Senate Bill 51 would make any entity, including hospitals, vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits if they mandate vaccinations for all employees.  As Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican Texas leaders wage a war against vaccination mandates meant to curb COVID-19, a state Senate committee on Thursday advanced legislation that would make any entity, including hospitals, vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits if they mandated vaccinations for all employees.  The Senate State Affairs Committee’s vote 5-1 to advance Senate Bill 51 comes over the objections of medical and business advocacy groups, who pushed back against the legislation. They warned lawmakers of its risks to small businesses, workplaces that rely on federal funding and immunocompromised Texans. view article arw

Two proposed amendments — one regarding religious services and another related to nursing home visitors — stem from restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Early voting begins Oct. 18.  Texas voters can soon weigh in on potential changes to the state’s Constitution regarding religious services, eligibility requirements for judges, county infrastructure and more.  Election day is Nov. 2, and early voting begins Oct. 18 and lasts until Oct. 29.  The proposed additions to the Texas Constitution were passed as bills during this year’s legislative session, and a majority of voters in the state must approve each amendment before it can be officially added to the Constitution. In 2017, Texas voters approved all seven amendments on the ballot; in 2019, voters greenlit nine out of 10 proposed changes. view article arw

Under House Bill 25, K-12 student athletes would be prohibited from competing on school sports teams aligned with their gender identity. The bill will now head to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.   The Texas House approved legislation on Thursday that would restrict transgender student athlete participation in school sports, clearing a notable hurdle for supporters of the measure after similar legislation sailed through the Senate and stalled in the House three times prior this year.  House Bill 25, authored by state Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, passed with a 76-54 vote. Before Thursday’s vote, House Speaker Dade Phelan signaled that the House would have enough votes to pass the restrictive sports legislation. The bill will now head to the Senate, where it is expected to pass. view article arw

AUSTIN, TX — On Nov. 2, Texans will see eight state propositions on their ballot. Voters can either vote for or against each proposition, which are proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution that originated in the state Legislature.  To make sure you are prepared at the polls, we broke down what each proposition means and what it would do if they passed.    (12) view article arw

This week, the Texas Legislature is meeting to discuss everything from redistricting to electricity and the grid. We've only got a few more weeks left in this special session, hopefully we will get everything done! Here are five things happening around your state: view article arw

After high-profile clashes with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a fellow Republican, Seliger suspects members of his own party are trying to oust him.  Heading into election season, Amarillo state Sen. Kel Seliger says he feels like members of his own party might be using redistricting to oust him after years of tension with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a fellow Republican.  Seliger is deciding whether he will even run for reelection, but if he does, he is now staring down perhaps his toughest primary yet.  He has received two primary challengers, including Kevin Sparks, a Midland oilman who previously served on the board of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Austin-based conservative think tank. Meanwhile, Seliger’s district was redrawn by his Republican colleagues in the Senate in a way that he says is designed to hobble a potential reelection bid. view article arw

The draft, which will need a stamp of approval from the full chamber before it can head to the Senate for consideration, is likely to continue to change before the Legislature sends it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for a signature.  A Texas House committee on Tuesday voted out a revised draft to redraw the lower chamber’s districts, which will give Republicans stronger positioning in the House of the Legislature for the next decade. The committee vote puts the proposal on track to hit the House floor for debate in the coming days. House Bill 1 by state Rep. Todd Hunter, the Corpus Christi Republican who chairs the House Redistricting Committee, was changed by lawmakers on the committee during a marathon 16-hour hearing that began Monday morning before it was approved Tuesday along a party line vote.    (06) view article arw

Taxpayers are in for a surprise when the bill comes due for vouchers. Instead of the $140,000 budgeted for 2022, current projected spending is $6.9 million, with 800 more applications pending! Applications soared after Americans For Prosperity [the Charles Koch organization view article arw

With proposed maps out, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, says he might switch to a neighboring district where U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, is retiring. The initial maps are also sure to impact decisions in regional legislative races.  The initial redistricting maps released this week are raising fresh questions about Texas Republicans’ hopes of flipping seats in South Texas.  After President Joe Biden underperformed there last year, national and state Republicans charged into the 2022 election cycle determined to show they can make inroads in the predominantly Hispanic region. Speaking Thursday in Austin, Gov. Greg Abbott predicted “a very red future for the border communities in the state of Texas.”  While the proposed maps hold some good news for Republicans targeting South Texas, they also introduced a number of uncertainties.    (04) view article arw

