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The Brief: The 85th Texas legislative session ends with threats of violence

Accusations of racism, threats and violence shot through the lower chamber on a tense last day of the regular legislative session.

A large crowd turns out at Texas Capitol to protest Senate Bill 4, the "sanctuary cities" bill, on May 29, 2017.

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What you need to know

The last day of a Texas Legislative session is usually a quiet one. Not this time.

Tensions soared in the House on the final day of the 85th Texas Legislative session after a massive protest against the state's new sanctuary cities law sparked a scuffle between state representatives. Hundreds of protesters disrupted the lower chamber's proceedings until they were escorted out of the House gallery by the Department of Public Safety. Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, said he called the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on them. Here's what you need to know.

• Rinaldi's actions enraged a group of Hispanic lawmakers, some of whom were cheering the protesters on. State Rep. César Blanco, D-El Paso, said Rinaldi approached him and Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth, and said "I'm glad I just called ICE to have all these people deported."

A scuffle ensued. But Rinaldi said he was the one under attack and accused Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, of threatening his life on the House floor and Romero of physically assaulting him. Nevárez told The Texas Tribune that he put his hands on Rinaldi and told him to take the argument outside the chamber but noted, "Was I going to shoot the guy? No." Video footage showed both Democrats and Republicans shoving each other.

 Democrats hurled accusations of racism at Rinaldi during an impromptu press conference called shortly after the incident. They called him a "waste of space" and demanded that he be held accountable for his actions. At the event, Rep. Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, also said Rinaldi had threatened to "put a bullet in one of my colleagues' heads." Rinaldi later said in a statement that he was speaking in self defense. House speaker Joe Straus said after the incident, "There's no excuse for members making insensitive and disparaging remarks on the floor." 

 What's next for the Legislature? We'll likely be back for a special session, but nothing is guaranteed. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday he would make an announcement later this week. Here's what to expect next.

Tribune today

• Oh, you weren't watching all 140 days of the Texas legislative session? We've got you covered — with the best floor fights, the most dramatic moments, the most emotional speeches and, of course, a bill about "masturbatory emissions."

• How do special sessions work? When does the governor start vetoing bills? Is Texas headed to court? Now that Texas lawmakers have officially ended the 85th legislative session, you've got questions. We've got answers.

• The legislative session may be over for now but it certainly didn't fizzle out. Uncertainty over a special session and deep tensions between the two chambers mark the end of a tumultuous 140 days.

• From Ross Ramsey: The state's top leaders couldn't close a session-ending deal over the final weekend, giving advocates of bathroom and property tax legislation — if the governor allows it — a second chance.

• Uber and Lyft are officially back in Austin. Gov. Abbott approved a measure on Monday that would establish a statewide framework to regulate ride-hailing companies. 

• There's one question on everyone's mind: Will there be a special session? The governor promised to announce his verdict "later this week."

News from home

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What we're reading

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

UNT students cautious as police search for sexual assault suspect, Denton Record-Chronicle

Local leaders praise passage of wind farm billCorpus Christi Caller-Times

Local seniors in need fear loss of food aidBeaumont Enterprise

3 a.m. "sanctuary" protest at Gov. Abbott's mansion blares mariachi musicTexas Observer

Portland mayor aims to nix free-speech rally, fears 'hatred'The Associated Press

Residents taxed by 'not friendly' appraisal reviewsThe Houston Chronicle ($)

Reversals at Legislature have spelled an unhappy tale for AustinAustin American-Statesman ($)

Minority lawmakers lament tough session, vow to resist GOP agendaThe Dallas Morning News ($) 

For your calendar

May 31: Join us in person or on our livestream for a conversation with U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio.

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

Quote to note

"Matt Rinaldi gave the perfect example of why there's a problem with SB 4. Matt Rinaldi looked into the gallery and saw Hispanic people and automatically assumed they were undocumented. He racially profiled every single person that was in the gallery today. He created the scenario that so many of us fear."

Rep. Ramon Romero, a Fort Worth Democrat, about Rep. Matt Rinaldi calling immigration authorities on protesters.

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.

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