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The Brief: May 7, 2015

The Legislature's two chambers are still not on the same page when it comes to figuring out how to extend tax relief. The prognosis on whether they find room to compromise varies as well.

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The Big Conversation

The Legislature's two chambers are still not on the same page when it comes to figuring out how to extend tax relief. The prognosis on whether they find room to compromise varies as well.

The headline in the Austin American-Statesman reads At Capitol, a tax cut impasse eases. Kiah Collier, in that piece, quotes Jane Nelson, the Senate's chief budget writer, as saying, “I think things are coming unstuck. ... The good news is that we all agree that we need tax relief. We’re looking at all kinds of options — you know, if we did this, would this work? — which you don’t want to do in the press. … But we’re talking, which is a good thing."

At the same time, Collier notes the insistence in each chamber on their particular approach to tax cuts, either the Senate's emphasis on property taxes or the House's emphasis on sales taxes.

Peggy Fikac and Mike Ward, writing for the San Antonio Express-News, also talk about that divided approach in their story, Tax talks complicated by politics. They also point to other political considerations at play:

"[Gov. Greg] Abbott has much riding on the fight because his strength as a leader in his first legislative session will be defined by whether lawmakers pass ideas he endorses, including tax cuts. ... But even though Abbott has voiced support for lasting property-tax relief, he hasn’t thrown in publicly with either the House or Senate plan, instead allowing them to duke it out a bit longer. [Lt. Gov. Dan] Patrick, who campaigned on property tax relief, has said he won’t accept a state budget without it, and his tea-party supporters would have it no other way — special session or not."

Meanwhile, the Tribune's Ross Ramsey reports on a court case from last week that could punch "a potentially huge hole" in the state's business tax:

If that holds up on appeal, ... it could cost the state of Texas $1.5 billion annually, according to estimates from the state comptroller. The state’s sales tax — its biggest single source of revenue — could also take a hit, because the court’s ruling on franchise taxes turned on a legal definition that is also used in the sales tax code.

The ruling applies to taxes collected over the past four years; if it stands, that could mean up to $6 billion in tax refunds, according to the comptroller.

“The tagline is that the 3rd Court of Appeals ruling really turns two of the major funding streams for the state of Texas on its head,” said Comptroller Glenn Hegar.

Trib Must-Reads

Pre-K Bill Faces Last Hurdle in Senate Vote, by Morgan Smith — After surviving Tea Party-backed opposition in the House, the early education bill that Gov. Greg Abbott has called his top priority this session could face its final test in the Texas Senate as early as Thursday.

Texans in Congress Aim to Abolish Crude Oil Export Ban, by Abby Livingston — A bipartisan trio of Texas House delegation members have high hopes that after 40 years, the federal government will eliminate a ban on American crude oil on the international market.

Protections for Breast-Feeding Mothers Face Opposition, by Alexa Ura — A measure to provide workplace protections for female teachers who need to pump breast milk while at work is picking up opposition in the Senate.

Video: Seeing an Unintended Consequence in CPS Law, by Alana Rocha and Justin Dehn — Lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit the Department of Family and Protective Services from making a finding of "abuse" or "neglect" against a parent who surrenders parental rights to get a child mental health care.

Hate Crimes, Sodomy Law Before House Panel, by Ryan McCrimmon — Texas lawmakers Wednesday considered extending hate crime protections to transgender people and repealing the state’s anti-sodomy law, which remains on the books even though it's been found unconstitutional.

Pot Legalization Bill Clears House Panel, by Ryan McCrimmon — State Rep. David Simpson's proposal to legalize marijuana in Texas moved closer to a full House after it was approved by a House committee Wednesday evening.

Government Contract Disclosure Bill Advances, by Jay Root — A bill that would require Texas elected officials to reveal contracts they have with governmental entities — one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s major priorities this year — was overwhelmingly approved by the Texas House Wednesday.

Embarking on 2016 Run, Huckabee Looks to Texas Ties, by Patrick Svitek — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is not wasting any time tending to a political network in Texas as he sets out on his second bid for the White House.

Bill Banning Coverage for Abortions Heads to House, by Alexa Ura — After an unsuccessful attempt to include an exception for rape and incest, a measure to ban abortion coverage from health insurance plans cleared the Texas Senate on Wednesday.