U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green — both Houston Democrats — testified Monday at the Texas Capitol against proposed district maps that would break up communities of Black voters and pit the two incumbents against each other.  “It doesn’t look right for the only two persons in the state of Texas to be running against each other in a congressional district from the same party to be of African ancestry,” Green said at a hearing of the the Texas Senate Special Committee on Redistricting.  Green and Jackson Lee are two out of five Black members of Texas’ 36-person congressional delegation, but in the proposed redrawing of the districts, Lee is drawn out of her own district and looped into Green’s. view article arw

Democrats criticized Republicans for “targeting” a North Texas district that had been trending Democratic and for not drawing any new districts where people of color would represent a majority of eligible voters.  The Texas Senate has approved a new political map for its own members that would entrench Republican dominance in the chamber for the next 10 years, even as Democrats argued the changes do not reflect the interests of people of color in the state who have fueled Texas' growth over the last decade.  The proposal, put forth by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, was approved late Monday by a vote of 20-11 and would draw safe districts for GOP incumbents who were facing competitive races as their districts diversified in recent years and started voting for more Democrats.  Sixteen Republican incumbents would be drawn into safe districts for reelection, while two Senate seats being vacated by Republicans would almost certainly go to new GOP candidates over Democrats next year based on the percentage of voters in the district who voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden in last year's presidential race.      (05) view article arw

Teresa Botello is co-captain of the pep squad at O’Connor High School in Helotes. If she’s delayed getting to school because the bus is late, a recurring problem these days, practice gets off to a rocky start. “It is just not worth it on the days that we know she has to be there early,” said her mother, Janeth Botello. “We end up making arrangements and dropping her off.” view article arw

Monday, October 4 is the last day to register to vote in the November 2 constitutional amendment election in Texas, in which voters across the state of Texas will have the opportunity to vote on eight proposed constitutional amendments. Meanwhile voters living in New Caney ISD will vote to fill three seats on the board of trustees.   To be eligible to register to vote a person must be a United States citizen who will be at least 18 years old on election day. Many convicted felons are ineligible to vote, although some felons who have completed their sentence, probation and parole may be able to register, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s election office. view article arw

The Texas Legislature is in the midst of its third special session, which is dedicated to redrawing political maps based on the latest census data that showed people of color fueled 95% of Texas’ population growth over the past decade.  Texas House members on Thursday released the first proposal for a new map redrawing the chamber's 150-member districts. The initial draft would both increase Republicans' strength across the state and the number of districts in which white residents make up a majority of eligible voters.  House Bill 1, authored by Corpus Christi Rep. Todd Hunter, the GOP chair of the House Redistricting Committee, is just the first draft, and it will likely change as it makes its way through the legislative process before it’s signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. view article arw

While Texas's booming metros will have more people representing them, that’s not the case in more rural parts of the state. Ralls resident Angela Arthur may only live 30 minutes away from Lubbock, but she told lawmakers at a recent Texas House redistricting committee hearing that the communities could not be more different. “We have no major businesses outside of the local co-op,” Arthur said. “Our churches, schools and hospitals just struggle to stay open.” The population in Crosby County, where Arthur lives, dropped more than 15% since the last U.S. Census in 2010. Today, just over 5,100 people call the county home. That kind of decline in population can be seen in small communities across Texas. During her testimony, Arthur pleaded with elected officials to keep rural counties with common interests together while they redraw political district maps during the third special legislative session. She worries that merging her agricultural community with more urban ones will affect the quality of representation she and her neighbors get at state and federal levels of government.    (01) view article arw

Adam Foltz, now on the Texas payroll, played a key role in Wisconsin's redistricting last decade. A federal court threw out some of the maps and called the effort Foltz was involved in "an all but shameful attempt to hide the redistricting process from public scrutiny."  A Republican redistricting operative whose clandestine work helped drag Wisconsin into a legal morass last decade appears to now be on the payroll of the Texas Legislature as lawmakers work to redraw maps that will determine the distribution of political power for years to come. view article arw

The initial drafts of both maps have so far attempted to strengthen Republican majorities by protecting incumbents and creating more GOP-friendly districts.  A panel of lawmakers on Tuesday advanced draft maps of the Texas Senate and State Board of Education, sending both to the full upper chamber for further debate.  The maps, both authored by state Sen. Joan Huffman, a Houston Republican who leads the Senate Special Redistricting Committee, will likely see further changes before the Legislature sends them to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for the signature. The initial drafts of both maps have so far attempted to strengthen Republican majorities by protecting incumbents and creating more GOP-friendly districts.  Senate Bill 4, the draft of the Senate’s 31-district map, was tweaked by lawmakers before the chamber’s redistricting committee approved it along a 12-2 vote. view article arw

