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The Brief: April 6, 2015

The House's chief tax writer is dropping some clues on how his chamber's approach to tax relief this session will differ from their counterparts in the Senate.

State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, confers with State Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, during a point of order called on House Bill 11 on March 18, 2015.

The Big Conversation

The House's chief tax writer is dropping some clues on how his chamber's approach to tax relief this session will differ from their counterparts in the Senate.

Per a weekend story from The Dallas Morning News' Bob Garrett, House Ways & Means Chairman Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, has in mind an even greater reduction in the rate on the business margins tax — 25 percent vs. the 15 percent cut in the Senate's tax cut legislation. He also abandons the Senate's expansion of the small business exemption from the margins tax.

Garrett writes, "The move by Bonnen, a southeast Texas legislator with huge refineries and manufacturing plants in his district, sets the stage for intense infighting between big business and small business groups as the session enters its final eight weeks."

Bonnen would also take a different approach from the Senate in where to cut taxes, opting for a reduction in the sales tax rate rather than the property tax cut favored by the Senate.

Garrett writes:

Bonnen declined to discuss his proposal for cutting the 6.25 percent sales tax.

“We’ll lay it all out to you next week," he said.

He specified, though, that the House’s tax relief package would cost between $4.8 billion and $4.9 billion — indicating that under the House plan, the state sales tax might shrink almost to 6 cents on the dollar. Currently, local governments can add up to 2 cents more.

The Senate is contemplating $4.6 billion in tax relief under its proposal.

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: Moving Integrity Unit Won't Curb Conflicts, by Ross Ramsey — Legislators frustrated and angry with public corruption prosecutions in Travis County want to move them somewhere else. But the problems are likely to tag along: It's always hard to prosecute the people who pay for the prosecutors.

GOP Gun Measures Could Backfire With Minorities, by Alexa Ura — Republican lawmakers backing open carry and guns on campus are heading in the wrong direction for many black and Hispanic Texans who would prefer stricter gun laws, polling shows. It's another disconnect with minorities the GOP might regret.

"Bathroom Bills" Pit Transgender Texans Against GOP, by Edgar Walters — A set of bills from conservative lawmakers would make it illegal for people to use the bathroom other than the one designated for their gender assigned at birth. Members of the transgender community say the legislation specifically targets them and even places a bounty on their heads.

Details Murky on State's Largest Contracts, by Aman Batheja — The Tribune asked more than 20 state agencies for basic information on their largest contracts with private vendors. Most knew, but the embattled health commission, which believes it has $60 billion or so in contracts, couldn't provide key details.

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 2 p.m.

•    The Senate border security subcommittee meets at 11 a.m. to take up sanctuary cities and repeal of in-state tuition for undocumented students (E1.016).


As lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick remains a ‘Christian first’, Austin American-Statesman

True believers embrace Ted Cruz in Iowa campaign swing, The Dallas Morning News

Ted Cruz's passion play, Politico

Koch-backed group gearing up in Texas for 2015, San Antonio Express-News

This conservative group is tired of being accused of climate denial — and is fighting back, The Washington Post

Marijuana reform supporters make their case this week, Houston Chronicle

Texas GOP lawmaker: Women ‘will die’ without key screenings, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

How a Texas data project was derailed as part of 21CT fiasco, Austin American-Statesman

Texas border operation takes credit for feds' work, El Paso Times

Looming Army cuts fill Texas leaders with dread, San Antonio Express-News

How a Football School Like UT Landed Shaka Smart, The Washington Post

Quote to Note

"Early in the session people would just stop and stare. The most disconcerting things to happen to me were hearing myself called 'it' and 'that.' It was gut-wrenching."

— Former Capitol staffer Caomhán Ó Raghallaigh on some of the reaction to his undertaking his transition from female to male, which took place during the 2013 session.

Today in TribTalk

We need a statewide solution for Uber and Lyft, by Bill Hammond — Texas' patchwork of onerous regulations for companies like Uber and Lyft is bad for business and limiting access to much-needed transportation alternatives. It's time for a statewide fix.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Sen. Robert Nichols and Rep. Joe Pickett on April 7 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Sen. Kevin Eltife on April 9 at The Austin Club

•    Transportation: The Next Five Years on April 10 at Austin College in Sherman

•    A Conversation With Sen. Kel Seliger and Rep. John Zerwas on April 16 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With John Sharp on May 7 at The Austin Club

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Dan Patrick Dennis Bonnen Ted Cruz