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May 22, 2017      5:33 PM

Bresnen tells federal judge American Phoenix head Basel is trying to avoid jail time

In new filing, Bresnen’s attorney argues Basel is trying to get his case taken up by a federal court "115 days after he was served with the order to produce records" and is simply trying to avoid jail time for contempt of court

Attorneys for the veteran lobbyist suing the American Phoenix Foundation told a federal judge in Austin today that its founder Joe Basel is trying to get the case moved to federal court simply to delay the case and avoid jail time.

Basel – who founded the group that clandestinely filmed lawmakers, lobbyists, and others at the Capitol and around Austin last session – is in contempt of court after a judge ordered him to release the group’s financials as required by Texas law.

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By Scott Braddock

May 22, 2017      4:54 PM

After North Carolina ruling, Federal court suggests a special session on redistricting

“…the Court directs Defendants’ counsel to confer with their client(s) about whether the State wishes to voluntarily undertake redistricting in a special session in light of the Cooper (North Carolina) opinion.”

Here’s the order from the court in San Antonio.

May 22, 2017      3:35 PM

Budget conference documents now available on LBB website

Sen. Nelson urged members to check it out and said, “very soon we should be tying it up with a bow.”

Go here and check out the documents under Conference.

May 22, 2017      3:09 PM

Patrick unimpressed with House on bathrooms and property taxes, but does not threaten special session

Following maneuvers by Team Straus, Patrick said “There is still time for the House and Senate to address these concerns…”

Here is Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s full statement:

"I share Governor Abbott's concern about the lack of a rollback provision in Senate Bill 669 on property taxes. In terms of privacy, I had not seen the language on the "Paddie Amendment" on House Bill 2078 before it was voted on last night. I also have concerns about its ambiguous language, which doesn't appear to do much. There is still time for the House and Senate to address these concerns - which are both priorities for Texas voters - in a meaningful way."

Hat tip to Alexa Ura at the Texas Tribune, who tweeted Patrick’s statement.

May 22, 2017      12:53 PM

Texas House gives final passage to bathroom restrictions in schools

Bonnen argues it is intended “to be respectful and fair” but Moody says ‘This bill now hurts kids by exclusion and discrimination”

A version of the so-called “bathroom bill” was tentatively passed Sunday night in the form of an amendment to a bill dealing with school safety measures.

The amendment by Rep. Chris Paddie tacked onto the legislation is not as extensive as its predecessors Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 2899, excluding all entities other than public schools and open enrollment charter schools. It does require school board trustees provide a single occupancy bathroom for students who don’t want to use the bathroom of their “biological sex.”

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By Eleanor Dearman

May 22, 2017      1:48 AM

Updated: With school vouchers added, Senate passes HB 21 on a vote of 21 to 10

it’s bound to end up something of a disappointment to both chambers, if it eventually passes at all

Republicans pushed a combined school finance and school choice bill through the Senate early this morning along a party line vote, 21-10.

As everyone remembers, the House gave the Senate the school finance package that the lower chamber wanted.

In exchange, the Senate gave the House its pared-down education savings account. The discussion that may now play out in a conference committee is whether each can accept the other’s gift in what will most likely turn into a twisted un-holiday version of O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi.

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 21, 2017      9:44 PM

Buckling to pressure from Patrick, Abbott adds Voter ID as emergency item

May 21, 2017      9:39 PM

Updated: Paddie bathroom amendment approved 91 to 50

Speaker Straus says “Representative Paddie's amendment will allow schools to continue to handle sensitive issues as they have been handling them."

A version of the so-called “bathroom bill” was tentatively passed Sunday night in the form of an amendment to a bill dealing with school safety measures.

The amendment by Rep. Chris Paddie tacked onto the legislation is not as extensive as its predecessors Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 2899, excluding all entities other than public schools and open enrollment charter schools. It does require school board trustees provide a single occupancy bathroom for students who don’t want to use the bathroom of their “biological sex.”

The amendment says “The board of trustees of a school district or the governing body of an open-enrolment charter school shall ensure that each school or school facility accommodates the right of each student to access restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities with privacy, dignity, and safety by requiring the provision of single-occupancy facilities for use by a student who does not wish to use the facilities designated for use or commonly used by persons of the student’s biological sex.”

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By Eleanor Dearman

May 21, 2017      8:03 PM

Video: Rep. Thompson speaks about bathrooms being used to divide

Mrs. T reminds us that then-Sen. Barbara Jordan could not use the same restroom as everyone else in the Capitol when she served in the Texas Senate

May 21, 2017      7:09 PM

Bathroom debate begins in the Texas House

Rep. Paddie is carrying an amendment on school safety bill; it's focused on the ISDs and charters; allows the schools to make accommodations for transgender students

May 21, 2017      6:46 PM

Lawmakers may be close to the partial repeal of the Driver Responsibility Program

“Unfortunately, the most likely vehicle for the repeal of the DRP is looking like its solution could be worse than the disease.”

A bill to repeal the Driver Responsibility Program could hit the floor of the Senate tonight, but even those most supportive of the concept consider House Bill 2068 to be far from ideal.

But, as sponsor Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, told his colleagues on the House floor, it’s the best plan the state has got right now to reduce the footprint of the program and still fund trauma care. That’s the up side. The down side is that everyone getting a ticket in Texas soon could pay an additional $20 charge to fund trauma care, until other funding is found.

Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, is carrying HB 2068 in the Senate. In a post shared on the Grits for Breakfast criminal justice blog last Thursday, Attorney Emily Gerrick of the Texas Fair Defense Project said the bill will have limited impact without additional floor amendments.

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 20, 2017      10:03 PM

Updated: Conferees come to budget agreement, remaining issues at play including school vouchers

The Senate makes small concessions on Economic Stabilization Fund, House has choice ahead on vouchers

The budget conference committee has made its choices on the budget, but one decision still looms large: Will the House take vouchers in exchange for additional school funding?

This afternoon’s discussion of the decision docket, article by article, has stretched well into evening. Here are some things that we do know about the budget:

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 20, 2017      5:39 PM

Conferees announcing a Texas budget agreement at this hour

"White smoke has emerged and we have reached a consensus" Chair Nelson said

May 20, 2017      4:58 PM

HK: Claims that Patrick controlled the end of the session may have been...overstated

Conferees reportedly have a budget agreement -- Is the Senate prepared to vote for a penalty-free automatic 4.99% annual property tax increase?

Ultimatums by the Lt. Governor notwithstanding, House leadership today executed two maneuvers that went a long way toward undermining Dan Patrick’s effort to engineer a special session that could have damaged both Governor Greg Abbott and Speaker Joe Straus while hot boxing the Freedom Caucus.

Earlier this week Patrick had threatened to blow up the budget and kill the Sunset Safety net bill thereby forcing a special session if the House did not pass his pet bathroom and property tax legislation.  He did hold out a fig leaf on one when he said that he could accept Rep. Simmon’s language for his “privacy bill”

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By Harvey Kronberg

May 20, 2017      4:06 PM

RPT Chairman Tom Mechler resigns, effective immediately

The SREC will hold an election for an interim chairman on June 3

You can read Mechler’s letter regarding his resignation by downloading it right here.

May 20, 2017      2:56 PM

Updated: With the Bonnen version of SB 2 added, Texas House tentatively passes SB 669

House parliamentarians have ruled amendments on rollback rates are not germane to SB 669

The choice of Chairman Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, to attach the substance of the House version of Senate Bill 2 to another Senate bill has some Republicans aligned with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick furious with the idea they might have no chance this session to take a vote on rollback elections for cities and counties.

Both on the floor and on Twitter, Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, attacked Bonnen’s maneuver as failing to go far enough and ignoring the will of the voters.

That’s even though Stickland supported Bonnnen’s effort.