The Texas Senate has passed a bill restricting transgender youth from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity four separate times in 2021.  Karen Krajcer and Linzy Foster are two friends familiar with the hallways of the Texas Capitol.  During this year’s regular legislative session and two subsequent special sessions that followed, the two mothers have shown up with a handful of other parents to advocate for their children who have been caught in the crosshairs of a slew of bills that target young transgender Texans. Now, with the Legislature’s third special session underway, the two friends are enduring another round of visits and demonstrations as legislators again debate a top Republican legislative priority: restricting transgender youth from playing on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. view article arw

The Killeen Independent School District school board reviewed the requirements and challenges associated with offering a virtual learning platform Tuesday night.  During Tuesday’s regularly scheduled board meeting, KISD’s Chief Learning Officer for Secondary Schools Susan Buckley provided an overview of Senate Bill 15, which funds remote, virtual instruction for public school districts. view article arw

On Monday, Texas lawmakers gave a first glimpse at what the state’s new congressional districts may look like. The redrawn map was highly anticipated given that Texas gained two additional congressional seats — the most of any state — during the reapportionment process and because Republicans are fully in control of the state’s redistricting process. Yet the new map, if passed, would not substantially alter the topline partisan breakdown of Texas’s seats. It appears that Republican mapmakers prioritized defending the GOP’s current seat advantage over trying to significantly expand it. view article arw

Texas lawmakers on Monday released their first draft of a new congressional map for the next decade that includes two new districts in Austin and Houston — metropolitan areas with diverse populations which fueled much of the state's population growth over the past 10 years.  Republicans constructed this map with incumbent protection in mind — a strategy that focused on bolstering Republican seats that Democrats targeted over the last two election cycles rather than aggressively adding new seats that could flip from blue to red. However, the map does in fact strengthen Republican positioning overall going from 22 to 25 districts that voted for Donald Trump in 2020. The number of districts that voted for Joe Biden would shrink by one, from 14 to 13. view article arw

The proposed congressional map also increases the number of districts where Trump would have had a majority of voters over Biden in 2020 and protects Republican incumbents who might have been vulnerable by packing their districts with more Trump voters.  Texas lawmakers on Monday released their first draft of a new congressional map that would largely protect incumbents while reducing the number of districts in which Black and Hispanic residents make up the majority of eligible voters. The map reduces the number of districts dominated by people of color even though Texas gained two additional congressional seats and the population of Asian, Black and Hispanic Texans outpaced white Texans over the last decade. view article arw

Texas lawmakers on Monday released their first draft of a new congressional map for the next decade that includes two new districts in Austin and Houston — metropolitan areas with diverse populations which fueled much of the state's population growth over the past 10 years. While many incumbents appear safe in these maps, others were drawn into districts that overlap with one another — for example the proposed map pits Houston Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw against Democrat Rep. Sylvia Garcia. It also pits two Houston Democrats — Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee — against one another. The maps were proposed by State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, who leads the chamber's redistricting committee. view article arw

The first week of the third special session this year is nearly over, and so far, lawmakers have not yet passed any bills related to one of the biggest reasons the session was called: redistricting. While lawmakers are working on redrawing our state’s maps behind closed doors, they were also able to pass several of the governor’s other agenda items this week in the Senate. view article arw

There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and the Texas secretary of state who oversaw the 2020 election and was appointed by the Republican governor declared the election “smooth and secure.”  Former President Donald Trump has asked Gov. Greg Abbott to add an election audit bill to this year’s third special session, continuing his push to cast doubts on the election results of the 2020 presidential election despite winning in Texas.  In a letter published Thursday, Trump said, “Texans have big questions about the November 2020 Elections,” and time is running out to conduct an audit of the “2020 Presidential Election Scam” because paper ballots are kept for only 22 months after an election.  “Governor Abbott, we need a ‘Forensic Audit of the 2020 Election’ added to the call,” Trump wrote. “We’re quickly running out of time and it must be done this week.”  There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and the Texas secretary of state who oversaw the 2020 election and was appointed by the Republican governor declared the election “smooth and secure.” view article arw

Abbott has faced pressure from his right to prioritize property tax relief. One of his challengers in the Republican primary has slammed him for not including it earlier in the agenda, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called it his top priority this session.  Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday added property tax relief and a constitutional amendment addressing bail changes to the third special session of the year.  "These two additional agenda items are crucial to improving the quality of life for all Texans," Abbott said in a statement. "I look forward to working with my partners in the Legislature to pass these additional items that will lower property taxes and keep Texans safe." view article arw

