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The Brief: April 8, 2015

Lawmakers are talking about giving taxpayers billions in tax relief this session. But in a state with 27 million residents, it turns out that even $4.5 billion doesn't stretch as far as the politicians would like it to.

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The Big Conversation

Lawmakers are talking about giving taxpayers billions in tax relief this session. But in a state with 27 million residents, it turns out that even $4.5 billion doesn't stretch as far as the politicians would like it to.

The Tribune's Ross Ramsey breaks down the chambers' competing proposals on tax relief this session. The Senate would like to cut property taxes, extending the average homeowner a break of $206 per year. The House is looking at a half-cent cut in the sales tax rate, which amounts to about a $150 savings per year for a Texas household, Ramsey calculates.

He writes, "Neither set of tax cutters is exactly remaking the average family budget here ... More to the point, it’s hard to believe that any voter would be strongly motivated by either $206 in savings buried in their mortgage payments or in $150 in saved pennies or less at a time over the course of 12 months."

Lawmakers may be running in the opposite direction from the approach they took in 2006 when they cut school property taxes. In that instance, Ramsey writes, "the state tried to deliver property tax cuts averaging $2,000 per homeowner. That sounded great, but property values went up, property taxes went up and voters got mad when the money they were promised didn’t show up. This time, lawmakers are promising cuts too small for many voters to notice at all."

Trib Must-Reads

TedTracker: Follow Cruz on the Campaign Trail, by Ryan Murphy, Abby Livingston and Patrick Svitek — Use the TedTracker to check the public events — past and future — Ted Cruz has announced since making his run for president official.

Don't Fear the Reefer: House Mulls Lower Pot Penalties, by Terri Langford — Three bills up for House committee hearings Wednesday would lower the penalties for possessing small amounts of pot in Texas. A fourth would decriminalize pot entirely.

Video: The Fight to Decriminalize Truancy in Texas, by Allison Sandza and Blair Waltman-Alexin, KLRU-TV — In Texas, children who miss a certain number of school days can be sent to truancy court, where they could face a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by up to $500. Advocates are pushing to make truancy a civil, rather than criminal, offense.

Judge Denies Obama's Request to Let Immigration Policy Stand, by Julián Aguilar — A Brownsville-based federal judge on Tuesday denied the Obama administration’s request to let a controversial immigration program proceed while the issue plays out in the courts.

On the Road, Perry Hones Appeal to the Religious, by Patrick Svitek — Former Gov. Rick Perry, courting faith-based voters in South Carolina, emphasized "second chances" Tuesday as he spoke at a Christian college.

Aycock Presents Details of School Finance Plan, by Morgan Smith — Most Texas school districts would see increased funding under proposed changes to the state's public education funding system, House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, said Tuesday.

Business Group Blasts Religious Freedom Proposals, by Edgar Walters — Two proposed constitutional amendments designed to safeguard religious liberty would "devastate" economic development and set Texas on the ill-fated path Indiana just travelled, a leading business group said Tuesday.

Report: Borris Miles Threatened Paxton's DPS Detail, by Terri Langford — Rep. Borris Miles threatened to "beat up" a plainclothes DPS trooper while the lawman was guarding Attorney General Ken Paxton during a meeting at an Austin steakhouse, according to a report obtained by The Texas Tribune.

House Democrats Push Minimum Wage Hike, by Alexa Ura — A handful of Democrats on Tuesday asked the House Business and Industry Committee to support a package of bills that would increase the minimum wage in Texas.

Perry: Repeal of In-State Tuition Law is Up to Legislators, by Patrick Svitek — Former Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday deferred to state lawmakers on whether they want to repeal Texas' in-state tuition law, a measure he signed into law in 2001 and has defended to varying degrees ever since.

House Panel Weighs Private Property, Gun Rights, by Ryan McCrimmon — Business groups are weighing in on gun legislation, trying to preserve a business owner's rights to ban guns from private property. A House committee took up the question up Tuesday.

Bid for Rainy Day Fund Changes Moves Forward, by Matthew Watkins — The Texas House on Tuesday approved a resolution calling for a constitutional election over whether to send surplus dollars from the Rainy Day Fund into a new account to pay down state debt.

Legislation Aims to Prevent Another Fertilizer Plant Blast, by Eva Hershaw — State Rep. Kyle Kacal has introduced legislation that he hopes would prevent another accident like the explosion of a West fertilizer plant in 2013 that killed 15 and injured more than 200.

The Day Ahead

•    The House and Senate convene at 10 a.m. The House is set to take up bills on pre-K, creation of a border prosecution unit and issuance of tuition revenue bonds for higher education institutions.

•    Senate Finance meets at 9 a.m. to consider HB 1, aka the budget (E1.036).

•    Senate Transportation meets at 8 a.m. One bill up for consideration would clamp considerable restrictions on proposed high-speed rail lines in Texas (E1.016). Senate Higher Education meets at 9 a.m. and could take up Chairman Kel Seliger's tuition regulation bill, which would require schools to meet certain metrics to raise tuition (E1.028).

•    House State Affairs meets on final adjournment with one bill up for consideration that says state funds cannot be used to issue same-sex marriage licenses (JHR 140). House Criminal Jurisprudence meets on final adjournment to take up several bills relaxing penalties on marijuana possession (E2.030).

Elsewhere

Rand Paul Announces Presidential Run, The Washington Post

Lawmaker says more money may be coming for expanded pre-K in Texas, Austin American-Statesman

Compromise could get ethics bill moving again, Houston Chronicle

RGV communities eligible for federal humanitarian reimbursement, San Antonio Express-News

GM: TWIA needs a new story more than big reform, Galveston County Daily News

Dave Wilson's anti-HERO charter petition has too few signatures, Houston Chronicle

Rhetoric at mayoral forums increases, San Antonio Express-News

The Lite Guv and the Frack Master, Texas Observer

Quote to Note

"A white man just walks up to me and starts grabbing me. What do you do?"

— State Rep. Borris Miles, D-Houston, relaying his version of an encounter with a plainclothes DPS trooper guarding Attorney General Ken Paxton while he was having a private meeting at an Austin steakhouse

Today in TribTalk

Texas shouldn't retreat from religious freedom bill, by Matt Krause — The furor that followed the passage of Indiana and Arkansas' new religious freedom acts shouldn't deter Texas from moving forward with a measure of its own.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    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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