Archive for May, 2017

Lawmakers Clash as SB4 Protesters Descend on Capitol

Protesters from across the state came to the Texas Capitol Monday opposing a tough new immigration law that seeks to ban sanctuary cities in the state. They crowded into the Capitol and disrupted House proceedings to the point state troopers had to clear the public gallery.

 

During debate on the House floor the group dropped a sign reading “See you in court.”

 

Opponents call Texas’ anti-sanctuary cities law a “show me your papers” measure. Immigrants from Arizona and elsewhere also showed up urging grassroots resistance against the law, which is similar to a 2010 Arizona law that lets police inquire about a person’s immigration status even during routine interactions such as traffic stops.

 

Governor Abbott signed the measure into law earlier this month. Supporters say it’s about protecting Texans and enforcing the rule of law.

 

Even after police peacefully cleared the House gallery, tensions among lawmakers brewed. Several Democratic House members said Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, told a group of Hispanic lawmakers that he had called ICE on the protesters.

 

Rinaldi and Democrats then got in each other’s faces and had to be separated.

 

Rep. Rinaldi released the following statement:

“Today, Representative Poncho Nevarez threatened my life on the House floor after I called ICE on several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery which said ‘I am illegal and here to stay.’ Several Democrats encouraged the protestors to disobey law enforcement. When I told the Democrats I called ICE, Representative Ramon Romero physically assaulted me, and other Democrats were held back by colleagues. During that time Poncho told me that he would ‘get me on the way to my car.’ He later approached me and reiterated that ‘I had to leave at some point, and he would get me.’ I made it clear that if he attempted to, in his words, ‘get me,’ I would shoot him in self defense. I am currently under DPS protection. Several of my colleagues heard the threats made and witnessed Ramon assaulting me.”

 

This is a developing story.

 

Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm for the latest on the SB4 protest and the final day of the 85th Legislative Session.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

 

Abbott Says He’ll Decide on Special Session “Later this Week”

Governor Abbott has promised to make an announcement “later this week” on whether he will call a special session.

Monday is the last day of the regular session, but lawmakers are still in disagreement on property taxes and a so-called “bathroom bill” that would regulate which restroom transgender Texans can use.

Both are priorities of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick — and Abbott has also said he wants them passed.

Legislators have also not approved a so-called sunset bill needed to keep several state agencies open.

Abbott annouced his plans about the special session while signing HB 100 into law on Monday morning. The new law gives the state the ability to regulate ridehailing apps, like Uber and Lyft.

Senate Dismisses House “Sunset” Fix, Says Special Session Needed

UPDATE:

After Texas House members accused the Senate of “purposeful inaction,” Lt. Governor Dan Patrick shot back Sunday afternoon insisting the “Sunset” issue can only be resolved in a special session.

 

Patrick said the House didn’t complete its work, blaming Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, for acting slowly on legislation that is needed to keep five state agencies running, including the board that licenses the state’s doctors.

 

“They waited to do their entire session of work in the last 20 some days of session,” Patrick said.

 

Vice Chair of the Sunset Commission, Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, added the fix the House sent the Senate doesn’t work. He said the House’s version does not include 28 chapters of state licensing law that will also expire in September.

 

“Without these boards and without these statutes, you’re not going to have a doctor in the State of Texas,” Taylor said.

 

 

Patrick said the issue could be handled in two or three days in a special session.

 

 

EARLIER:

With the clock quickly ticking down to the end of the 85th Legislative Session, tensions between both chambers are at an all time high.

 

Texas House members Sunday called on the Senate to end the standoff over bathrooms and property taxes and pass a bill that would keep five state agencies from closing.

 

“The House has done its job on all matters sunset related,” Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, said. “It is the purposeful inaction by the Texas Senate that puts us where we are today.”

 

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has threatened to block a “Sunset bill” needed to avoid five agencies from expiring under the state’s Sunset Commission review process. By doing so, Patrick could force lawmakers into a special session even though the Governor is the only one with the power to call lawmakers back. Patrick wants the House to approve his top priorities dealing with bathroom regulations and property tax reform.

 

Governor Greg Abbott wants those measures approved, too, but has also said lawmakers can accomplish all of their work on time.

 

One of the agencies that would close if the Sunset bill does not pass is the Texas Medical Board, which licenses doctors.

 

“It is the Texas Senate who is playing games with the health and safety of the people of Texas,” Gonzales said.