State Rep. Chris Paddie, a Marshall Republican who chairs the powerful House State Affairs Committee, said Wednesday he will not seek another term in the lower chamber. The news comes less than a month after Paddie, who has represented House District 9 since 2013, announced he would run for reelection. In a statement, Paddie said that as the Legislature undergoes the redistricting process, he had "decided that the timing is right to spend more time with my family and allow my East Texas colleagues to spend time fighting for our values instead of having to make some of the tough choices required." "Serving in the Legislature is not a career, but a way to serve your neighbors," Paddie said. "I remain fully committed to advocating for good public policy and will continue do so in non-elected avenues of public service." view article arw

The Texas Senate distributed the first of its proposed redistricting maps Saturday and Monday, kicking off the once-a-decade process of redrawing the state’s political maps as the Legislature convened in Austin for another special session.  The Republican-controlled Senate is suggesting new district lines for its 31 members, alongside a proposed map for the 15-member State Board of Education. Both proposals drew immediate criticism from Democrats and civil rights advocates who say they are calculated to cement GOP majorities in a state that has become bluer and more competitive in recent years — even at the cost of disenfranchising the people of color who drove Texas’ population surge. view article arw

A Texas governor’s power to call a special legislative session includes setting its agenda. That list of issues tells legislators and the rest of us what the governor thinks is important enough to demand extra time from lawmakers. The state’s troubled foster care system (and the well-documented dangers it poses for foster children in Texas) isn’t on the list, despite persistent problems. Persistent, in this case, means problems that have festered for so long there is no longer any excuse for ignorance of them. Those persistent problems have been getting regular and noisy attention from U.S. District Judge Janis Jack, who signaled her frustration and a change in tactics after cutting a hearing short on Tuesday. “All I want us to do is get together and find solutions,” Jack said. “I’m not interested in sanctions or putting feet to the fire anymore. I just want these children to be safe.”    (20) view article arw

SB 1 Introduced

September 2105:00 AM

S.B. 1 will provide additional school maintenance and operation (M&O) tax rate compression for the 2022-2023 school year of at least $2 billion. Each billion dollars of compression lowers school M&O tax rates by 3.3 pennies. All property owners in Texas would see a reduction of their ISD tax rate by at least 6.6 pennies. The owner of a home with a taxable value of $300,000 would save $200 on their tax bill.    (21) view article arw

On top of redistricting, Abbott wants lawmakers to take up bills on restrictions for transgender student athletes and the allocation of billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds.  Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday announced a third special legislative session that will begin on Sept. 20 and tackle redistricting, restrictions on transgender student athletes and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  "The Texas Legislature now has the opportunity to redraw legislative and congressional districts in accordance with the new census numbers," Abbott said in a statement. "In addition to redistricting, there are still issues remaining that are critical to building a stronger and brighter future for all Texans."  Lawmakers, who will meet in Austin for the fourth time this year, will also be tasked with allocating $16 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds and with deciding whether state or local governments can mandate COVID-19 vaccines. view article arw

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As the 2021-22 school year continues throughout the state of Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed legislation giving the chance for districts around the state the opportunity to reimplement the virtual learning option for some students.  According to the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) website, Senate Bill 15 gives districts the opportunity to receive funding for students who participate in virtual or remote learning through Sept. 1, 2023. This instruction can be delivered in a synchronous fashion, an asynchronous fashion or a combination of the two, for those in grades Kindergarten through 12th.  view article arw

The headline under the Education section of the September 18-19, 2021 issue of The Huntsville Item read, “ Huntsville ISD fails to adopt mask mandate.” In this writer’s opinion , the headline should have read,” Huntsville ISD fails to protect our students and staff.” It is mind boggling to understand why the proposed mandates presented by a well-respected practicing physician, Dr. Karin Olson-Williams, were not accepted, supported by the superintendent and approved by a unanimous vote of the trustees. It appears as though the superintendent is bent on following the nonsensical orders from the governor of Texas, who has availed himself of the finest COVID-19 treatments, while ordering that our students, who are too young to be vaccinated not be protected by the wearing of a face mask. The governor’s orders are supported by an attorney general who has been indicted on criminal charges. view article arw

In theory, the 2021 cycle of redistricting is about revising district boundaries to evenly distribute Texas’ fast-growing population and ensure voters have fair representation. But with the mapmaking in the hands of politicians, and their individual electoral survival at stake, redistricting has also become an exercise in political rigging. That exercise will formally begin Monday, when the Legislature convenes for a special legislative session to redraw the state’s maps for Congress, the Texas House and Senate and the State Board of Education to account for a decade’s worth of growth recorded in the 2020 census. The process will play out in backroom map drafting and public hearings and debates over maps meant to go into effect for the 2022 election. view article arw