House Limits Payday Lender Telemarketing, by Eva Hershaw — Legislation passed by the House on Wednesday will prohibit payday lenders and auto title loan businesses from placing telemarketing calls to Texans on the "do not call" list. The measure now heads to the Senate.

House Rejects Tax Break for Pricey Boats, by Aman Batheja — Lawmakers have soundly rejected a bill to cap the state sales tax on certain boat purchases worth more than $250,000. State Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, said his measure was about helping the struggling recreational marine industry.

Texas Unlikely to Ban Powdered Alcohol This Session, by Ryan McCrimmon — Despite warning that powdered alcohol could lead to a spike in underage drinking that would “make the darkest days of the Four Loko era look tame,” a lawmaker on Wednesday pulled back his measure to outlaw the product in Texas.

Analysis: Who is That Behind the Curtain?, by Ross Ramsey — The unfolding story about surreptitious taping of officeholders at the Texas Capitol is going to end predictably: You'll know who did the filming — but not who paid for it.

Campus Carry May Get New Life in Senate, by Morgan Smith — A languishing measure requiring public universities and colleges to allow concealed handguns on campus may gain a fast track to passage under a plan to attach it as an amendment to another gun bill.

The Day Ahead

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

•    House Appropriations meets at 8 a.m. to take testimony on efforts to obtain an extension of the the Texas Health Care Transformation and Quality Improvement Program - 1115 Medicaid Waiver (E1.030). The House select committee on Emerging Issues in Texas Law Enforcement meets on final adjournment to take up SB 158, which would assist local law enforcement agencies to purchase body cameras for officers (E2.030).

•    House General Investigating and Ethics meets on final adjournment to investigate last week's incident where it was alleged that certain House Transportation Committee witnesses were falsely registered (E1.010).

•    Senate State Affairs meets at 9 a.m. One bill up for consideration is HB 80, a ban on texting while driving (Senate Chamber).

•    Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., will push for reauthorization of the bank at an appearance with U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, at the Exporter Forum in Stafford. Reauthorization has become a hot issue in Congress where Texas lawmakers like Ted Cruz and Jeb Hensarling are arguing for ending the bank. This week, former Gov. Rick Perry switched positions and is now against the bank. The Texas Association of Business and Texas Association of Manufacturers issued a joint statement on Wednesday in favor of reauthorization.

•    Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith interviews John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System. The 8 a.m. breakfast conversation at the Austin Club will be livestreamed for those unable to attend in person.


Former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright Dies, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Garcia makes it official, joining crowded field for mayor, Houston Chronicle

Ethics complaints filed against two mayoral candidates, San Antonio Express-News

DPS chief ordered reprimand of Trooper pictured with “dope smoking cop hater” rapper, The Dallas Morning News

School officials back funding boost, but mum on plan behind it, Austin American-Statesman

Paxton says he hasn’t spoken with Texas Rangers about his securities law violations, The Dallas Morning News

Abbott supports gay-marriage objection bills, Austin American-Statesman

Southwest Airlines Denies Joining the Texas High-Speed Rail Opposition, The Atlantic

Texas GOPer Introduces Bill That Would Allow Discrimination Against His Gay Son, The Associated Press

Quote to Note

“The governor added fuel to the fire when he asked the Texas State Guard to look into it. In my view that’s pandering by the governor and he didn’t need to do that.”

— U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, becoming the latest Texas politician to take Gov. Greg Abbott to task for his decision to ask the Guard to monitor the planned Jade Helm 15 military exercise in response to fears by conspiracy theorists that the maneuvers are a prelude to imposition of martial law

Today in TribTalk

Why Texans' views on the economy may be shifting, by Mike Baselice, Jon Hockenyos and Elyse Yates — The state’s job market, while still strong, has softened. And new polling and analysis show that Texans have noticed.

News From Home

It’s the last day of our Spring Member Drive. Member support helps make The Texas Tribune possible. Help support our nonprofit newsroom by joining today.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    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

•    How'd the Senate Do? A Conversation About the 84th Legislative Session on May 28 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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Dan Patrick Glenn Hegar Greg Abbott Jane Nelson Ken Paxton Mike Conaway