Texas Legislature

Bob Daemmrich for the Texas Tribune

In what seems to be an overture to the House, Gov. Greg Abbott added two new education-related issues to his special session call Thursday: school finance reform and increased benefits for retired teachers.

*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout. 

By Aliya Swaby, The Texas Tribune

tex1sam / Flickr Creative Commons

In Texas, the special legislative session began yesterday with lawmakers returning to Austin to try to hash out various lingering issues from the contentious regular session. You might be wondering how much the 30-day special session will cost Texas taxpayers.

senate.texas.gov

A prominent Amarillo politician and state senator had some strong words regarding the special legislative session that begins today in Austin. As Amarillo.com reports, Senator Kel Seliger has called the special session an assault on the ability of local communities in Texas to govern themselves.

“There’s no other way you can look at it,” Seliger added.

Before his successful senatorial campaigns, Seliger was the mayor of Amarillo for eight years—and it’s clear that he still carries something of a mayor’s mentality toward local control.

Many of the 20 items on the special-session agenda are aimed at stifling the ability of local municipalities to decide their own tax policy or even who can use the bathrooms in their communities.

One controversial bill supported by Gov. Greg Abbott would place a limit on how much a city can raise its property taxes, even if the city itself favors the tax raise.   

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A landmark redistricting trial got underway this week in Texas, with prosecutors attesting that Republican lawmakers intentionally redrew district maps in 2013 in order to weaken the voting power of minorities in Texas, a move that would have bolstered the political heft of the GOP and led to an unfair balance of power.

Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune

An upcoming Supreme Court case involving a Colorado wedding cake shop’s refusal to serve a gay couple could have major implications in Texas.

As The Texas Tribune reports, in 2012 a baker at the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado denied service to a gay couple, citing his own religious exceptions to gay marriage. If the high court rules in favor of the baker, the decision could affect a number of recent prominent cases in Texas.

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The Texas Legislature will meet next month in a special session, and LGBT advocates are gearing up for battle once again.

As The San Antonio Current reports, champions of LGBT rights have already named the 2017 Texas legislative session “The Session of Oppression.”

The issue of vehicle inspections gained some attention earlier this year, after the Texas Senate approved a bill that would make the necessity for inspections a thing of the past.

CREATIVE COMMONS

Texas Panhandle school districts are pleading with the state for more funding.

As The Amarillo Globe News reports, a wind farm, as well as several oil and natural gas wells in Roberts County, Texas has given independent school districts in Miami and Bushland a robust tax base to draw from for paying for teachers and buildings, but the tax roll was cut in half this last year as oil and gas prices decreased and a state aid provision districts rely on to guard against economic downturns expires in September.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / Texas Tribune

After waiting almost two weeks to answer the question of whether he would call Texas lawmakers back to Austin for a special session to tackle the controversial bathroom bill, Governor Greg Abbott announced on Sunday that he would indeed call a special session.

As The Texas Tribune reports, Abbott expects Texas Legislators back in the capital in mid-July.

Jim Malewitz / Texas Tribune

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed a law that supposedly defangs the state’s controversial Voter ID law, the nation’s most stringent such law.

But, as The Texas Tribune reports, opponents of the former law aren’t backing down, saying instead that the new law does nothing to fix the old law’s discrimination—nor does it absolve Texas Republican lawmakers of their effort to disenfranchise minority voters.

Bob Daemmerich / KUT

Despite the gridlock and acrimony of the 2017 Texas legislative session, there was one group who came out as undeniable winners: the 12 member far-right contingent of the Texas House of Representatives known as the Freedom Caucus.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

A new bill passed by the Texas State Legislature aims to make it easier for the elderly to vote, reports The Texas Tribune. The measure would also theoretically prevent voter fraud in nursing homes.

The bill was backed by both parties, a rare effort that sailed through the statehouse with ease amid a legislative session otherwise marked by partisan and intraparty rancor.

NY Times

As HPPR has reported in the past, the mortality rate for new mothers in Texas has skyrocketed in recent years.

Texas now has a higher rate of pregnancy-related deaths than anywhere in the developed world.

Yet, as Jezebel noted this weekend, Texas lawmakers did virtually nothing to try to fix the problem during the legislative session that just ended.

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday called a special session of the Texas Legislature starting July 18 to work on bathrooms, abortions and school finance.

As The Texas Tribune reports, Abbott gave lawmakers a 19-item agenda to work on and called the overtime round “entirely avoidable.”

Stuart Seeger / Flickr Creative Commons

During the legislative term that concluded last week, Texas lawmakers approved a measure that would legalize certain unrecognized stem cell therapies.

