The Brief: Legislature Could Enter Bathroom Debate

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick went on the offensive Tuesday, unveiling a number of measures against local guidelines for transgender students that mirror a federal directive from the Obama administration.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick at a May 13, 2016 press conference.

The Big Conversation

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Tuesday asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to issue an opinion on a school district's bathroom guidelines in the latest effort from conservative leaders in the state to defy a federal directive telling public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity.

In addition to asking Paxton to weigh in on the policy at Fort Worth ISD, which mirrors the federal directive, Patrick said he was sending a letter to every school district leader in the state advising them to ignore the guideline from the Obama administration. 

Patrick previously called for the Fort Worth district's superintendent to resign over the rules, the Tribune's Patrick Svitek wrote. Days later, the federal directive from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice was released, thrusting Patrick and other policymakers further into the spotlight.

Now, Patrick said the state must look to the Legislature to address concerns with the policy at Fort Worth if the district does not reconsider its actions internally.

"When we have a rogue, runaway superintendent and a rogue, runaway school board, then the Legislature this coming-up session is going to have to look at this issue because the law is clear," Patrick said at Tuesday's press conference.

Svitek wrote that "he also repeatedly pushed back on the idea that he is intruding on a local matter, saying it is 'this superintendent and school board that is prohibiting local control.'"

Following Patrick's press conference on Tuesday, parents of transgender children spoke at a separate press conference outside the state Capitol where they characterized Patrick's efforts as a "literal pissing contest," Svitek wrote.

"I'm here to tell Dan Patrick: You — specifically you — are endangering my child's life," Ann Elder, the mother of a transgender boy named Benjamin, said during the conference. "Because you have now told everyone in the state of Texas that it's okay to harass my child, that it's okay for the school district to stop supporting them."

Trib Must Reads

Despite Oil Bust, Midland is Still Bustling, by Kiah Collier – Thousands have been laid off. Tax collections are plummeting. Many are on the brink of homelessness. Rows of drilling rigs and white company trucks sit idle — there’s no telling for how long. And, yet, amid the worst oil bust in decades, the energy capital of West Texas hasn’t slowed down much.

El Paso ID Effort Could Force Local Control Showdown, by Julián Aguilar – In El Paso, local leaders hope to create a municipal ID card for the region's homeless, indigent and undocumented. But Gov. Greg Abbott has hinted that could make El Paso a so-called "sanctuary city."

Analysis: For Presidential Trendline to Change in Texas, Check Door No. 3, by Ross Ramsey – It’s not just that the Republicans have been winning presidential contests here for the past 40 years; the Democrats haven’t been gaining on them — except when strong independent candidates intervene.

Obama's Lawyers Ask Texas Judge To Rethink Immigration Order, by Julián Aguilar – The Obama administration has asked a Brownsville-based judge to rethink an order that requires the federal government to turn over the private information of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

Appeals Court Hands Win to Texas Environmental Groups, by Kiah Collier – Texas environmental groups have scored a major victory in a six-year legal battle with the world’s largest oil company.

Hillary Clinton: “We Could Win Texas" in November, by Abby Livingston – In a new interview, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton posed a wild notion: She can carry Texas in the fall.

The Day Ahead

•    The Texas House Committee on Natural Resources meets at 9 a.m. in the Capitol extension to discuss the regional and state water planning process and the status of legislation aimed at encouraging joint groundwater planning.

•    The Texas House Committee on Insurance meets at 10 a.m. in the Capitol extension to discuss the effectiveness of legislative efforts to improve transparency and quality of health care networks.

•    The Texas House Committee on Juvenile Justice and Family Issues meets at 10:30 a.m. in the Capitol extension for an organizational meeting.

Elsewhere

(Links below lead to outside websites; content might be behind paywall)

Texas Rangers, Travis County DA asked to investigate agencies’ misuse of ‘emergency leave’ as severance, The Dallas Morning News

Travis County GOP moves to limit power of incoming chair Robert MorrowAustin American-Statesman

Ted Cruz looks to ease bad blood with GOP establishmentPolitico

Texas lobbyists spend upward of $1 million to host state officials at conferencesSan Antonio Express-News

Supreme Court declines to take up constitutionality of the death penalty, The Dallas Morning News

T.S.A. Trains Dogs to Stay One Sniff Ahead of Bomb Makers, The New York Times

Gov. Greg Abbott urges other governors to defy Obama on Iran sanctions, The Dallas Morning News

Turner uses search firm to keep police chief candidates from public view, Houston Chronicle

Child abuse cases driving spike of volunteersSan Antonio Express-News

Checking the pulse of Texas' entrepreneurial spiritHouston Chronicle

Texas man pays traffic fine with two buckets full of pennies. Is he a hero — or a jerk?, The Washington Post

Quote to Note

"Donald Trump is a shape shifting lizard."

 — A highway sign in Dallas on Interstate 30 that was hacked late Monday night

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with Ryan Sitton, Texas Railroad Commissioner, on June 3 at The Austin Club

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 23-25 at the University of Texas at Austin