 

This is a developing story. Lt. Governor Patrick is expected to respond at 4pm.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

 

Texas Lawmakers Approve $217 Billion Budget

Texas lawmakers gave overwhelming approval to a two-year state budget Saturday.

 

The $217 billion spending package is the only must-pass measure before the Legislature adjourns Monday.

 

One of the biggest sticking points had been whether to tap into the state’s savings account to help fill a $2.5 billion budget gap – or – delay dollars from the state’s highway fund. Lawmakers agreed to do both, using about $1 billion from the Rainy Day Fund and another $1.8 billion from an accounting trick related to transportation funding approved in 2015.

 

“This is a responsible budget that meets our essential needs,” Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound said. “It continues the policies of fiscal restraint that have shaped our success, and it positions Texas for a bright future.”

 

The budget maintains border security funding at $800 million. It also boosts funding for the state’s troubled child welfare system providing an additional $508 million for child protection.

 

“We started with a sizable shortfall, but we are ending this session with a balanced budget that invests in some very important priorities,” House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said in a statement. “We’re keeping overall spending low while improving child protection and mental health care.”

 

But lawmakers put little new money into public schools.

 

Higher education also took a hit – but for now maintains a program known as special items.

 

Another highlight includes the film incentives program which lawmakers once zeroed out. The program ended up coming away with some funding for the next two years.

 

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

School Finance, “School Choice” Bill is Back

The Texas Senate on Saturday decided to give House Bill 21, the school finance and school vouchers bill, another look. Earlier this week, the legislation had been declared dead.

 

But without much discussion, Senators appointed a special committee to hash out the differences in the bill with members of the House. The House had already appointed conferees.

 

“To give us some more time to think about the loss of funding that a lot of districts are going to have if this doesn’t go through,” Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswoord said. “We’re starting to hear from some of the districts that are going to be adversely impacted by this loss of funding.”

 

HB21 originally aimed to pump $1.6 billion additional dollars into public schools. The school finance package increased annual, per-student funding as well as spending for school transportation and educating dyslexic students.

 

But the Senate reduced the plan to about half its worth and offered some special education students vouchers, which allow for using state funding to attend private schools.

 

The House on Wednesday rejected those changes and voted to convene a conference committee to seek compromise before the legislative session ends Monday. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick responded by declaring the bill dead.

 

While it’s been revived, Sen. Taylor said Saturday the odds of reaching a compromise between both chambers is still “slim.”

 

Last year, the Texas Supreme Court ruled the school finance system barely constitutional, though deeply flawed.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

Patrick, Straus Bicker Over “Bathroom Bill”

The gauntlet over bathrooms has been thrown.

After Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus announced Friday the lower chamber refused to negotiate any more on transgender bathroom legislation, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick fired back by saying a special session is imminent and blaming Straus.

Straus says the Senate can either accept the House’s compromise, which would mean requiring Texas public schools to provide single-stall bathrooms for transgender Texans , or go without any bathroom legislation.

But the Lt. Governor isn’t giving up.

In a press conference called shortly after Straus made his announcement, Patrick said Straus is going against the will of Texans and the will of the House.

Patrick says he believes House members would pass a bill with provisions limiting where transgender people can use the restroom in public buildings as well as schools.

“But Speaker Straus is apparently not concerned with what Texans think. Only with what he thinks. He says he has compromised enough. But in fact he has not compromised at all,” said Patrick.

“This is the right thing to do in order to protect our economy from billions of dollars in losses, and more importantly to protect the safety of some very vulnerable young Texans,” said Straus.

The Lt. Governor said he’ll try to force a special session over this issue, but only the governor has the power to call lawmakers back.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s office offered a statement Friday night saying:

“Despite tensions, the session is not yet over. The taxpayers deserve to have the Legislature finish their work on time. Only the Governor can determine when or if there is a special session, and if so, what issues are addressed.”

After House Says No to Vouchers, Senate Kills School Finance Bill

FROM AP:

A standoff between Texas’ Republican-majority House and Senate over a modest voucher program has killed an ambitious, bipartisan $1.6 billion school finance plan.

The House previously passed a school finance package increasing annual, per-student funding as well as spending for school transportation and educating dyslexic students.

But the Senate reduced the plan to about half its worth and offered some special education students vouchers, which allow for using state funding to attend private schools.

