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Latest News


Union Dues Spark an End-of-Session Dispute

The Texas Tribune - A rush to pass an anti-union bill that languished in the Legislature until last week triggered an angry exchange in a committee hearing Thursday morning that might foreshadow a floor fight in the House next week.

Senate Bill 1968 would end automatic payroll deductions of dues for union and non-union public employee organizations — except for those involving certain police, fire and emergency medical workers. It split Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and promises the same in the House. And it pits business against labor groups, which have been lobbying fiercely to pass (the business groups) or kill (the labor groups) the bill.

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Truancy Decriminalization Bill Could Squeak Through Legislature

Texas Observer - For weeks, the Senate and House have been in a schoolyard scrap over which body has the best approach to decriminalizing truancy, raising the prospect of yet another legislative session ending without reform. Though both the Senate and House have passed bills that would treat truancy as a civil matter, Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) and Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston)—the authors of the competing proposals—are bottling up each other’s bills in the committees they oversee. Still, a last-minute third-way compromise may save the prospects of truancy reform, which has gained broad bipartisan support.

...The compromise, House Bill 1490 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), takes a slightly different approach to ending criminal truancy than the Whitmire and Dutton bills.

HB 1490 would shift truancy enforcement’s focus from courts to schools, requiring school districts to adopt a three-tiered system of interventions for truant students with escalating consequences, including community service or restorative-justice programs within schools. Whitmire is sponsoring HB 1490 in the Senate, which has a hearing in Senate Criminal Justice Committee Thursday afternoon.

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Living behind a tree? Tougher to prove under pending voter bill in Texas statehouse

Watchdog.org - Residential requirements for voting in Texas are murky at best — an official at the secretary of state’s office once said an address could be determined “by the voter.” Living “behind a tree” would be a little harder to use as an address for voting purposes under a bill authored by state Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston.

The bill, which cleared the House with a 94-49 vote earlier this month, only applies in rare cases in which the residency of a voter is challenged. Murphy said his intention is to address just one of the many issues around voting residency. “There are others left for another time,” he said.

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Smith collaborates with Lee College on dual-credit legislation

The Pasadena Citizen - Following close collaboration with Lee College, State Representative Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) authored and co-authored legislation that would increase access for high school students seeking to enroll in dual-credit courses at public colleges and universities. House Bill 505 passed both the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate and is now at the Governor's desk awaiting his signature.

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Texas House OKs giving A-through-F letter grades to schools

Austin American-Statesman - Texas public school campuses would receive A-through-F letter grades based on a new performance rating system under a widely supported-turned-divisive bill the Texas House is expected to approve Friday.

The lower chamber preliminarily approved House Bill 2804 late Thursday on a 98-44 party-line vote following vocal objections from Democrats and one Republican who argued the A-F provision would stigmatize struggling schools and make it difficult to attract good teachers.

...State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, who filed the A-F bill in the Senate, argued in March that an “F” grade under the proposed rating system wouldn’t stigmatize schools any more than being labeled “unacceptable” would under a 2013 law.

That year, the Legislature approved an A-F ranking system for school districts only, which is set to take effect next year. Under that law, individual campuses will be designated as exemplary, recognized, acceptable or unacceptable.

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Senate, House continue tax cut negotiations

Cleveland Advocate - Members of the House and Senate continue to try to find a compromise between each chamber’s preferred method of delivering billions in tax relief to Texans. The Senate has made property taxes a priority, passing a bill to provide more than $2 billion in tax cuts by raising the homestead exemption.

...Though many of the bills relating to the session’s top issues have already passed the Senate, lawmakers continued this week to work on passage of other key pieces of legislation. Monday, the Senate approved a bill that would protect the identities of pharmacies that supply drugs used by the state to execute prisoners.

Senator Joan Huffman of Southside Place says that such pharmacies have faced harassment from anti-death penalty advocates, which could make obtaining the necessary drugs harder and harder.

“I think it had a chilling effect on reputable pharmacies wanting to provide these compounds to the state of Texas and it’s been very difficult for the state to procure these compounds,” she said.

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Bill Gains Momentum in Push to Crack Down on Those Who Avoid Child Support Payments

Texas GOP Vote - There’s a renewed push at the Texas Capitol to prevent people from skirting their responsibility to make child support payments through misclassification. Worker misclassification, also known as "payroll fraud," causes all kinds of problems throughout the construction industry and our society.

Misclassification happens when employers pretend their workers are "subcontractors” even though, by law, they meet the definition of an employee.

...State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, has been working on a practical solution for this. He’s proposed a change in state law that would help expedite the collection process when a person is properly classified and then switches jobs. In other words, his legislation would make it more difficult for a person to be properly classified then switch employers and suddenly become a contractor, thus allowing them to avoid garnishments.

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House tentatively approves revamping Texas Ethics Commission

The Dallas Morning News - The Texas Ethics Commission would get more enforcement power in a bill overhauling the entity that passed in the House late Monday night.

This bill is among the those addressing ethics, something Gov. Greg Abbott declared one of his emergency items of the session. It was approved overwhelmingly though there was much debate on failed amendments that would have required elected school trustees to file personal financial disclosures and dismissed ethics complaints not completed within a year.

The legislation — carried by Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place — would allow for the Texas Ethics Commission to disclose confidential information to law enforcement agencies. But that would be limited to the law enforcement agency and any other disclosure of such confidential information would be a Class C misdemeanor.

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Texas Senate approves Greg Abbott’s pre-K bill

Austin American-Statesman - After making some changes, the Texas Senate approved Gov. Greg Abbott’s pre-kindergarten improvement legislation Thursday. The vote was 25-6 with all tea party-aligned Republican senators on the losing end of the decision.

House Bill 4 by state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, would distribute up to $130 million in grant funding to school districts as long as they meet certain quality requirements, including having certified teachers, using a state-approved curriculum and developing a “parental engagement” plan.


House Republicans Open Another Front in Voter ID Fight

Texas Observer - Four years after Texas passed one of the strictest voter ID laws in the nation, lawmakers will debate another measure on Thursday that could make it even more difficult for Texans to vote.

House Bill 1096, by Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston), would require the address on a voter’s approved ID, such as a driver’s license, to match their voter registration address. Currently voter ID addresses and voter registration addresses do not have to match.

If a voter registrar believes a voter’s residence is different from that indicated on registration records, the registrar may send the voter a residence confirmation notice. Voters can respond by submitting a signed response confirming their residence.

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