Political news

Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune

In a last-ditch effort to tweak one of their most despised bills of the session, House Democrats tried — and failed — to adopt several amendments today to the “sanctuary cities” bill initially passed by the House late Monday.

Photo Courtesy The Texas Tribune

A day of parliamentary chaos in the House ended with the passage of Gov. Rick Perry’s newest emergency item: a tort reform bill. And a powerful message from Republicans to Democrats: mess with us at your own peril.

Photo Courtesy The Texas Tribune

With 38 members missing from House's first Saturday meeting — most of them Republicans — Democrats seized a chance to cause some procedural mischief when they realized only 14 of them would have to walk out to break a quorum.

In case you couldn't keep up, our buddies at KUT's political reporting partner, the Texas Tribune, have got you covered.

Photo Courtesy The Texas Tribune

The Senate's version of the state budget made it to the House floor today - and was kicked to a House/Senate conference committee. The Senate spends about $12 billion more than the House - with much of the difference focused on Health and Human Services and public education.

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News

House lawmakers have sent the controversial abortion sonogram bill to the governor's desk — after a last-ditch effort by disability rights advocates to change language they called highly offensive.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News.

The Texas Senate passed a $176.5 billion budget package for the next biennium late this afternoon.  The 19-12 vote clears the way for negotiations with the House to come up with a final budget plan.  The Senate plan makes about 11-billion dollars in cuts, but those cuts aren't as deep as the House version.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

An anti-bullying bill has cleared a major hurdle towards becoming law. House Bill 1942 cleared the Texas House by a final vote of 94-41.

The bill, authored by State Rep. Diane Patrick (R-Arlington), hopes to, according to the bill's analysis, "take a preventive approach to reducing bullying in Texas public schools and to provide a minimal framework for schools to use in adopting and implementing a bullying policy, while being cognizant of the local control independent school districts should have in developing policy reflective of their respective communities."

The Texas House voted 94-29 this afternoon to create a “Choose Life” Texas license plate. An identical bill has already passed the Senate. Revenue generated from the license plate will go to support organizations that provide counseling for mothers considering adoption.

Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman), the author of the House version of the bill, says that the license plate’s message isn’t political.

“We’re not limiting anybody’s viewpoint. This choose life license plate is going to go benefit adoptions,” Rep. Phillips told his colleagues on the House floor today.

Picture courtesy The Texas Tribune

KUT got its batch of emails and other documents relating to last month's announcement that more than 3.5 million Texans had their personal data, including Social Security Number and birth date, exposed by the Comptroller's office.

So far the information is divided into two major categories:

Photo by Jacob Villanueva for the Texas Tribune

GOP lawmakers' battle against Planned Parenthood resumed today, as lawmakers on a Senate subcommittee passed out a bill that would renew the Texas Women's Health Program, but prohibit the country's most prominent family planning organization from participating.

Picture courtesy The Texas Tribune

Conservative groups that aren't happy with the Senate's budget proposal delivered letters today reminding lawmakers that they don't want ANY of the Rainy Day fund used.

The letter from Texans for a Conservative Budget is actually a reminder of a 2009 letter that told lawmakers to not use any of the Rainy Day fund - unless: "the alternative is higher taxes or essential-program cuts."

Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera

Senate lawmakers have tentatively passed a controversial measure to require women seeking abortions to receive sonograms — and have the details of the fetus described to them — prior to the procedure. Pending a final vote tomorrow, the bill will head back to the House so the lower chamber can sign off on the Senate's changes. 

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman

Don’t trust the name “bath salts,” warned state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls.

“Bath salts has nothing to do with taking a bath and has nothing to do with salt,” Estes said. “Bath salts” are a drug that can have effects similar to cocaine or amphetamines and can be bought legally online or in smoke shops.

Image courtesy Chrissy Olson http://www.flickr.com/photos/islandgyrl/131024031/lightbox/#/photos/islandgyrl/131024031/

Hold on to your yacht club officer hats! The Texas House Ways and Means Committee has approved a tax break for big yachts, the San Antonio Express News reports.

