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The Brief: April 14, 2015

Chances are good for passage of legislation up for debate in the House today that would allow for open carry of handguns by those already with concealed carry licenses.

Chris Way and his son Ryan, 2, participate in an open carry march on March 12, 2014 during the South by Southwest festival...

The Big Conversation

Chances are good for passage of legislation up for debate in the House today that would allow for open carry of handguns by those already with concealed carry licenses.

The Tribune's Morgan Smith reports that state Rep. Larry Phillips' HB 910 already has more than half the membership of the House signed on as co-sponsors. If that support holds, the legislation would have to be reconciled with the version passed by the Senate. Gov. Greg Abbott has already indicated he would sign an open carry bill.

That's not to say the legislation has universal support. Smith writes, "The new law would come despite the protests of many law enforcement officials, who have said that openly armed citizens would endanger both police officers and the communities they try to protect — and strain the already limited resources of local police departments."

The Dallas Morning News' Tom Benning writes that the move to expand gun owners' right to carry is the politically safe play:

Polls show that many Republican voters — the most influential primary bloc in Texas — are intensely interested in gun issues. And the GOP primary is the only election that counts for lots of lawmakers, many of whom already have a passion for the Second Amendment.

So with gun legislation, Republican leaders have found a clear target.

“They’ve won, and this is a way for them to salute that flag,” said Bill Miller, a Republican consultant.

Trib Must-Reads

A Look at How House, Senate Budgets Compare, by Aman Batheja and Becca Aaronson — As the House and Senate prepare to hash out a compromise on the state budget, their members will have plenty of issues to resolve. Here’s a look at how the two budget proposals compare, with details on some areas where the plans diverge.

Tesla Makes Sales Pitch to House Panel, by Ryan McCrimmon — At a packed committee hearing Monday evening, advocates for Tesla Motors told a panel of Texas House members that it was time to bring state laws into the 21st century and let the company sell its luxury electric cars in Texas.

Short on Votes to Tighten Spending Cap, Senate Built a New One, by Aman Batheja — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Republicans had hoped to amend the Texas Constitution to tighten the state's spending cap. Short of the needed votes, they passed a measure creating a new cap in state law instead.

Lawmakers Look to Gulf to Meet State Water Needs, by Eva Hershaw — Texas lawmakers on Monday began looking at a seawater desalination bill proposed by state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa that advocates say would offer "drought-proof" means of supplementing withering state water supplies.

Senate Votes to Close Austin Institution, by Edgar Walters — The Austin State Supported Living Center will be the first closed, but more are to come as the state continues moving away from residential centers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

House Approves Heart Exams for High School Athletes, by Ryan McCrimmon — Almost three years after a Texas high school football player died from sudden cardiac arrest, the Texas House has tentatively approved mandatory electrocardiograms for high school athletes.

House Takes Step to Patch Pension Fund Hole, by Bobby Blanchard — State workers would pay more into their retirement system but get pay raises to offset the cost under legislation that earned preliminary House approval Monday.

Former House Budget Writer Lobbying for Strip Clubs, by Ross Ramsey — Former House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, is lobbying for the Texas Entertainment Association — the euphemistically named trade group for the state’s strip clubs.

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 10 a.m.; the Senate convenes at 11 a.m. The Senate is expected to take up the budget. The House has a full calendar, including bills dealing with open carry of handguns and the ability of cities to regulate oil and gas exploration within their jurisdictions.

•    House Public Education meets at 8 a.m. with Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock's school finance system reform legislation up for consideration (E2.036). House Ways and Means meets at 8:30 a.m. with Chairman Dennis Bonnen's tax relief legislation up for consideration. Ahead of the hearing, more than 25 groups representing labor and advocates for children, Hispanics and the disabled have signed a letter to lawmakers urging caution on going ahead with nearly $5 billion in tax cuts (E2.010).

Elsewhere

Bill to weaken gov-employee unions on way to Texas Senate, Austin American-Statesman

Red light cameras in jeopardy with new bill, KXAN-TV

GOP divided on in-state tuition for immigrants, The Dallas Morning News

Texas Senate voucher bill specifics unveiled, Austin American-Statesman

House tentatively OKs a higher return on some rainy-day dollars, The Dallas Morning News

U.S. conservatives threaten delay to fixing Medicare doctor payments, Reuters

Reports from the oil patch may bring unwelcome news, Houston Chronicle

Mighty Rio Grande Now a Trickle Under Siege, The New York Times

San Antonian named treasurer of Clinton presidential campaign, San Antonio Express-News

Quote to Note

“There is a big difference in ‘spying’ and ‘looking into’ an area.”

— DPS Deputy Director of Homeland Security and Services Robert J. Bodisch in a letter to lawmakers, responding to an Austin American-Statesman report disclosing a 2010 memo where contractors wrote of an aerial surveillance program, "Need to be careful here as we are admitting to spying on Mexico.”

Today in TribTalk

A smart fix for oil and gas regulation in Texas, by Todd Staples — Texans know from experience that local officials and the oil and gas industry can work together to reach reasonable compromises. A plan up for debate in the Legislature preserves that legacy.

Trib Events for the Calendar

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

•    Energy: The Next Five Years on April 24 at at SMU in Dallas

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

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