As STAT.com reports, this means Texas is the first state legislature to explicitly give these experimental treatments the go-ahead.

But the deal isn’t done yet; Gov. Greg Abbott still has to sign the bill.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has postponed his announcement about whether he will call the state Legislature back for a special session, reports The Texas Tribune. The Governor had indicated that he planned to make the announcement late this week.

But now he says he’s holding off until next week.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

The regular session of the Texas Legislature has ended, but some of the high-profile bills passed into law this year will likely end up in court, reports The Texas Tribune.

Julian Aguilar / The Texas Tribune

The dust is still settling from the last official day of the Texas legislature, which was fraught with tensions and even a scuffle on the floor of the state House of Representatives.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

Among the many battles between the Texas House and Senate during the past session, one of the most acrimonious involved the Senate’s wish to slash funding for disabled children in Texas.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been a staunch supporter of cutting funding for speech, physical and occupational therapy services for kids with disabilities, calling the programs wasteful. Speaker of the House Joe Straus was hoping to restore that funding this session.

Texas Legislature passes $217 billion two-year budget

May 28, 2017
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Texas lawmakers approved a $217 billion, two-year budget Saturday.

As The Texas Tribune reports, both chambers of the Texas Legislature voted to approve the budget, which will boost funding for the state’s beleaguered child welfare agency and avoid serious reforms to the state’s much-criticized school finance system.

The budget is shored up by $1 billion from the state’s savings account and $2 billion from a pot of funding intended for highway projects.

Cassandra Pollock/Alexa Ura / Texas Tribune

Texas lawmakers finally approved a budget this weekend, but the news was overshadowed by the rancorous issue of rights for trans Texans. This session, the so-called “bathroom bill” that targets transgender citizens has dominated the headlines. As of Saturday the Legislature remains locked in a stalemate over the matter, reports The Texas Tribune.

Laura Skelding / Texas Tribune

Earlier this week we reported on how Dan Patrick, the Texas Lt. Gov., was threatening to send the state Legislature into a special session if the state House of Representatives didn’t approve the so-called “bathroom” bill, as well as a measure that would make it difficult for communities to raise property taxes.

Jim Beckel / The Oklahoman

It’s no secret that Republicans tend to win more elections on the High Plains than Democrats. But with the recent struggles in Donald Trump’s White House, the national media has been flooded with stories about how the GOP may be in trouble in next year’s midterm elections.

With that in mind, we decided to have a look at exactly what the balance of power looks like in our listening area.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / Texas Tribune

In the waning days of the Texas Legislative session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is playing hardball to get his agenda passed.

As The Texas Tribune reports, Patrick has put out a list of bills he expects the House to pass. If the lower chamber doesn’t comply with his wishes, Patrick says he will direct his Senate to let so-called “must-pass” legislation falter.

This imperative legislation includes the state budget.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

The Texas House of Representatives has passed a measure that would prevent doctors from vaccinating foster children—even when those vaccinations would prevent them from later getting cervical cancer.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

A bill aimed at improving the housing conditions of migrant farmworkers died in the Texas House late last week.

As The Texas Observer reports, because farmworkers relocate from harvest to harvest, they depend on housing provided by employers. Many are on “guest worker” visas that under federal law, require their employers to provide adequate housing, but nine out of 10 lack access to licensed housing and live in structures that lack running water, electricity and ventilation. 

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

Tensions in the Texas Legislature have been simmering this session, as the moderate leadership in the state House of Representatives has clashed with more conservative factions within their own rank and file, as well as the staunchly right-wing Senate of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Texas Tribune

The Texas Legislature has been hard at work this month trying to come up with a budget. And among those watching the proceedings closely, says The Texas Tribune, few have more to lose than Texas’s colleges and universities.

Even as enrollments continue to rise statewide, many schools are likely to see funding cuts. That means less money for more students.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

A bill that would make it illegal for cities to refuse orders to arrest undocumented immigrants cleared its final hurdle in the Texas Legislature last week.

As The Texas Tribune reports, the controversial measure banning so-called “sanctuary cities” now heads to the desk of Governor Greg Abbot, to become law. Abbott is expected to sign it.

Yi-Chin Li / Houston Chronicle

Texans may soon no longer be required to get their vehicles inspected, reports The Houston Chronicle.

State lawmakers last week approved Senate Bill 1588, which would ensure that annual state safety inspections are no longer required for all personal vehicles. Commercial vehicles would still need to be inspected, however, and some cars in urban areas with smog problems will still need to pass emissions tests.

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