The bill, authored by State Rep. John Davis (R-Houston) would limit Texans’ sales tax on boats to $18,000, matching Florida’s sales tax, regardless of the cost of the yacht.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has announced another move to help the 3.5 million Texans who had their personal data exposed by her state office. Earlier initiatives to help Texans in the Teacher's Retirement System, Employees Retirement System and Texas Workforce Commission provided discounted subscriptions to credit monitoring services.

Now, Combs says she'll use campaign funds to pay for one year of credit monitoring and Internet surveillance - along with identity restoration services. Combs talked with Ben Philpott, who covers state politics and policy for KUT and the Texas Tribune, about the data breach. You can hear the full interview below.

Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera

Senators left a meeting this morning looking no closer to an agreement on the budget — and Finance Chair Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said the method of financing remains the sticking point.

“If we’re not going to use the Rainy Day fund when it’s raining, we might as well get rid of it," Ogden told reporters after this morning's caucus. "This is what it’s for.”

Image courtesy Office of Rep. Lloyd Doggett

A proposed map of new Congressional districts in Texas has one incumbent representative steaming mad.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) issued a statement about the map earlier today, claiming it effectively splits Travis County up into four Congressional districts.

Graphic courtesy the Texas Public Policy Foundation

The Texas Senate is expected to vote on its version of the state budget this week. Their plan spends about $12 billion more than the House, including increased spending in education and healthcare. A raucous House/Senate conference committee is expected, as the two sides try to work out the differences.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Texas Senate Finance Committee has approved a budget that spends down an additional $3 billion from the state's Rainy Day fund, according to our political reporting partner the Texas Tribune.  The 11-4 vote came faster than expected this morning, and it sets up a showdown between House and Senate lawmakers.

Photo Courtesy the Texas Tribune for KUT News

Comptroller Susan Combs is continuing to clean up the privacy mess her office made when it exposed the Social Security numbers and birth dates of about 3.5 million Texans. In a press release, Combs said her office had negotiated a 2nd discounted credit monitoring subscription for those affected by the security breach.

Photo by Kenn Zuniga

The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit dismissed a lawsuit last week claiming that the President’s National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, claims that the day violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. ”

Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune for KUT News

Texans affected by an internet security breach by the Comptroller's office are now being targeted by a new telephone scam. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott released a statement today saying a state employee reported to the AG that they received a phone call from someone claiming to be with the Employees Retirement System of Texas.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

President Barack Obama is heading to Austin for a fundraiser. The visit is planned for May 10. 

President Obama announced this week that he would run for re-election in 2012. It wasn't a huge surprise, but he is the first to announce his plans.

Photo by KUT News

Political battles are often fought on the right or left of a topic.  But today ideology was divided by the North and South sides of the Capitol.  

Photo by KUT News

Homeowners’ associations might not be able to turn the heat anymore on homeowners.

The Texas Senate passed SB 142, which restricts associations from exercising their rights to foreclose homeowners who didn’t pay dues and fees.

The bill, filed by State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas), aims to protect homeowners from potential abuse of foreclosure, especially on the families of soldiers serving overseas.

Photo by KUT News

So what does cutting the state's public education budget by about $7.8 billion dollars look like?

Based on a bill by Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston), it looks pretty ugly. But he says with the amount of money lawmakers in the House just voted to give to schools during the state budget debate, there's not a pretty way to get money to schools.

Photo by KUT News

A bill in the Texas House that hopes to reduce head injuries in middle and high school athletics received initial approval today. The bill by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-San Benito) would prohibit the use of all football helmets in use 16 years.  It would also require any 10-year-old helmets to be reconditioned at least once every 10 years.

Photo by flickr.com/pierceplace532/

O.K...Maybe "tackle" was NOT the right word to use on this bill, because the bill passed without ANY debate. Rep. Sid Miller's bill passed 137 - 9.

The proposal wasn't exactly a new idea. The bill passed the House in 2009, but never got a hearing in the Senate, according to Rep. Miller (R-Stephenville).

Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News

If you're watching the Texas House budget debate today - don't blink.  

While it took about 16 hours to get through the first three articles of the budget Friday, lawmakers are zooming through their debate on the remaining parts of the budget.  

Many amendments are simply being withdrawn - or moved to Article XI in the budget.  That's the place were projects without funding go to hang out just in case money can be found to fund them.