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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.

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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.

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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.

Governor Abbott Signs ‘Sermon Safeguard’ Measure into Law

A bill that would provide sermon safeguards for Texas preachers is now law.

 

During a church service in Houston on Sunday, Governor Greg Abbott ceremoniously signed the Sermon Protection Act.
The measure would prohibit a governmental entity from issuing a subpoena for a religious sermon, and compelling a pastor or religious leader to testify regarding their sermon.
It goes into effect immediately.
Both Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick were in Houston Sunday morning. They each gave brief sermons to the congregation of Grace Woodlands Church, before signing the legislation.

 

“Texas law now will be your strength and your sword and your shield,” Abbott told the congregation.

 

A ceremonial signing in Houston is symbolic for Abbott. In 2014, five local pastors in the city were subpoenaed by then-Houston Mayor Annise Parker, after they led an opposition to the city’s now defunct anti-discrimination ordinance — HERO.

 

Abbott, who was Attorney General at the time, said the move was a direct assault on the First Amendment.
Parker eventually dropped the subpoenas and in 2015, Houston voters approved repealing the city’s equal rights ordinance.

Posted by Jill Ament

@JillianAment

 

Watch Capital Tonight weeknights at 7pm on Spectrum News.

Texas Lawmakers Reach Budget Compromise

After months of back and forth and private meetings over how best to craft a state budget for the next two years, Texas budget negotiators have reached a compromise.

 

“We have reached consensus on an appropriations plan that prioritizes education, addresses our transportation needs, helps our most vulnerable children, continues our advances in mental health and makes sure we have secure borders and safe communities,” Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said.

 

One of the biggest sticking points has 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. The ten member committee tasked with merging the two chambers’ ideas decided 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 budget adheres to the principles of fiscal responsibility that drive our economic success. It puts Texans first and keeps our state moving in the right direction.” Sen. Nelson added.

 

Budget negotiators decided to maintain border security funding at $800 million.

 

On education, it appears public schools will get about a $530 million boost. That’s well below the $1.9 billion the House wanted to infuse in public education.

 

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.

 

The compromise budget will still need to be approved by both chambers before it heads to the governor’s desk.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

 

Watch Capital Tonight weeknights at 7pm.

Poll: More Texans Disapprove of Trump than Approve

President Donald Trump’s approval rating is underwater in Texas. That’s according to a new poll released today by the nonprofit leadership group, Texas Lyceum. Of the 1000 surveyed, 54 percent say they disapprove of the job Trump is doing as President compared to 42 percent who approve.

 

But the results vary significantly by party, with 85 percent of Republicans giving the President positive marks. Eighty-six percent of Democrats don’t like Trump’s job performance.

 

The poll also looked at the 2018 elections. But it shows most people aren’t yet paying attention to the matchup between Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Congressman Beto O’Rourke.

The two are tied at 30 percent support, with 37 percent saying they have not thought about the race.

 

“We’re just kind of taking an early look and seeing what the floor is for all these candidates — and it’s pretty even at this point,” Joshua Blank, Texas Lyceum Research Director, said.

 

Another possible challenger to Cruz, Congressman Joaquin Castro, fares slightly better, with 35 percent of Texas adults saying they support him over Cruz at 31 percent.

 

Click here to check out the full results of day one and two of the Texas Lyceum 2017 poll.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

Poll: Majority of Texans Think Immigration Helps More than Hurts US

A majority of Texans, 62 percent, believe immigration helps the country more than it hurts it. That’s according to a new poll released Tuesday by the Texas Lyceum, a nonprofit leadership group. It’s the organization’s first deep dive into the issue of immigration in its 11-year polling history.

The poll also found the younger the respondent, the more positively they view immigration.

“Across a couple of different areas in this poll we found, the younger cohort, for lack of a better term, as having a little bit more liberal attitude on immigration, which makes sense in Texas where that younger age group is much more diverse than the older Texans,” Joshua Blank, Texas Lyceum Research Director, said.

The poll of 1000 Texans was conducted April 3rd through April 9th and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

It also focused on President Donald Trump’s border wall and found that most Texas adults (61 percent) continue to oppose it.

The group also looked at where Texans stand on “sanctuary city” policies, when local police or other local authorities do not automatically report undocumented immigrants to federal officials. The issue has been a big debate among lawmakers at the Texas Capitol this session.

Forty-nine percent of respondents were opposed to sanctuary cities, while 45 percent expressed support.