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By Kimberly Reeves and Scott Braddock

May 20, 2017      2:55 PM

House takes care of Sunset scheduling issue by extending five agencies under SB 80

May 20, 2017      2:15 PM

Chairman Bonnen is now offering his version of SB 2 as an amendment to a Nelson bill, SB 669

In exchange with Stickland, Chair Bonnen declines to say whether he will bring SB 2 back to the floor

May 20, 2017      1:41 PM

Sources confirm to QR Tom Mechler will step down as RPT chairman today

No explanation as of yet; Mechler is expected to send an email this afternoon giving his reasons

May 19, 2017      7:26 PM

Texas House passes omnibus abortion bill to third reading 96 to 47

Republicans reject effort by Rep. Matt Schaefer to do away with exception for fetal abnormality

May 19, 2017      5:57 PM

House begins marathon debate on SB8, omnibus abortion and fetal remains bill

House adds “dismemberment abortion” ban; Howard offers emotional plea: “This is political interference in medicine at its worst”

Friday evening, representatives were hours into an abortion debate on the floor, spurred by Senate Bill 8, which passed out of the upper chamber in March.

The bill bans the donation of fetal tissue and “partial-birth” abortions and regulates the disposition of remains.

The term “partial-birth” abortions, a non-medical term, refers to a type of abortion that is already not allowed under federal law. Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, the bill’s sponsor, said her bill is meant to align Texas law with the federal law, though some questioned why it was necessary to duplicate the law.

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By Eleanor Dearman

May 19, 2017      5:56 PM

Bonnen sends SB2 back to Ways and Means

Tells the House he expects the bill to be in his committee for the next hour or so, then back to Calendars "Don't know where else it would go," Bonnen said

May 19, 2017      5:06 PM

Updated: Texas Senate votes 23 to 8 to finally pass texting while driving ban

In a session where pre-emption has taken center stage, this, too, belongs to the state under this bill

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, passed a statewide texting-while-driving ban through the Senate this afternoon, batting away a controversial amendment to keep the bill on track with the wishes of long-time House author Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland.

Zaffirini moved some votes before she got her substitute for House Bill 62 to the floor, accepting language from Sen. Don Huffines’ bills, while rejecting an amendment offered by Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, intended to clarify mutual conditions necessary for a ticket.

Language was added, at Huffines’ behest to pre-empt all local ordinances and to exempt GPS navigation devices, a move Zaffirini acknowledged secured Huffines’ vote. Music apps also were exempted, at the request of Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills.

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May 19, 2017      4:33 PM

Press Releases: EPA outrage, straight-ticket voting, cybersecurity, and more

Click the Press Releases button above for the latest releases

May 19, 2017      4:23 PM

Smith: There is a Carnival on the Edge of Town

As the 2017 regular legislative session nears its end, QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith ponders the unfortunate consequences of today’s political circus

 As the 2017 regular session of the Texas Legislature wobbles towards its end with the final shudders of a tacky carnival’s Tilt-A-Whirl ride, a few general thoughts on the changing nature of the Texas and American political circuses are in order.

First, a personal observation.

For some uncounted number of years (please don’t!), your intrepid opinion writer has been advocating rather mainstream liberal Democratic goals: improved economic opportunity for all; equality under the law for all genders, religions, races, nationalities; quality health care as a right, not a privilege reserved for the wealthy; the highest possible quality K-12 and college education for our children; an environment that doesn’t poison us or warm us into extinction; the rooting out of government corruption.

Much of that agenda has been mainstream since at least the 1930s.

You can find Glenn W. Smith’s full column in the R&D Department.

By Glenn W. Smith

May 19, 2017      11:28 AM

Senate Finance debates actual cost of Medicaid to supplemental budget

LBB is pressed by West: “This is not the first time we’ve had this exercise…Historically, which numbers have been more accurate, LBB numbers or agency numbers?”

The actual validated up-to-date cost of Medicaid continues to be the ever-elusive unicorn of the Texas legislative session, a number many reference but few seem ready to verify.

Yesterday, Senate Finance subbed out the House supplemental budget bill for its own, explained in this infographic, and took a unanimous vote to move the bill forward, if only for the purposes of further budget negotiations. The Senate bill picks up about $1 billion in outstanding bills from the current session, not the least of which is Medicaid, at $794 million.

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 18, 2017      6:04 PM

Texas House gavels out without getting to SB2 today

The bill had been postponed until 5pm, which is when Straus called it a day. Back at it tomorrow at 10am

May 18, 2017      6:02 PM

House gives tentative approval to Senate Bill 11

Some Democrats argue “we are reacting without reacting in response to a judge who has said we are unconstitutional”

The Texas House tenatively passed another one of the priority Child Protective Services reform measures Thursday.

Among other things, Senate Bill 11, sponsored by Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, establishes a community-based care system that allow private organizations to contract with the state to oversee foster children, among other changes to the department’s operations. The change would be a shift in the department’s current model.

“I truly believe that we must leave the status quo behind in way…that embraces a more community based model,” Frank said.

But some say it may not address the court’s problems with the current system.

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By Eleanor Dearman

May 18, 2017      5:45 PM

On Saturday, Texas GOP Chairman Tom Mechler plans to address rumors he is resigning

Rumors have been building online and among GOP activists; Mechler mum for the moment but tells QR he will talk about it on Saturday

May 18, 2017      5:42 PM

Lawmakers, pension fund representatives come to a compromise on Dallas fund

If everyone isn’t on board, “we expect we’ll hear from them,” Mayor Rawlings said about the proposed solution.

A legislative fix for the Dallas city pensions’ actuarial soundness was hard fought, argued vigorously and, as Sam Friar admitted, something that pleased no one entirely.

But, still, pension fund members and Dallas lawmakers announced this afternoon a deal was made to keep the pension fund afloat, a compromise around governance of the fund. As Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, explained to assembled reporters, a floor amendment will require a two-thirds vote of a proposed 11-member board to approve any clawback to retiree benefits.

“We’re all agreeing to go in the same direction and move together,” West said, surrounded by representatives of the pension fund and fellow lawmakers. “There has been a lot of work together trying to make certain we had the plan solvent.”

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 18, 2017      5:40 PM

Press Releases: Mental health, helping heroes, unfunded mandates, and more

Click the Press Releases button above for the latest

May 18, 2017      5:36 PM

Greenfield: Good News and Semi-Good News

Our resident number cruncher notes that tax revenue from oil and gas have increased at a rate substantially greater than in the BRE, but of course 75 percent of that increase will be transferred to the Rainy Day Fund (RDF) and State Highway Fund

With sine die fast approaching and passage by each chamber of their respective appropriations bills (SB 1 and HB 1) the leadership of each chamber appointed five members to the budget conference committee. 

From the Senate members, good news, three of the five appointees were women (Senators Nelson, Huffman, and Kolkhorst). 

The complete column by Dr. Stuart Greenfield is in the R&D Department.

By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

May 17, 2017      4:59 PM

Updated: As Abbott errs against special session, Patrick and Straus trade barbs in closing days

Asked about the last time he and Patrick spoke, Straus says , “I’ll see him again soon.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Wednesday that he’s prepared to go to a special session over “bathroom bill” legislation and property tax reform.

“If property tax relief and privacy do not pass in the special, they are blocked again, I will ask the governor to call us back again and again and again,” Patrick said.

The announcement comes after Speaker Joe Straus sent Patrick a letter asking that a session be avoided by passing the budget and sunset scheduling bill.  At the presser, Patrick held that this is “not a personal battle between the speaker and myself.” Sources tell Quorum Report that after receiving the letter, Patrick sent Straus a list of must-pass bills.

 Patrick previously said such negotiations would not be made through the media, but after less than a day he was doing just that. Patrick touted that after today when a bill hailstorm lawsuit reform passes out of the Senate, all 30 of his priority items will have passed out of the upper chamber.
“The leadership in the Texas House has taken a different approach on big agenda issues, holding them down to the last few weeks,” Patrick said. “That puts us on the precipice of a special session.”

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By Eleanor Dearman

May 17, 2017      4:56 PM

Video: Woodfill and Hotze say Patrick/Hotze theme song is hilarious

"This video is funny. What isn’t funny is men, including registered sex offenders, going into girls bathrooms, showers and locker rooms. Thank God we have elected officials like Gov. Dan Patrick and activist like Dr. Steve Hotze who are willing to take strong principled stands despite the ridicule of the left," Woodfill said

May 17, 2017      4:29 PM

Press Releases: Landmark IT reform, ridesharing, statements, do not mess with Comey, and more

Click the Press Releases button above for the latest

May 17, 2017      4:05 PM

Rideshare bill heads to Abbott with controversial amendment intact

Sen. Menendez asks “What is the necessity for that definition?” when it comes to sex

The Senate took a final look at this session’s statewide rideshare regulation bill, swallowed hard, then returned it to the House for concurrence with the controversial “sex” amendment intact for Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature.

Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, offered up an amendment to fix the quirk in his initial substitute, then pulled his sub “to give the other members a chance to draft amendments.” Except, come this afternoon, no amendments were offered up. And the House amendment that offended so many Democrats and LGBTQ activists was still on the bill.

Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, questioned the language for purposes of legislative intent. Specifically, “For the purposes of Subsection A, sex means the physical condition of male or female.” “What is the necessity for that definition?” Menendez.

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 17, 2017      3:37 PM

TxDOT Sunset strays from the path in House, adds multiple low-impact bills

“They say to the agency, ‘Hey, you’re doing a pretty good job. Here are some guardrails to kind of keep you on path.’”

The ship known as the sunset bill for the Texas Department of Transportation took on plenty of cargo as the Texas House attempted to move a half-dozen failed House bills and float many of the road naming bills that failed during the so-called Mother’s Day Massacre.

At times on Tuesday, it was difficult to tell why the House and Senate had sent TxDOT through a new round of sunset review. House members spent well over an hour renaming roads during a debate intended to improve the deployment of billions of new dollars in road construction. Such has been the tenor and tone of the start-and-stop session known as the 85th legislature.

Sponsor Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, praised TxDOT staff for their openness, and even eagerness, to accept feedback during the latest round of the Sunset process.

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 17, 2017      1:33 PM

Straus calls Patrick's ultimatum regrettable

Straus: “Governor Patrick’s threat to force a special session unless he gets everything his way is regrettable, and I hope that he reconsiders. The best way to end this session is to reach consensus on as many issues as we can. Nobody is going to get everything they want. But we can come together on many issues and end this session knowing that we have positively addressed priorities that matter to Texas.”

May 17, 2017      11:39 AM

After Patrick ultimatum, Abbott maintains bathrooms and taxes can be addressed in regular session

Abbott spokesman John Wittman: “The Governor made clear yesterday that property tax reform and maintaining privacy in restrooms and locker rooms are legislative priorities that must be passed, and he believes both items can be achieved before the end of the regular session. The governor is grateful that the House has set the property tax bill to be heard on the floor tomorrow, and is making progress on privacy legislation. The governor will continue working with the House and Senate to conclude another successful legislative session.”

May 17, 2017      10:55 AM

Patrick prepared to go to special session over property taxes, bathrooms

Patrick tells reporters he is willing to meet with Speaker Straus today "if he wishes." For now, Patrick is negotiating through the media, which he has worked to delegitimize

May 17, 2017      10:37 AM

Sources: In response to Straus request to wrap up session, Patrick sent Straus a list of must-pass bills

Patrick holding a press conference now

May 16, 2017      6:09 PM

Update: Nearly 70 whose names were used on pro-school voucher letters did not give permission, GOP lawmaker says

Rep. Travis Clardy’s office contacted those whose names were used, ZERO came back in agreement with “school choice” legislation and didn’t give permission for their names to be used in letter campaign; Clardy says “I think this is criminal”

Ever since the first reports of “fraudulent” pro-school voucher letters, an East Texas Republican lawmaker who received hundreds of them has been busily trying to figure out if any of the people whose names were used in that controversial letter campaign intended to be part of it.

