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The Brief: Time is almost up for the House to vote out Senate bills

The House is expected to take up bills on maternal mortality and the state's voter ID law as the Senate deliberates passage of bathroom restrictions for transgender students and property tax reform.

Speaker Joe Straus gives a hastily-called press conference in the back of the House chamber on May 17, 2017. 

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What you need to know

Expect a flurry of bill action in the lower chamber today, the last day for the House to take up Senate bills for a second reading. The 85th Legislature will grind to a halt in less than a week unless a special session is called, something Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has threatened to push for if lawmakers don't approve a "bathroom bill" and property tax legislation. Here's what you need to know:

• The House approved versions of both bills over the weekend, but Patrick said he was unconvinced, saying he shares Gov. Greg Abbott's concerns about the lack of a rollback provision on property taxes and worries about "ambiguous language" in the House's bathroom-related amendment. Patrick said there is still time for House members to act "in a meaningful way." 

Meanwhile, the House is set to take up Senate Bill 5, which would ease current photo ID rules for voting. Patrick has called SB 5 — which would impose voter ID rules similar to those in place during the 2016 general election  — “a must-pass bill" this session. If it doesn't pass, some Republicans fear Texas will again face federal voting rights oversight in the wake of a federal judge's ruling last year that the state's 2011 voter ID law intentionally disenfranchised minority voters. 

Maternal mortality is also on the House agenda. Less than two weeks after two bills aimed at curbing the alarming rise in maternal deaths died in the House, the lower chamber is scheduled to vote on Senate Bill 1929, a measure to bolster the state's research of pregnancy-related deaths. Rep. Shawn Thierry, whose maternal health bill was blocked by the Freedom Caucus earlier this month, has said she will try and resurrect her bill as an amendment to SB 1929.

Tribune today

• Pro-business forces, which had for months warned that a "bathroom bill" could be disastrous for the state's bottom line, held their fire during Sunday's debate over an amendment restricting bathroom use for transgender students.

• Scientists are wary as Texas considers allowing the sale of unproven drugs. Supporters of House Bill 3236 say it could get experimental drugs into terminally ill patients' hands, but its detractors say it would encourage snake oil salesmen.

Doctors and hospital administrators clashed over a bill that would bar hospitals and health plans from differentiating between physicians who have undergone a widely-used recertification process and those who haven't.

• The Texas "sanctuary" law has counties and cities taking legal aim at the state. El Paso County on Monday filed a lawsuit in federal court against the governor, the attorney general and the director for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

• Gov. Greg Abbott demanded the House and Senate fund his pre-K grant program holding school districts to quality standards. So they came up with a budget proposal that keeps the standards, but cuts the grants.

• A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a North Carolina redistricting case could have serious implications for the drawing of political maps in Texas and nationwide. 

• Texas senators voted unanimously to approve a bill that would increase the amount of money given to relative caregivers who have taken in abused and neglected children.

• Texas students who fail a couple of required exams still have a shot at graduation. Legislation to extend a program allowing these students to take an alternative route to graduation passed the House.

• A bill that would make it easier for Texans with low-level offenses on their records to apply for jobs passed the Senate. 

News from home

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What we're reading

Links below lead to outside websites; we've noted paywall content with $.

How much do states rely on federal funding? Here's a state-by-state look, GOVERNING

Texas bathroom bill could expose secrets of transgender kidsThe Associated Press

Kharish will sell 130 homes to tenants rather than evict and demolish, Dallas Observer

In Denton, a new way to build up those with developmental disabilities, Denton Record-Chronicle

Two poll workers plead guilty to illegal votingThe Houston Chronicle ($)

House 'bathroom bill' won't keep transgender students out of restrooms, school groups say, The Dallas Morning News ($)

For your calendar 

May 25: Join us in person or on our livestream as state Sens. Konni Burton, Bryan Hughes and Royce West tell us how they think the Senate fared in the 85th legislative session.

June 1: Catch a conversation with UT System Chancellor William McRaven in person or on our livestream.

Photo of the day

While speaking against a “bathroom bill” amendment on Sunday, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, holds up a photo of a sign from the “separate but equal” era, when restrooms were segregated by race. Senate Bill 2078 was amended to include bathroom restrictions for transgender students, and passed the Texas House on third reading Monday. Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera. See more photos on our Instagram account

Quote to note

"It’s the dirtiest, most corrupt, most transparently fraudulent bill I’ve ever seen in my life. It exists for one purpose and one purpose only: to let patients pay for snake oil."

— Will Decker, a Houston immunologist who sits on the medical board for the advocacy group Texans for Cures, about legislation that would allow manufacturers of unproven drugs to sell their products to dying patients.

The Brief is written and compiled by your morning news baristas, Bobby Blanchard and Sanya Mansoor. If you have feedback or questions, please email thebrief@texastribune.org. As a nonprofit newsroom, we count on readers like you to help power newsletters like this. Did you like what you read today? Show your appreciation by becoming a member or making a donation today.

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