The House on Wednesday rejected those changes and voted to convene a conference committee to seek compromise before the legislative session ends Monday. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, responded by declaring the bill dead.

Last year, the Texas Supreme Court ruled the school finance system barely constitutional _ though deeply flawed.

—————————————————————————-

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick issued the following statement on HB21:

AUSTIN – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued the following statement today following the Texas House rejection of House Bill 21 — the $530 million school funding plan:

“I am appalled that the Texas House turned down an additional half-billion dollars for public schools simply because it included a program that might allow some disabled child somewhere in Texas to attend a private school that his parents believe would be better for him or her. The House members who voted against HB 21 ignored the needs of disabled children to take a stand against school choice, which is supported by a strong majority of Texans in every demographic group and both political parties. Instead of supporting those Texans, those House members buckled under the demands of education bureaucrats.

“Although Texas House leaders have been obstinate and closed-minded on this issue throughout this session, I was hopeful when we put this package together last week that we had found an opening that would break the logjam. I simply did not believe they would vote against both disabled children and a substantial funding increase for public schools.

“I was wrong. House Bill 21 is now dead.”

House Bill 21 contained the following components:

  • $200 million for ASATR
  • $200 million new money for the Foundation School Program
  • $100 million for fast growth schools and charter schools for facility funding.
  • The bill included Education Savings Accounts for children with disabilities.
  • Upon passage by the House, the official start date for A through F would be pushed back until 2019, making the 2018 scores another sample year.

————————————————————————–

EARLIER:

Texas House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, has rejected the Senate’s plan to scale back a proposal to pump $1.6 billion into public schools. The Senate reduced the plan to about $500 million and tacked on a voucher measure offering some special education students public money to attend private schools.

 

The House’s original plan would have been a major overhaul for the state’s school finance system, increasing annual, per-student funding and pumping more money into school transportation and educating dyslexic students.

 

On Wednesday, the House voted 134-15 to request a conference committee with the Senate to try to reach a compromise.

 

The House has repeatedly rejected vouchers. Rep. Huberty has said the standoff over school finance and vouchers could doom both this session. But in an impassioned speech on the House floor, he told his colleagues he’d continue to try to pass school finance reforms in the final few days.

 

“Members, some of your schools will be forced to close in the next year based on the committee substitute for House Bill 21,” Huberty said. “I refuse to give up. I’ll continue trying. Let’s at least attempt to rescue this bill.”

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm for more on this developing story.

@TXCapTonight

Texas Senate Tries to Revive Bathroom Bill, Rejects House Version

The battle over bathrooms continues to play out during the last few days of the 85th Legislative Session. The latest, Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said he will reject the House’s proposed compromise that requires public schools to provide single-occupancy bathrooms for transgender students.

The Senate is expected to request a special committee to work out a compromise on the House bill.

Then, around 1:30 Wednesday morning, the Senate added its stricter language of the “bathroom bill” as an amendment to another measure. That version would require transgender Texans to use the public restrooms in government buildings that correspond with their biological sex as stated on their birth certificate. The upper chamber still has to give it final approval. The rules were attached to a bill by a House Democrat who says he won’t accept the changes.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has made passing a “bathroom bill” a priority this session. He even said he would force a special session if it didn’t get passed. After the House passed its version of the bathroom legislation, Patrick said it didn’t appear to do much. Meanwhile, Governor Abbott has said he wants the two chambers to work it out and pass a bill before session ends.

The last day of the legislative session is Monday.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

We’ll have more on this developing story tonight at 7 on Capital Tonight.

Lt. Gov. Patrick Signals House Bathroom Amendment Not Enough

With the threat of a special session looming over bathrooms, the Texas House gave its final approval to a controversial measure that would regulate where transgender students can use public school restrooms.

 

House members called it a compromise to the Senate’s stricter version, which would have required transgender Texans to use bathrooms in government buildings and public schools that match their “biological sex.”

 

But limiting it to schools doesn’t seem to be enough for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. He has said he would force a special session if the House didn’t pass some version of a “bathroom bill.”

 

“In terms of privacy, I had not seen the language on the “Paddie Amendment” on Senate Bill 2078 before it was voted on last night,” Patrick said in a statement released Monday. “I also have concerns about its ambiguous language, which doesn’t appear to do much.”

 

The added language in the House bill would require K-12 schools to provide single-stall restrooms and locker rooms to a student “who does not wish” to use facilities designated by “biological sex.”

