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The Brief: April 29, 2015

Gone are accusations of gamesmanship as lawmakers get to work finding common ground on the session's border security bill.

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, speaks his concerns about law enforcement agencies working together on the border surge during a discussion at the Legislative Budget Board meeting on Dec. 1, 2014.

The Big Conversation

Gone are accusations of gamesmanship as lawmakers get to work finding common ground on the session's border security bill. An update from the Tribune's Julián Aguilar points to pay and schedules for Department of Public Safety troopers as the big remaining sticking point.

That's according to state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, the lone border lawmaker on the conference committee that is hashing out the differences between the House and Senate approaches to bolstering the state's commitment to border security.

The chambers' maneuvering led to one of the most publicized blowups of the session. State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, who wrote the House's border security bill, last week accused the Senate of wanting "to play politics and political games" instead of finding a solution.

Hinojosa had a more upbeat take on things this week, saying the two sides "are not that far apart."

"A key difference, said Hinojosa and House Appropriations Vice Chairman Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, is the Senate’s inclusion of a 10-hour workday for DPS troopers statewide," Aguilar wrote. "The House includes that schedule only for troopers on the border, whose ranks will be increased by at least 250 before the end of the next biennium.

Aguilar also noted that the two chambers have a similar goal of phasing out the use of National Guard as part of border security operations. But the two sides differ on how long they are committing to a Guard presence.

"The House zeros out deployment funding after this year, but does include about $49 million to renovate some National Guard facilities," Aguilar wrote. "In the Senate version, funding for the National Guard into the next biennium is provided by a rider to the DPS funding directing the agencies to hash out when and how much money to transfer from DPS to the guard if needed."

Trib Must-Reads

Abortion Bills Gaining Momentum in Legislature, by Alexa Ura — After months of little movement in the Texas Legislature on proposals to further restrict abortion, the pace is picking up as a flurry of bills moves to the House and Senate floors.

A Closer Look at Budget Conference Committee Members, by Alexa Ura and Annie Daniel — The budget conference committee will hash out a compromise of the chamber’s respective 2016-17 budget plans. Committee members include two Democrats who rank as the most experienced budget negotiators on the panel.

Reluctant House Panel Approves A-F Grades For Schools, by Morgan Smith — A plan to give public schools A through F grades cleared a Texas House panel Tuesday night — but not without other changes in accountability standards reducing the role student assessments play in measuring public school performance.

Senate Strengthens and Passes Ethics Bill, by Jay Root — The Senate voted in often odd coalitions to reveal more about the money members make, prohibit themselves from immediately becoming lobbyists, post their financial statements online and even subject themselves and other elected officials to drug testing.

Senate Approves Drug Testing for Political Candidates, by Matthew Watkins — Any candidate seeking elected office in Texas would be required to take a drug test when he or she files to run, under a proposal that the state Senate approved Tuesday.

Judge Stays Execution for Further DNA Testing, by Terri Langford — Two hours before his scheduled execution, Robert Lynn Pruett received a stay so more DNA tests can be conducted on evidence from the 1999 murder of a Texas prison guard.

Panel of #txlege Members "Likes" State Hashtags, by Ryan McCrimmon — Members of a House committee used "Twitter language" as they discussed legislation Tuesday to designate three official social media "hashtags" for the state, including the widely used #txlege. Lawmakers voted "hashtag yes" on the measures.

Judge: Why Didn't Lawmakers Address Voter ID Concerns?, by Jim Malewitz — A Republican-appointed federal appellate judge on Tuesday questioned why the Texas Legislature had not addressed concerns that its four-year-old voter ID law discriminated against minority voters.

House Passes $4.9 Billion Tax Cut, by Aman Batheja — The Texas House tentatively approved a $4.9 billion tax relief plan Tuesday that includes a cut to the state’s sales tax, marking a clear line in the sand against the Senate, which favors property tax cuts.

Medical Marijuana Bill Considered by Texas Lawmakers, by Eva Hershaw — A bill that that would allow epilepsy patients in Texas to use medicinal oils containing a therapeutic component found in marijuana was considered by state lawmakers in an emotional hearing on Tuesday.

Harris County Officials Skeptical of Online Voter Sign-Up, by Patrick Svitek — A House panel late Monday learned some Harris County officials are not too keen on online voter registration. Lawmakers have filed two bills that would bring the practice to Texas.

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 10 a.m.; the Senate convenes at 11 a.m.

•    House Investments & Financial Services meets at 8:30 a.m. with payday and auto title lending bills on the agenda (E2.028). The AARP has organized a 10 a.m. press conference with state Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, and state Sens. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and Royce West, D-Dallas, to push payday lending reform efforts.

•    Sen. Jane Nelson's bill to create additional medical residency slots will be heard in House Higher Education at its 8 a.m. meeting (E2.014). State Rep. John Zerwas' bill authorizing a round of tuition revenue bonds will be heard in Senate Higher Education at its 9 a.m. meeting (E1.012).

•    House Juvenile Justice & Family Issues will take up truancy bills at its meeting on final adjournment (E2.016).

•    Gov. Greg Abbott will speak at a 1 p.m. Capitol rally supporting charter schools. A number of other elected officials, including Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor, Land Commissioner George P. Bush and state Rep. Harold Dutton, are also set to give remarks.


Supreme Court appears split in hearing on historic gay-marriage cases, The Washington Post

Texans with much at stake closely follow Supreme Court arguments on gay marriage, The Dallas Morning News

Abbott directs State Guard to monitor Operation Jade Helm 15 in Texas, Austin American-Statesman

Kennedy: Texas sees enemies everywhere, from U.S. troops to preschoolers, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Lawmakers push for transparency in police use-of-force cases, The Dallas Morning News

Bill to help failing schools heads to House floor, Houston Chronicle

Senate public committee meetings still, well, not really, Houston Chronicle

Crash victims’ lawyer says city may be trying to 'cover up’, San Antonio Express-News

Rep. Dawnna Dukes says lingering injuries explain absence from Capitol, Austin American-Statesman

Quote to Note

“I think whoever serves should have a clear mind.”

— State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, on why he offered Tuesday an amendment to ethics legislation in the Senate requiring candidates for office in Texas to take a drug test

Today in TribTalk

How nixing a business tax will help all Texans, by Brooke Rollins and Vance Ginn — When it comes to basic government services, state legislators have met Texans’ need — and then some. And now it’s time to let taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned dollars.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Rep. Sylvester Turner on April 30 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With HUD Secretary Julián Castro on May 1 at The Austin Club

•    A One-Day Symposium on Health Care on May 4 at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin

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

•    A Conversation With Rep. Dennis Bonnen on May 13 at The Austin Club

•    How'd the House Do? A Conversation About the 84th Legislative Session on May 21 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation About Texas Monthly's Best and Worst Legislators 2015 on June 18 at The Austin Club

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Dennis Bonnen Eddie Lucio Jr. George P. Bush Greg Abbott Harold Dutton Jr. John Whitmire Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa Larry Taylor Van Taylor