Tracking Texas Politics: April 27, 2015

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Here’s what’s happening at the capitol on April 27th, 2015.

After a week of tensions finally unveiled themselves at a breakfast between the “big three” (Speaker Straus, Governor Abbott, and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick) the House and the Senate finally moved on each other’s bills. Around fifty bills were referred to committees in the other chamber, including Governor Abbott’s and Rep. Dan Huberty’s Pre-K plan (HB 4). The two chambers also chose their five member negotiating teams for the budget. They begin the process of forming one two-year budget for the State of Texas. The House has chosen a few Representatives who are not fans of the Tea Party movement. Tensions could rise in negotiations over tax cuts; should the Senate’s property tax cut plans play out, the state would have to put billions of dollars towards schools in the final budget. 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.

Governor Abbott also reports for jury duty in Travis County at 1:30 PM on Monday.

On the Floors:

The Senate could bring several controversial bills to a vote as soon as enough votes are lined up. Nineteen senators — enough to pass a bill — are needed to bring any idea to a vote. There’s still not enough for repealing in-state tuition for college students who came here illegally and stripping funding away from cities who don’t enforce current immigration laws. That could change this week.

More than $4 billion sit unused in around 200 accounts of State Government. Money that could be used for motorcycle safety programs to trauma centers is not used. A few bills by Rep. Drew Darby, R – San Angelo, could continue the process of slowly spending that money on its dedicated purpose.

A bill requiring a search warrant for a body cavity search at a traffic stop could come to a vote in the Texas House.

A pair of anti-abortion amendments were added to a House health agency bill. Apparently it was too divisive and the bill was pulled down from debate, slated for another day. That day could be soon. The author of the bill sent the sunset reform of the State Health Services back to committee to be brought again to the floor. One of the controversial amendments would ban abortions for babies with genetic abnormalities after 20 weeks. By bringing it back the committee, all the amendments were stripped off.

In Committees:

A few high profile deaths surrounding group homes have struck central Texas in the last few years. A bill by Rep. Susan King, R – Abilene, would let neighbors know a group home is in their neighborhood if law enforcement and EMS have responded to multiple events at a specific location. Earlier this year a man was shot after wandering away from his group home in Austin. Many neighbors were concerned by how they didn’t know about the home. Debate on this issue begins in the House Human Services committee after lawmakers are finished with floor action.

At 9 AM, the Senate State Affairs Committee will debate a bill that would ban abortions in the Texas healthcare exchange provided by the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Exception abortions would be allowed if life-threatening physical condition exists.

On the Steps:

The Transgender Education Network of Texas and the Freedom Network will draw attention to transgender bills going through the legislative process. At 10:30 AM on the North steps they will speak against a bill that would force transgender people to use bathrooms based on their birth gender. They will speak in support of anti-discriminatory laws that would protect transgender Texans.

Coming Up:

Tuesday the House of Representatives will vote on their sales tax cut plan that would cut the 6.25% rate to 5.95%. A letter released this weekend endorsed the plan and said cutting property taxes (the Senate’s idea) would not be felt by normal Texas homeowners. The letter was signed by 90 out of the 98 House Republicans, broadening a fight between a few key Senators to Representatives to a chamber on chamber scuffle.

Teachers give Texas kids an A through F grade and everybody knows what it means. A law that would allow the State to grade each public school campus will get a public hearing on Tuesday. This idea originated this year in the Senate and the House will debate whether it shames schools or encourages them to do better.

One of the many Texas laws caught in a New Orleans Circuit Court of Appeals is its voter ID law. A lower court said it was unconstitutional but kept the law on the books until after November’s election. Some say the law keeps are voter rolls accurate and legal. Others say it discriminates against minorities. The court will hear the two arguments this week.

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