Texas Legislature

Laura Buckman for The Texas Tribune

A new Texas law gives financial institutions greater authority to stop transactions that they suspect are aimed at defrauding elderly or disabled clients.

Prompted by a man she had never met, an elderly woman in Dallas County recently decided to sell her home and wire the $200,000 windfall to a mysterious bank account, a victims advocate recalled. 

The man, who claimed to be communicating from Nigeria, promised to marry her. It was all a scam. Today, the woman is homeless.

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Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has asked the State Preservation Board to remove a plaque in the State Capitol that honors the Confederacy, reports The Austin American-Statesman. Straus and other critics have charged that the plaque distorts history in order to glorify the Confederacy.

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Texas Senator Kel Seliger formally announced his bid for re-election this week, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

First elected to the state Senate in 2004, Seliger says he is particularly interested in maintaining local control for Texas communities, after the Texas Legislature recently passed a number of bills aimed at weakening the power of Texas municipalities.

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A prominent Texas legislator is taking four of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to task for their refusal to vote for a relief package to aid the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Mac Thornberry, the congressman who represents the Texas Panhandle, was one of the legislators who voted against sending a $15.25 billion initial aid package to the coast.

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A prominent Amarillo restaurateur will challenge Texas state Senator Kel Seliger for his seat next year, The Amarillo Globe-News reports. Victor Leal is the former mayor of Muleshoe, Texas, and he owns the popular restaurant Leal’s in Amarillo.

Leal is running as a Republican. He previously sat on the board of directors of an influential conservative think tank known as the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

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Activists in Texas are gearing up for a fight. Donald Trump indicated this week that he would end the DREAMer program, which provides temporary work permits and "deferred action" for undocumented immigrants who arrived here as children. The program, which was started by the Obama administration in 2012, gives legal protection to around 800,000 young people nationwide.

Meanwhile, the controversial SB 4 law is set to go into effect in Texas soon. The law would give police the right to ask the immigration status of just about anyone they choose.

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Texas lawmakers are preparing to adjourn from their special legislative session on Tuesday night.

But, as The Texas Tribune reports, Greg Abbott is extremely displeased with the progress made on his agenda, and the Governor is even threatening to call another special session until he feels his priorities are being addressed. Of the 20 items on Abbott’s agenda, not a single one has yet received a simple up or down vote.

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The special session of the Texas Legislature is drawing to a close, and child advocates are concerned about a major issue that lawmakers have yet to resolve.

Two years ago, Texas legislators cut more than $300 million to therapy services for disabled children.

And now, as KXAN reports, educators and therapists worry that Texas may one day have a sizable number of disabled adults if lawmakers don’t take action.

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With seven days remaining, the special session of the Texas Legislature appears thus far to be a bust. Gov. Greg Abbott convened the session in hopes of furthering his own legislative agenda, after a contentious and mostly fruitless regular session.

But, as The Texas Tribune reports, not a single bill has made it through both houses and advanced to the Governor’s desk during this special session.

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The Texas legislature this year has been defined by a contentious battle between the far-right Tea Party conservatives led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and the more moderate business-minded conservatives of House Speaker Joe Straus.

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One of the overarching struggles in Texas this year has been a pitched battle between cities and the state over who should have the right to make laws for local municipalities. This battle has manifested in myriad ways, from heated debates over bathroom usage and “sanctuary cities,” to arguments over property taxes, school vouchers, and texting-while-driving laws.

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A number of new laws will take effect in Texas next month, reports KTRK.

This September, Texas will become the 47th state to ban texting while driving. The law has drawn criticism from Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson, as it preempts Amarillo’s stricter texting-while-driving law.

Texas Senator Kel Seliger also called the law an example of state legislative overreach.

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As the special session continues in Austin, lawmakers in the Texas Capitol passed a number of bills last week aimed at restricting access to abortions for Texas women.

As USA TODAY reports, in just one week, four anti-abortion bills passed the Senate and another passed the House. Texas has frequently made national news over the past few years with its repeated attempts to limit access to abortion.

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In Texas, the biggest political battle of this generation may not be between Democrats and the GOP, but between Centrist Republicans and their far-right counterparts. And the contentious bathroom bill being re-introduced to the legislature this week is the battlefield upon which that war is being waged.

The Los Angeles Times this week published an overview of the bathroom bill and the internecine struggle for the soul of the conservative movement in the Lone Star State.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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