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Abortion, Transportation Funding Among Issues Added to Session

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry is giving Texas lawmakers more to deal with in the special session, adding this afternoon proposed legislation on abortions and  on mandatory life sentences with parole for 17 year olds charged with capital murder.

State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, is the author of House Bill 16, which would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks with some exceptions.

She authored it "based on the pain aspect -- based on the science and technology we have now showing that at five months a pre-born fetus definitely feels pain," Rep. Laubenberg said. She had filed the same legislation during the regular 83rd legislative session. She added that she's not surprised the Governor added abortion to the call.

Lauren Rose with Texans Care for Children said the decision to add the sentence for juveniles to the call wasn't necessarily expected. But Texas would need to address this after the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that mandatory life without parole for juveniles is unconstitutional and violates Eighth Amendment rights

"The Legislature should be looking at individualized sentencing," she said. "Not to say a judge or jury couldn't give life sentence to someone convicted of capital murder but making sure there are options to factor in...factors related to the youth's age or why they were in that place to begin with."

On Monday evening, Gov. Perry added transportation funding to the call. The Senate Finance Committee will hear public testimony on Wednesday on SJR 2 by State Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville. That measure would allow a portion of oil and gas severance taxes to be constitutionally dedicated to the state’s highway fund.

But there could be others considered.

"There’ve been a number of bills filed, particularly on the House side, related to transportation funding. And so if it relates to transportation funding I think they can all be considered," Sen. Nichols said.

He said a constitutional amendment isn't about passing the buck to the voter. "The Department has to plan way out. And so since our budget only works on a two-year basis, it's very difficult for a transportation plan six years out, eight years out, ten years out to know how much money it has to work with," Sen. Nichols said. "When you constitutionally dedicate a revenue stream, then you know it will be going there. And then they can try to estimate in the future what that will be, know that they will have it and then make plans."

As for the roughly two weeks remaining of the session, neither Rep. Laubenberg or Sen. Nichols are worried about the amount of time left to address these issues.