So far, the answer is no.

“I think this is criminal,” said Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, who on Tuesday provided Quorum Report with the numbers collected by his staff.

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By Scott Braddock and Eleanor Dearman

May 16, 2017      6:01 PM

Press Releases: Hail breaks loose, Back the Blue, Sandra Bland Act moves, and more

Click the Press Releases button above for the latest

May 16, 2017      5:02 PM

Canadian government descends on the Texas Senate to lobby against American steel bill

Canadians want their steel exempted; lobbying senators hard not to concur with the House; American manufacturers argue that WTO members “can favor their respective domestic suppliers over foreign suppliers”

In a last-minute lobby effort, representatives of the Canadian government rushed to the Texas Capitol Tuesday afternoon to lobby members of the Texas Senate against concurring on House changes to the bill mandating the use of American iron and steel in government construction unless a certain threshold is met.

So, depending on how this plays out, the Senate could be poised to buck President Donald Trump’s position on “America first” policies when it comes to manufacturing and labor.

As QR readers who have followed this are aware, the bill by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, would require the use of domestic iron and steel in taxpayer-funded construction unless the cost of the entire project would rise more than 20 percent.

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By Scott Braddock

May 16, 2017      4:34 PM

Appeals court stays criminal proceedings in Paxton criminal trial

Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas demands written arguments by May 23rd

May 16, 2017      4:29 PM

Federal Grand Jury indicts Sen. Uresti

"The indictment alleges that the defendants developed an investment Ponzi scheme to market hydraulic fracturing (fracking) sand for oil production."

Here’s the information from the United States Attorney’s Office.

May 16, 2017      2:18 PM

Straus asks Patrick to avoid special session by passing budget and sunset scheduling bill

After Tim Dunn-allied reps killed sunset catch-all bill on second reading deadline, Straus says “The House wants to finish all of our work in the regular session.”

The letter from Straus to Patrick can be downloaded here. It was first reported, at least as far as we know, by the great Ross Ramsey at the Texas Tribune.  

May 16, 2017      2:16 PM

TLR insurance reform bill tentatively passes Senate 21 to 8

May 16, 2017      12:51 PM

Cornyn says he is not interested in FBI director appointment

‘Now more than ever the country needs a well-credentialed, independent FBI Director. I’ve informed the Administration that I’m committed to helping them find such an individual, and that the best way I can serve is continuing to fight for a conservative agenda in the U.S. Senate.’

May 16, 2017      12:49 PM

Advocates urge conferees to use Rainy Day Fund, address Medicaid shortfall

A combination of state underfunding and pending congressional cuts to Medicaid with the repeal of Obamacare, they warned, could be devastating

The legislature has only one task it is constitutionally required to complete each session and both the House and Senate are going into the budget fray with plenty of instructions.

The House put plenty of instructions on the record for its conferees – Reps. John Zerwas, Trent Ashby, Sarah Davis, Larry Gonzales and Oscar Longoria. Those instructions reinforced goals in the House version of the budget: maintaining border funding; reinforcing the intention to zero our or end the governor’s incentive programs; supporting marketing funds for the Healthy Women’s Program; and ending the use of Medicaid funds on abortion, among others.

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 16, 2017      11:09 AM

Texas House pauses to remember Justin Unruh

“Hook em horns, Justin, and happy birthday,” Chair Morrison said

Just before going on the calendar for the day, the Texas House on Tuesday paused to pay tribute to a veteran staffer who passed away last year from a heart attack at the age of 41.

As folks around this community know, Justin Unruh worked for Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, for two decades and was known as an all-around good Texas guy who loved to hunt and fish.

Unruh was “one of those guys who worked diligently” for the people in the district and was a true friend to folks around the Capitol, said Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock. "He was my friend," Gonzales said.

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By Scott Braddock