchers.  The Texas House on Thursday night unanimously passed its proposed two-year, $246 billion state budget after members spent hours deliberating which tweaks to make to the massive spending plan.  The House’s proposed budget includes measures that would ban school vouchers, empty the governor's economic development fund and cap some attorney general spending. But such amendments are not guaranteed to remain in the final spending plan. The proposal now heads back to the Senate, where the legislation will all but certainly then head to a conference committee for the two chambers to hash out their differences before it can be sent to the governor’s desk.    (23) view article arw

The first week of early voting is in the books and voters will have until Tuesday to cast their ballots before Election Day on Saturday, May 1. As of Friday evening, a total of 4,622 votes have been cast in elections for the city of San Juan, and the McAllen, Sharyland and Progreso school districts, according to the Hidalgo County Elections Department, which is administering the elections. There were 4,527 in-person ballots cast at the six early voting locations throughout the week. view article arw

A local news outlet reported that Montgomery County Precinct 4 constables responded to an accident in Porter Friday night, and arrived to find a Corvette “parked under a minivan.”    State Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, was arrested in Montgomery County after crashing his Corvette into a minivan and failing a sobriety test Friday night, according to the Montgomery County Police Reporter, which posted a video of the arrest to YouTube.     (26) view article arw

The Texas Legislature has declined to pass any broad expansion of state and federal health care coverage for uninsured Texans since the Affordable Care Act of 2010 required states to expand Medicaid — a provision later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Texas House rejected an attempt Thursday to direct the governor and state health officials to use billions in federal dollars to expand health care coverage for uninsured Texans, including working poor who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford their own health insurance.  On a vote of 80-68, lawmakers voted down the proposal, which was floated as a two-page amendment to the state budget Thursday.  The debate, which was highly anticipated by advocates of expanding coverage for uninsured Texans, was expected to be heated and drawn out. It lasted less than 20 minutes.    (23) view article arw

A Senate committee passed the House’s major school finance reform bill, after adding a controversial provision subsidizing private school tuition for special needs students — a move unlikely to go over well in the House. The Senate Education Committee Thursday passed the House’s major school finance reform bill, after adding a controversial provision subsidizing private school tuition for special needs students — a move unlikely to go over well in the House.  After a few hours of public testimony on the Senate's version of House Bill 21, the panel voted 7-1 to adopt the bill. The committee’s chairman, and sponsor of the measure, Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said the Senate version would cost much less than the House version    (23) view article arw

AUSTIN, TX— Today, House Bill 129, by Rep. Mary González relating to digital citizenship instruction in public schools passed out of the Texas House of Representatives. "Today marks a step toward healing the terrible wounds El Paso suffered from the August 3, 2019 Cielo Vista Walmart massacre. I filed H.B. 129 in remembrance of the lives lost and the damage to our community as a result of that horrible act. view article arw

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would restrict state agencies from sharing salary data and other typically public information about government employees with the public in a bill that experts say is overly broad.  Senate Bill 16, filed by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, would require an individual’s written consent for a state agency to share their personal information. The bill has been declared a priority by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. His office did not respond to a request for comment. It’s coauthored by 29 out of 31 members of the Senate, suggesting it has widespread bipartisan support.    (20) view article arw

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Senate approved a bill Thursday that would ban transgender students from competing on their public school’s sports teams that correspond to their gender identity. Sixteen Republican lawmakers wrote Senate Bill 29, which states a student cannot participate in an athletic activity “that is designated for the biological sex opposite to the student’s biological sex as determined at the student’s birth and correctly stated on the student’s official birth certificate.” The bill would also require students to show their original, unchanged birth certificate to prove their “biological sex.” view article arw

LONGVIEW, Texas (KETK) – A six-foot-tall three legged stool is now inside Longview High School’s Mickey Melton Center. It has a simple message: fund Texas education. The giant wooden stool was at the state capitol in Austin and is now touring the state. Each leg symbolizes funding needed for schools. As of now, Texas has only secured two funding legs out of three, as billions of federal stimulus dollars intended to provide pandemic relief to our state’s public schools have not yet been committed to our schools. view article arw

LONGVIEW, TX — Beginning at 11:30 a.m. Monday, April 19th, a six-foot-tall, three-legged stool will be displayed inside Longview High School’s Mickey Melton Center, with a simple message: Fund Texas Education.  The district will host a press conference with Raise Your Hand Texas, a public education advocacy organization that wants to remind legislators to ensure public schools receive the support they need throughout the pandemic by supporting all three legs of the school funding stool.   If you would like to set up coverage or an interview with LISD staff about this story please contact Mr. Francisco Rojas at frojas@lisd.org or call 903-381-2220.    (16) read more arw

A proposed bill in the Texas House could “decimate” city and county budgets across the state and is threatening economic development projects, according to area officials. Those projects at risk include a planned Gap Inc. distribution center in Longview that would generate millions of dollars in sales tax revenue. House Bill 4072 would change how online sales taxes are paid — the city in which an item is delivered would receive the revenue instead of the city where the item is made and shipped. It’s a matter of sales tax being paid to destination cities instead of cities from which products originate. view article arw

House Bill 1927 would nix the requirement for Texas residents to obtain a license to carry handguns if they’re not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a gun. Texans under current state law must generally be licensed to carry handguns, either openly or concealed.  The Texas House on Thursday gave an initial OK to a bill that would allow handguns to be carried without a permit, marking a win for gun rights activists who have for years pushed the measure at the Legislature but a blow to El Paso Democrats who have been fighting for gun safety measures since the 2019 massacre in their hometown.    (16) view article arw

The proposal would prohibit students from participating in a sport “that is designated for the biological sex opposite to the student’s biological sex as determined at the student’s birth.”Transgender students would be banned from competing on school sports teams based on their gender identity under a bill that received initial approval by the Texas Senate on Wednesday. Despite immense opposition from civil rights groups and Democrats, the upper chamber voted on a party-line, 18-13 vote to advance Senate Bill 29. The measure needs one more vote before it’s sent to the Texas House. The proposal would prohibit students from participating in a sport “that is designated for the biological sex opposite to the student’s biological sex as determined at the student’s birth.” Students would be required to prove their “biological sex” by showing their original, unamended birth certificates.    (16) view article arw

Lawmakers have only six weeks left on their calendar, and most of the big things they set out to do aren’t finished. A session that started very quietly will end with a sprint.  This legislative session began quietly in January, during the state’s worst peak of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus. With just six weeks left of the 140-day regular session, and the pandemic down to a pre-surge level, the pace is quickening.  Legislators are still working on the big problems that were apparent at the beginning — pandemic, voting and election laws, policing and the state budget among them. And they’ve added the disastrous electrical outages during a five-day February freeze that killed more than 200 Texans.    (19) view article arw

Maya Stanton says she used to think God put her in the wrong body. Now the 10-year-old transgender girl is telling Texas lawmakers she believes it happened so she could educate them about “diversity, tolerance and how people can be different.” Maya and her mother, Lisa, say the slate of anti-trans bills under consideration at the Capitol this session could force them to move out of state, including one measure that could deem Lisa a child abuser for affirming her daughter’s gender identity. Listen in the weekend edition of The Brief podcast. view article arw