But more than 90 percent of Texans believe local police should be allowed to check immigration status when a person is arrested for a crime. That suggests more Texans would support a bill the House is currently considering, which limits asking about immigration status to people that have already been arrested.  The Senate has passed legislation that would allow local police to ask about immigration status if a person is either arrested or detained.

Click here to check out the full results of the Texas Lyceum Poll.

And tune to Capital Tonight at 7 for a break down of the poll with Joshua Blank.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

Texas House Approves $218 Billion Budget after 15-hour Debate

The Texas House has approved a $218 billion state budget that includes tapping the Rainy Day Fund and nixing state money for vouchers. The vote to pass the budget came about 1:30am. Lawmakers approved it 131-16. The House must now work with the Senate to negotiate their many differences.

WATCH what happened while you were sleeping – House Approves Budget.

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Update 11:30pm:

An attempt to end in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students was defeated in the Texas House late Thursday.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, offered an amendment to prevent Texas colleges and universities from offering in-state tuition rates to unauthorized students. But Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, raised an objection and the House parliamentarian eventually decided Stickland’s measure went against the rules.

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Update 6:36pm:

A debate over a controversial abortion-related amendment passed the House 93-52 during Thursday’s budget debate. The added measure means $20 million will be taken from the state’s environmental agency to be funneled to an “Alternative to Abortion” program that counsels low-income, pregnant women. Republicans argued the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had received extra funding it wouldn’t miss.

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Update 4:40pm:

House Democrats unsuccessfully tried to take dollars earmarked for the state’s $800 million border security operation and put it toward other programs they say are underfunded. The state’s budget shortfall has left lawmakers proposing cuts to colleges and Medicaid, but Republicans have largely untouched the costly operation for hundreds of state troopers on the Texas-Mexico border.

At the beginning of the session, many Republican lawmakers said they would consider pulling back that funding if President Donald Trump made good on his promise to secure the border. But without consistent action, state lawmakers say they will continue to keep state operations in place.

A prolonged oil slump and decisions made last session have left lawmakers with less money to spend in the new budget.

(the AP contributed to this update)

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Update 2:17pm:

House lawmakers have voted to restore some funding to a Medicaid program providing therapy for disabled children. Last session, lawmakers cut $350 million from the program, sparking outrage among parents whose children receive the services.

Thursday, House members got the extra funding by taking $43 million from the controversial Texas Enterprise Fund. That’s overseen by the governor and used to attract job-creating firms to the state. The approved amendment would divide the fund’s money between Child Protective Services and foster care funding and the therapy program for disabled children. The funding could still be removed as lawmakers continue to hash out the budget between both chambers.

But the move to strip the money from the Enterprise Fund ignited a clash in the chamber. Tea party members, who have also been against the Enterprise Fund, were critical of the way the amendment was passed. It was done so without a roll call vote

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, took to the microphone to criticize the body over what he called deceptive parliamentary maneuvers. He said lawmakers were using “sneaky” moves to avoid difficult votes.

“The people back home…have a right and an expectation to know where every single one of us stand on every single issue,” Rep. Stickland said.

 

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EARLIER:

Texas House lawmakers have begun what’s historically been a marathon budget debate that lasts into the wee hours of the next morning. The budget bill is the only piece of legislation lawmakers must pass each session. The Senate unanimously approved its version last month. House members are now taking up a $218 billion, two-year budget.

 

One key issue in Thursday’s debate is whether to tap the state’s rainy day fund. Lawmakers have less money this session, so the House budget uses $2.5 billion from the more than $10 billion reserve. Chief House budget writer, Chairman John Zerwas R-Richmond, has said he’s confident he has the vote of two-thirds of legislators needed to tap into the fund.

 

More than 400 amendments have been filed to try to tweak the budget. Several have already stirred controversy during Thursday’s debate.

 

The House overwhelmingly voted to ban the state from spending money on so-called “school choice” programs that allow public money to be spent on private school tuition. While it’s been a top priority of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, the House has been less enthusiastic. The 103-44 vote Thursday was significant because it showed where the lower chamber stands on the likelihood of the state adopting a voucher system.

 

Other amendments being debated include several targeting the transgender community, border wall funding and even a state travel ban to California.

 

*This post will be updated throughout the day.

 

Tune to Capital Tonight at 7pm for the latest on the budget debate, plus analysis from Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Ted Delisi and former lawmaker Sherri Greenberg.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling