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The Brief: May 29, 2015

The Dallas Morning News takes a detailed look at the evolution of the deal on tax cuts this session and finds that at a few critical junctures, the deal almost derailed entirely.

House Ways and Means Chair Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, speaks with House Appropriations Chair John Otto, R-Dayton, and House Administration Chair Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, on the House floor on May 14, 2015.

The Big Conversation

The Dallas Morning News' Bob Garrett takes a detailed look at the evolution of the deal on tax cuts this session and finds that at a few critical junctures, the deal almost derailed entirely.

He writes:

Straus and Fort Worth GOP Rep. Charlie Geren announced they were suspending talks. Just minutes earlier, a Houston Chronicle reporter had quoted unnamed senators as saying the House was abandoning the sales tax cut that Republicans in the lower chamber had adamantly stood by for months.

Within minutes, the famously gruff Geren told reporters: “There’re no negotiations going on at the present time. The train is off the track. We don’t negotiate in the media.”

Eltife recalled: “They were just furious.”

Republicans came into the session with huge majorities and a state treasury flush with enough cash to easily support the one thing all Republicans agree on: tax cuts. Despite that, it almost all fell apart.

And while talks veered close to the brink at several points during session, lawmakers held together and produced a deal that at this point looks likely to land on the governor's desk.

Trib Must-Reads

Vacancies Give New UT President Room to Build, by Matthew Watkins — When Bill Powers’ second-in-command was appointed to replace him as president of UT-Austin this year, it would have been reasonable to expect continuity in the school's upper ranks. But that's not the situation Greg Fenves inherited.

After Error, Hays County Groundwater Bill is Revived, by Matthew Watkins — A bill designed to protect western Hays County residents' water wells received a surprising, last-minute reprieve Thursday night — after a procedural error killed the legislation the day before.

FEMA Gives Texans More Time to Assess Flood Damage, by Patrick Svitek — Federal officials are giving Texans more time to assess the damage to their property so they can file insurance claims after the deadly flooding that recently devastated some parts of the state.

"Cop-Stop" Language Stripped From Open Carry Bill, by Morgan Smith — A controversial provision, which law enforcement officials have said would allow criminals to carry firearms without repercussions, has been removed from a key gun bill, lawmakers confirmed Thursday.

House Sends Border Security Bill to Governor, by Julián Aguilar — After a months-long staring contest between the House and the Senate, the lower chamber gave a final blessing Thursday to House Bill 11, a sweeping border security bill.

Craddick: Bill Banning Texting While Driving is Dead, by Alana Rocha — With the death of a bill that would have created a statewide texting-while-driving ban, the measure’s author said Thursday that legislators “have not done our job as lawmakers to protect the life and safety of all Texans.”

Analysis: Disarming a Dangerous Coalition, by Ross Ramsey — An end-of-session deal on open carry of handguns and limits on police in Texas rescued Gov. Greg Abbott from political crossfire between law enforcement officials and an unusual coalition of liberal and conservative lawmakers.

House Sends Franchise Tax Cut to Abbott, by Aman Batheja — Defusing Gov. Greg Abbott’s first public veto threat, lawmakers sent a bill cutting the business franchise tax to his desk Thursday. The House also sent Abbott a bill plugging holes in the 2014-15 budget.

Disaster Recovery Proposal Revived in Flooding Aftermath, by Patrick Svitek — Surrounded by the aftermath of recent flooding, the Texas Senate has revived a measure that would make it easier for local officials to plan ahead for rebuilding after disasters.

Hays County Groundwater Regulation Efforts Likely Dead, by Neena Satija — After fears of a massive, unregulated groundwater pumping project sparked a passionate display of political activism by Texas Hill Country residents earlier this year, the resulting legislative efforts appear to have failed.

Campus Carry Headed to Conference Committee, by Morgan Smith — Significant changes limiting the reach of legislation requiring Texas universities to allow concealed handguns on campus may be in danger as House and Senate lawmakers work out their differences on the bill.

Ethics Reform: A Guide to What's Still Alive, by Jay Root — Now that the massive overhaul contained in Senate Bill 19 has gone on life support, a few targeted efforts to shine the light on conflicts of interest and enhance transparency remain. Here's a guide to what's moving and what's not.

Open Carry Faces Filibuster Threat in Senate, by Morgan Smith — State Sen. José Rodríguez said Thursday that if the opportunity arises, he plans to filibuster a bill allowing the open carry of handguns in Texas.

Abbott Signs Pre-K Bill Considered Top Priority, by Patrick Svitek — Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday signed House Bill 4, which is aimed at improving early education in Texas.

For High-Stakes Vote, Dukes Returns to House Floor, by Bobby Blanchard — Democratic lawmaker Dawnna Dukes of Austin has missed most of the session because of lingering injuries from a car accident. She made it back to the floor Tuesday for a crucial rules vote, helping block a Republican move to speed up several major bills.

The Day Ahead

•    The House and Senate convene at 10 a.m.

•    Last day for House to act on Senate amendments

•    Last day for printing and distribution of Senate copies of conference committee reports on tax and general appropriations bills


Flood damage in Texas could top $1 billion, some say, Austin American-Statesman

Abbott’s first response to Jade Helm more measured, records show, San Antonio Express-News

Lawmakers race to head off bill-killing delays in final days of Lege, Houston Chronicle

First step taken to repeal rules allowing gambling expansion in Texas, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Texas plan to have $30 million ready to protect military bases, Abilene Reporter News

State to give $4.5 million for investigation of earthquakes, The Dallas Morning News

Hazlewood deal uncertain, but key lawmakers hopeful, Austin American-Statesman

Van de Putte, Taylor spar in televised debate, San Antonio Express-News

In Brenham, layoffs continue, and the unemployed look for help, Houston Chronicle

Texas Tackles Old Convictions, New Science, The Marshall Project

Quote to Note

"I'm going to go visit with the speaker's team and the parliamentarian, but I'm probably not going to ask why. I'm just going to say thanks."

— State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, after the House parliamentarian issued a rare reversal of a point of order ruling, which gave new life to his legislation aimed at protecting water wells in western Hays County

News From Home

The latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT is out. We analyze Carly Fiorina's presidential campaign and talk with Washington Post writer and The Fix blogger Chris Cillizza about how the 2016 race is shaping up.

Trib Events for the Calendar

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

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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Explore related story topics

Charlie Geren Dan Patrick Dawnna Dukes Dennis Bonnen Greg Abbott Jason A. Isaac Joe Straus José R. Rodríguez Tom Craddick