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The Brief: May 20, 2015

House and Senate negotiators are down to one final challenge: working out the timing on their complicated tax cut dance.

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The Big Conversation

House and Senate negotiators are down to one final challenge: working out the timing on their complicated tax cut dance.

As the Tribune's Aman Batheja reports, the two sides have settled on a general approach. They will adopt the House's prescription on a reduction in the business franchise tax while funneling the rest of this session's tax relief through property tax reductions, as advocated by the Senate.

The timing issue has to do with the second part of the deal. As Batheja writes:

The outcome of the debate will determine the cost of the tax cut this session as well as whether the state’s counties will have to hold a costly September special election and maneuver the difficulties of implementing the property tax cut on a tight schedule, according to various county officials.

Under the Senate’s preferred timeline, Texas would hold a special election on Sept. 12 to approve the homestead exemption increase. Under the House approach, the election could wait until Nov. 3, when counties already have a constitutional amendment election planned.

Delaying the tax cut election would reduce the value of the tax cut by $650 million. Pushing ahead with a special September election, though, would create additional costs for the counties. Early estimates range from $850,000 in Bexar County to $2 million in Dallas County.

Trib Must-Reads

With Hospital Funds in Question, Who's at Risk?, by Becca Aaronson and Edgar Walters — As Texas negotiates with the Obama administration over how to pay for health care for the poor and uninsured, the state's safety-net hospitals and clinics are steeling themselves for an uncertain future.

Analysis: For Conservatives, Two Birds With One Stone, by Ross Ramsey — A Senate bill that arrived in the House less than two weeks ago would let Republicans put the hurt on unions and on Democrats, if it can move through the legislative gauntlet this late in the legislative session.

Facing Cuts, Community Colleges Plead for More Funds, by Matthew Watkins — The state's 50 community college systems are one of the few areas targeted for cuts in state funding over the next two years. As a final budget is hashed out in the Legislature, school leaders are hoping to reverse their fiscal fortune.

In Iowa, Perry Seeks Footing on Trade Deal, by Patrick Svitek — Former Gov. Rick Perry is making it clear he supports free trade in theory, but isn't wild about having the Obama administration negotiating the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Lawmakers One Step Closer on Border Security, by Julián Aguilar — A major piece of border security legislation cleared another hurdle in the Texas Legislature on Tuesday, prompting lawmakers to predict that a compromise between the House and Senate will be hashed out before the session ends June 1.

In Beaumont, Ted Cruz Spars a Bit, by Bobby Blanchard — Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz hit some of his main platform points while meeting with local leaders in Beaumont Tuesday afternoon, then sparred with reporters over his views on same-sex marriage.

Senate Panel OKs Restrictions on Minors Seeking Abortions, by Alexa Ura — A far-reaching proposal to restrict the mechanism used by minors seeking abortions without parental consent is headed to the Senate floor.

Texas Senate Approves Bonds for Campus Construction, by Matthew Watkins — Senators on Tuesday approved House Bill 100, which would authorize $3 billion in debt to pay for construction projects on university campuses.

House Backs Senate Bill Making Execution Drug Providers Secret, by Eva Hershaw — Legislation that would keep the names of execution drug providers secret is headed to the governor’s office after the Texas House gave final approval on Tuesday to a Senate measure.

Hillary Clinton to Campaign in Texas June 3-4, by Patrick Svitek — Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has scheduled a trip to Texas as part of her 2016 presidential campaign. She is scheduled to visit the state June 3-4, a campaign official said Tuesday.

Cruz and Perry Noncommittal as Straw Poll Talk Heats Up, by Patrick Svitek — The two White House hopefuls from Texas are keeping their options when it comes to the Iowa Straw Poll. Iowa Republican leaders are scrambling to keep the event alive.

With Clock Running, Immigration Bills Cling to Senate Calendar, by Julián Aguilar — After idling in the Senate, two controversial immigration bills — ending in-state tuition for some undocumented immigrants and barring sanctuary cities — are apparently back in play. But it remains unclear whether sponsors have the votes to bring the measures up for debate.

The Day Ahead

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

•    Senate Finance takes up at its 9 a.m. meeting House bills calling for a cut in the business franchise tax, HB 32 by Dennis Bonnen, and legislation strengthening oversight of "high-risk" state contracts, HB 15 by John Otto (E1.036).

Elsewhere

Days after biker shootout, signs of a deeper dispute emerge, Houston Chronicle

Bill bumps certain children down on state health care waiting list, Austin American-Statesman

Senate panel gives boost to Texas firm’s bid to store nuclear waste, The Dallas Morning News

Legal experts say Texas abortion bill probably unconstitutional, The Dallas Morning News

Dozens protest Texas suit blocking deportation deferrals, Austin American-Statesman

Disability rights activists seek higher wages for attendants, San Antonio Express-News

Fletcher no longer running for Harris County sheriff, Houston Chronicle

TEA investigating attendance, credit recovery at EPISD, El Paso Times

Wichita Falls eases water use restrictions, The Associated Press

Quote to Note

"If you control an area, you control the money, and in this case, the area they are talking about is Texas. What is happening is the Cossacks are aligning themselves with the Hells Angels so they can have more control over Texas."

— Retired FBI agent Chuck Joyner on the turf war that has developed after the Cossacks biker gang defied the state's most powerful Bandidos biker gang. The deadly shootout at a Waco restaurant on Sunday is now believed to be a new development in this long standing conflict.

Today in TribTalk

The trick to battling gender stereotypes, by Emily Amanatullah, Taeya Howell and Catherine Tinsley — Research shows that simply criticizing absurd gender stereotypes — like those highlighted by a recent Austin city staff training session — isn’t enough to dispel them. Here’s what it takes.

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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