The Brief: Top Texas News for May 3, 2013

Rep. Lon Burnam D-Ft. Worth and Rep. Dan Branch R-Dallas during SB 31 debate on May 20th, 2011
Rep. Lon Burnam D-Ft. Worth and Rep. Dan Branch R-Dallas during SB 31 debate on May 20th, 2011

The Big Conversation

Immigration — a largely dormant issue among Texas lawmakers this session — was briefly thrust into the legislative spotlight on Thursday.

As the Tribune's Julián Aguilar reports, the House State Affairs Committee last night approved a bill that would bar law enforcement officers from asking about the immigration status of a victim of or witness to a crime.

The bill's author, state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, said the legislation would enable undocumented immigrants to cooperate with criminal investigations without the fear of deportation. 

Also on Thursday, the state affairs committee gave early approval to a resolution urging Congress to act on immigration reform. The vote came after the authors of the resolution, Democratic state Reps. Rafael Anchia of Dallas and Ana Hernandez Luna of Houston, won the support of a Republican, state Rep. Jason Villalba of Dallas, who signed on after language in the resolution was tweaked.

Though both measures must clear a procedural hurdle before being heard in the full House, the votes on Thursday reflect the marked shift on immigration that the Legislature has undergone since 2011, when debate over voter ID and "sanctuary cities" legislation roiled the Capitol. 

"This session’s tone is completely different from last session’s tone," Burnam said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "People are recognizing that there are fundamental questions and problems in our community that need to be addressed."

Another immigration-related bill that would effectively allow undocumented immigrants to drive legally in the state may prove more contentious. The measure could reach the House floor next week.

Culled

•    House determined to fund water plan, floating a hybrid possibility (Austin American-Statesman): "With the Legislature entering its home stretch, key lawmakers are trying to figure out how to direct money from the rainy day fund to help build massive reservoir and pipeline projects. Among the possibilities: Reviving some version of a bill that was killed Monday with a parliamentary maneuver and bringing it back to the House floor, where a spirited debate is likely to ensue; kicking the issue over to voters, as the Senate has proposed; or trying for a hybrid of rainy day fund and general revenue fund money to seed the revolving water fund."

•    On visit with Peña Nieto, Obama pledges to maintain close cooperation with Mexico (The Dallas Morning News): "Amid an uncertain political climate, President Barack Obama on Thursday praised the ambitious economic agenda of his host and counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, although questions on security policy continued to cast a long shadow."

•    Zaffirini Asks UT System if It is Withholding Records (The Texas Tribune): "State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, expressed concerns that the University of Texas System is withholding documents from legislators in a letter she sent Wednesday to UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa."

•    Texas Monthly Wins 2 National Magazine Awards (The New York Times): "Texas Monthly won the public interest award for its August article 'Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Wives' by Mimi Swartz about the impact on women since cuts in 2011 to family planning funds. It also won for feature writing for 'The Innocent Man,' a two-part article by Pamela Colloff published in November and December about a man accused of murdering his wife."

Quote of the Day: "We weren't sent here to govern like California." — House Speaker Joe Straus, criticizing a Senate proposal to take $5.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for roads, water and public education

Must-Read

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.