AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Abortion politics roared back to life in the Texas Legislature and after some wrangling on the House floor could loom over the final five weeks of the 2015 session.
Although the issue had been mostly quiet after 2013’s Senate filibuster and rallies at the Capitol when lawmakers passed some of the toughest abortion restriction in the country, House Republicans reignited a push for even tighter controls with a vote to end abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy when the fetus has severe health abnormalities.
While the plan was derailed — for now — by technical objections from Democrats, the amendment’s strong backing by the House’s Republican majority sent a signal that the issue could return before the session ends June 1.
While portions of the 2013 abortion restrictions are still being challenged in federal court, Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, introduced the new amendment on a bill that reviewed the state Department of State Health Services.
Schaefer had filed the same issue with a bill that hasn’t yet been given a hearing.
How Schaefer and others in the tea party wing of House Republicans attack the issue the rest of the session will be closely watched.
Here are other issues to watch this week at the Texas Capitol:
BUDGET BATTLE: The two-year state budget is the one bill lawmakers must pass every session. Both chambers have now each passed their own versions and the real negotiations begin. Both chambers appointed their negotiating teams to wrestle over differences in spending plans.
The Senate’s $211 billion plan would cut property and franchise taxes. The House version spends $210 billion but that chamber wants instead to cut sales taxes.
SANCTUARY CITIES: The contentious immigration proposal has been eligible for Senate debate for two weeks but hasn’t come up. The Republican-backed plan has faced staunch opposition from Democrats and Hispanic advocacy groups. While it has no legal meaning, “sanctuary cities” typically describe local governments that forbid police from asking about a person’s immigration status.
Lubbock Republican Sen. Charles Perry’s proposal would ban local governments from implementing such policies — a move critics say could lead to racial profiling by police.
GRADING SCHOOLS: The House will take a look at the Senate’s plan to assign A through F performance ratings to public schools. The Senate has already approved such a change, and the bill is scheduled for a House committee hearing on Tuesday.
Some Republicans say the letter grades are easy to understand and will spur parents to force changes at failing schools. Democratic opponents worry that attending an F-graded school could stigmatize students and that poor school ratings more reflect inadequate classroom funding than education quality.
VOTER ID: Over in New Orleans, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments over whether Texas’ tough voter ID law is constitutional. The Department of Justice has condemned the law as a means of suppressing minority voter turnout.
A lower court judge ruled the law unconstitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the state to use the law in the November 2014 general election.