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Is the Tesla Bill Losing Momentum?

Also, the latest maneuverings on repealing the Dream Act as well as rejiggering the funding systems for schools and roads.

Tesla vehicle on display outside the Texas Capitol on Jan. 15, 2015.

Tesla Motors made a big splash at the beginning of session, but what's become of its proposal to sell its high-end cars directly to Texans?

HB 1653 and its companion, SB 639, would allow manufacturers that have never sold their cars through independent dealerships in Texas to operate a limited number of stores. But the bills have yet to receive a hearing, and Tesla advocates aren't happy.

In a development this week, Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, let it be known that he won't bring up the proposal in his Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee until the House weighs in.

"The senator has just finished polling his committee members, and the members prefer to wait on the House bill," Will McAdams, Fraser's chief of staff, told the Tribune on Wednesday.

The House bill remains in the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, chaired by Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown. It is scheduled to be heard there on Monday.

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Legislation pushed by Tea Party-aligned Republicans to take back in-state tuition rates currently offered to undocumented immigrants has gotten out of committee on the Senate side.

Supporters of the current law, though, haven’t given up yet and are mobilizing in advance of debate by the full Senate.

Former state Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, a co-author of the 2001 Dream Act, will join the Texas Association of Business' Bill Hammond and Juan Hernandez, a former aide to U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at a news conference where they will reiterate their support for the in-state policy.

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House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, presented the details of his plan to reform the state's school finance system in a committee hearing Tuesday afternoon — calling the bill a "first, best attempt."

Among Aycock's proposals: doing away with the outdated formula weights known as the "Cost of Education Index," reducing the number of school districts subject to recapture or "Robin Hood," and funding more of the districts currently receiving money on "hold harmless" provisions through formulas.

"Before you take a shot at it, take a look at it," he said, noting that it was not meant to be a "permanent fix" for the system.

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The Legislature’s main policymakers on roads and transportation — Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols and House Transportation Chairman Joe Pickett — sat down for an interview this week with the Tribune’s Evan Smith.

One big takeaway from the conversation was Pickett saying that the two chambers are closer on an agreement on a road funding proposal than it might appear on the surface.

The Senate funding plan relies on dedicating and diverting revenue from the motor vehicle sales tax, while the House plan would do the same to the overall state sales tax.

But, as Pickett explains, “I would like to see the House members … get down to discussing the two different plans. And then I think the senator and I are three-quarters of the way there when we get people talking about which one.”

Disclosure: The Texas Association of Business and Tesla Motors are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune.A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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