 

The measure was tacked on to legislation that outlines emergency operations and other school safety regulations.

 

The Governor is the only one who can call a special session. His office released a statement Monday evening. “Governor Abbott’s hope is that the House and the Senate will agree on a measure that, at a minimum, protects the privacy of students in locker rooms and restrooms, and he will continue to work with members of both chambers to achieve that goal,” John Wittman, Abbott’s spokesman, said.

 

Until now, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has been reluctant to have his chamber pass bathroom-related legislation. He has cited concerns of economic fallout after the business community came out against SB6.

Speaker Straus released the following statement after the passage of the House’s version on second reading Sunday:

“Representative (Chris) Paddie’s amendment will allow schools to continue to handle sensitive issues as they have been handling them. I believe this amendment will allow us to avoid the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6. Members of the House wanted to act on this issue and my philosophy as Speaker has never been to force my will on the body. Governor Abbott has said he would demand action on this in a special session, and the House decided to dispose of the issue in this way.”

 

But “disposing of the issue” in this way doesn’t appear to please Patrick.

His latest statement also signals the House didn’t go far enough on another priority he wants passed – a property tax bill.

“I share Governor Abbott’s concern about the lack of a rollback provision in Senate Bill 669 on property taxes,” Patrick said.  “There is still time for the House and Senate to address these concerns — which are both priorities for Texas voters — in a meaningful way.”

 

Speaker Straus has since responded to Patrick’s statement saying, “Now it’s really time for the Senate to take care of the many House priorities that they know they’ve been sitting. We’ll just have to see what happens.”

 

The regular legislative session ends May 29th.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

Texas House Passes Bathroom Restrictions for Transgender Students

What’s being called a “watered down” version of the so-called bathroom bill passed the Texas House Sunday night.

 

With just one week left in the legislative session, lawmakers spent about two hours debating a measure that would dictate which bathroom transgender students can use in schools across the state.
The measure was tacked on to a bill that outlines emergency operations and other school safety regulations.

 

Some Democrats questioned why transgender bathroom use was an emergency response. But some Republicans defended the bill, saying it’s about protecting all Texas students who feel different.

 

“There is absolutely no intent in this language to discriminate,” argued the amendment’s author, Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall.

“If you are a biological boy and you wish not to use the boys’ restroom for whatever reason – transgender, shy, bullied – this says they will accommodate that child.”

 

The added language would require K-12 schools to provide single-stall restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities to a student “who does not wish” to use facilities designated by “biological sex.” The measure would override existing trans-inclusive policies at some school districts across the state.
Parents of transgender kids have pushed back, saying their children don’t want to be treated differently. Many sat in the gallery Sunday night watching the debate play out on the House floor.

 

And down on the House floor, bathroom bill opponents called the amendment discriminatory.
“The national ‘bathroom bill’ debate is driven by ambitious politicians exploiting fear and misunderstanding of transgender people,” Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, said in a statement.

“There is no room for compromise when it comes to discrimination.”

 

 

The state’s upper chamber passed a stricter bathroom bill earlier in the session. It’s been a top priority of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who has threatened to force a special session if a bill regulating bathrooms and a property tax reform measure don’t get passed.

 

The House also approved a scaled back property tax bill this weekend.

 

Until now, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has been reluctant to have his chamber pass bathroom-related legislation. He has cited concerns of economic fallout after the business community came out against SB6, which would have regulated bathroom use in government buildings and public schools based on biological sex.

 

Speaker Straus released the following statement after the passage of Senate Bill 2078 on second reading:

“Representative (Chris) Paddie’s amendment will allow schools to continue to handle sensitive issues as they have been handling them. I believe this amendment will allow us to avoid the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6. Members of the House wanted to act on this issue and my philosophy as Speaker has never been to force my will on the body. Governor Abbott has said he would demand action on this in a special session, and the House decided to dispose of the issue in this way.”

 

Limiting the measure to public schools appears to be the compromise to avoid a special session.

 

But LGBT rights groups have called it discriminatory and are threatening legal action. Even before the House started debate on the compromise measure Sunday, LGBT legal advocacy group Lambda Legal said in a statement “you can bet that Lambda Legal will be on the case before the next school bell rings.”

 

 

Watch Capital Tonight weeknights at 7pm on Spectrum News.