Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


Bathroom Bill:

It’s considered the most controversial item on the special session agenda, and today, the Texas Senate has been debating the so-called “bathroom bill” for hours. The measure would limit where transgender people can use the restroom in the state. 

Democrats tried to derail the bill before debate even began. Sen. Kirk Watson. D-Austin, raised a point of order, arguing the bill isn’t relevant to the special session call. That’s because this version of the bathroom bill has a provision keeping gender separation in sports. 

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick eventually overturned the point of order, which was upheld by a Senate vote, and debate on the bill carried on. 

Many of the arguments today are similar to the ones discussed during the regular session. Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and other supporters say it’s meant to protect against voyeurism and sexual predators — ensuring people use the restroom on their birth certificate. 

“it is about the privacy and protection of our small children and our young girls and women,” Kolkhorst said during debate.

But opponents say it could lead to violence against transgender people and could “out” transgender school children.

“We are proposing a measure here that would allow schools to cause bullying,” Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said.  

The issue has brought hundreds to the Capitol to speak out against it. Today that growing group included police officers. Hear why many law enforcement officials say this bill won’t make Texans safer tonight at 7.


House Passes Sunset Bill:

The Texas House has given final approval to an agency oversight bill that forced lawmakers into overtime. It extends the lives of the Texas Medical Board and other agencies that were set to expire in September if lawmakers didn’t act.

The Senate quickly passed its own version during a late-night session last week.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick let the typically routine bill die during the regular session in order to force the governor to call lawmakers back to tackle a host of conservative priorities.


Medicaid Therapy Rate Cuts:

A House panel voted unanimously today to restore funding to the Medicaid therapy rate cuts that went into effect in December. In 2015, lawmakers voted to slash $350 million to Medicaid children’s therapy services. House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, vowed to restore the cuts during the regular session but efforts with the Senate failed. Lawmakers decided to mostly maintain the cuts.

So, House members have revived the debate and are trying to reverse the cuts yet again. It’s a long shot, since it’s not on Gov. Greg Abbott’s 20-item special session agenda.

Still, parents of affected children are hopeful. Hear from them at 7pm.


School Finance:

A plan to pump nearly two billion dollars into Texas public schools has been approved by a House panel. A big part of the bill would increase per-student funding by about $200. That would help reduce recapture payments that property-wealthy school districts pay to the state – to be redistributed to property poor ones. House members tried to pass a similar measure in the regular session — but the proposal died after the Senate tacked on a voucher amendment to the bill.

At 7, House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty joins us to discuss the legislation, the House’s continued opposition to vouchers and what he thinks will actually pass this special session.


Repealing Obamacare:

Sen. John McCain got a standing ovation before casting a key health care vote. He voted to move ahead on repealing the Obama health law.

McCain’s battling brain cancer and returned to the Capitol for the first time since his diagnosis.

Our Washington reporter will have the latest on the health care vote and what comes next.


Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling