The Big Conversation

Amid the spectacle of bills dying in the House as part of Democrats' successful effort to take out a controversial gay marriage bill came news that the legislative leadership might be close to hammering out a deal to resolve their major outstanding conflicts.

What's being negotiated, the Tribune's Aman Batheja and Ross Ramsey write, are "compromises on five bills covering tax cuts, restraints on local property tax increases, border security, prosecutions of state ethics cases and open carry of handguns in Texas. ... The terms have not been completed, but several participants said they hope the talks could end multiple legislative standoffs before the end of the regular session on June 1. The most important discussions involve ironing out differences between the House and Senate on more than $3 billion in tax cuts."

Notable is the proposed compromise on tax cuts. The Senate would agree to a scaled-back version of its proposed property tax cut while agreeing to the House's approach on cutting the business franchise tax. The House, meanwhile, would set aside its proposed sales tax cut.

"The proposed tax deal represents a tricky balancing act for House leaders," write Batheja and Ramsey, "who had predicted the Senate’s original proposal would be viewed as underwhelming to Texas homeowners but who now may agree to even less property tax relief."

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To underscore the optimism among the negotiators, Abbott said on Thursday afternoon that he was hopeful for a resolution "within 24 hours."

Trib Must-Reads

Promise of Free Tuition Could Vanish for Some Veterans' Children, by Matthew Watkins — As lawmakers are working to rein in the cost of the Hazlewood program, some veterans are wondering how they'll pay for kids' tuition that they once thought would be free.

Analysis: Should Judges Exit Fundraising Business?, by Ross Ramsey — The U.S. Supreme Court says it's OK for states to bar judges from raising their own campaign cash. A lot of judges (and lawyers, too) think that's a pretty good idea that Texas might want to consider.

Texas House Approves A-F School Ratings, by Morgan Smith — After a heated late-night debate, a controversial plan to start assigning public schools A-through-F grades cleared the Texas House Thursday.

Hall Denied Access to Student Records — Again, by Matthew Watkins — Even after an attorney general's ruling in his favor, Regent Wallace Hall was told that he can't see confidential student information related to admissions.

House Backs Bill Denying Pensions to Lawbreakers, by Jay Root — Texas politicians convicted of major public corruption crimes would lose their lucrative pensions under a bill that the Texas House tentatively passed Thursday in a unanimous vote.

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With Deadline Looming, Democrats Drag Their Feet, by Ryan McCrimmon — Facing a midnight deadline in the House to take initial votes on that chamber's bills, Democrats dragged their feet, working to delay a vote on a bill forbidding the use of state or local funds to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Texas House, Senate Make Progress on Border Security Legislation, by Julián Aguilar — The House and Senate are close to coming together on another thorny subject that Gov. Greg Abbott declared a priority this session. But this issue doesn't involve tax cuts.

Plan for School Finance Overhaul Dies in Texas House, by Morgan Smith — A months-long effort to reform the problem-plagued school finance system came to an end Thursday as House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock withdrew a bill proposing fixes less than an hour into a scheduled debate.

Abbott Makes First Use of Texas Enterprise Fund, by Patrick Svitek — Gov. Greg Abbott has made his first use of the Texas Enterprise Fund to help bring a tractor maker to Grapevine.

The 84th Legislature in 14 Emojis, by Ben Hasson and Ross Ramsey — There are generic Texas-themed emoji on the way, but they won’t do the trick. What we really need — what you really want — are ones specially designed with the 84th Legislature in mind. Here are the 14 we came up with.

Panel Defends Powers' Role in Admissions but Recommends Changes, by Matthew Watkins — A panel of former chancellors and university presidents defended the University of Texas at Austin president’s role in admissions Thursday, but warned that students’ connections shouldn’t be a factor in whether they are admitted.

Rep. Stephenson Released From Hospital, by Ryan McCrimmon — State Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton, was taken to an Austin hospital Thursday morning, House Administration Chairman Charlie Geren announced on the floor of the Texas House.

UT Finalizes Contract With Basketball Coach Shaka Smart, by Matthew Watkins — In his first year, Shaka Smart will earn $2.8 million. That salary will increase by $100,000 each year until the terms of his contract run out in 2022. The final year, in which he'd be paid $3.4 million, is not guaranteed.

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The Day Ahead

•    The House and the Senate convene at 9 a.m. It is the last day for the House to consider non-local House bills and resolutions on third, or final, reading.

Elsewhere

200 bills headed to oblivion in Democratic slowdown, Austin American-Statesman

Anti-gay marriage bill author says his measure may not be dead, The Dallas Morning News

Group behind videotaping at Capitol has plenty of its own secrets, Houston Chronicle

Bill to require ID for all abortions goes to Senate, Austin American-Statesman

Grand jury reform bill alive again, passes House, Houston Chronicle

Texas Obtains New Supply of Pentobarbital for Execution Use, The Associated Press

Garcia: Cortez readies his comeback bid in District 117, San Antonio Express-News

Presidential Contenders' Missing Votes Pile Up, Roll Call

Austin Leaders Slam "Misguided" Training About Women, Austin Monitor

Quote to Note

“I think that talks have been very productive and we are hoping that we will be able to reach a resolution in the next 24 hours.”

— Gov. Greg Abbott, expressing hope on Thurdsay that all parties will come to an agreement on tax relief this legislative session, thus averting a special session on the budget and taxes

Today in TribTalk

How to save Texas' crumbling parks, by Andrew Sansom — A huge backlog of deferred maintenance is taking a toll on our precious state parks. Here’s what lawmakers can do to fix it.

News From Home

The latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT is out. We break down the presidential announcement of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and chat with his supporter George Seay, who was Rick Perry's state finance chairman in 2012.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    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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