First bills nearing passage in special session

Bob Daemmrich  Texas Tribune			State Rep. Dan Huberty listens as Rep. Matt Schaefer offers an amendment to Senate Bill 6

If any simmering initiative during the Texas Legislature's special session best symbolizes the growing rift in American conservatism, it's the infamous "bathroom bill" restricting what public restrooms transgender individuals can and cannot use.

Aides to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said the governor was keeping the pressure on to get as many of his priorities approved as possible before adjournment next Wednesday.

"We are exhausted of being used to promote discrimination simply to satisfy a few politicians who need to keep extreme political funders happy", says Mellie Price, the owner of a firm that works with startups in Austin. Conducting them from the new satellite studio at his campaign headquarters down the street from the Capitol, he also used the space to continue to crank out short videos with lawmakers who have taken the lead on his agenda items for social media.

Republican State Representative Matt Krause of Fort Worth says, "I'd say for all intents and purposes any kind of privacy legislation is dead in the House". So when lawmakers made a decision to address the problem while also creating an even better solution, Texas Democratic Party Legislative Director Glen Maxey called House Bill 658 "the biggest expansion of voting rights in Texas since we moved to early voting".

Pushed by State Rep. Joe Moody (D- El Paso), a Texas marijuana decriminalization bill is now on life support in the special session of the state Legislature. It also increases ballot signature verification rules. That's why Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, has filed House Bill 362, creating joint land zoning boards, bringing together local government, the military, property owners, and stakeholders on any zoning decisions. The Senate voted on July 25 to advance the legislation, but the House has refused to take the bill up so far. The Senate wants to set that trigger at 4 percent.

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The nursing home voting bill, House Bill 658, was hailed as a major voting rights victory by both Democrats and Republicans last spring.

Before lawmakers voted on the actual bill, they spent hours debating an amendment by Goldman. He said he would prefer that the state let local officials control their revenues, but that the county could life with the 6 percent margin. The two bills, HB 21 and House Bill 30, together would have found $1.8 billion for public schools by deferring a payment to them from fiscal year 2019 to 2020 - a mechanism Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has compared to a "Ponzi scheme". Texas students "deserve transformational, top-to-bottom reforms that amount to more than Band-Aid on top of Band-Aid".

The critics also say that because the bill doesn't do anything about the public school system's heavy reliance on property taxes, it won't make a real dent in people's tax burden.

The "sunset" bills lawmakers debated Monday were what forced Abbott to call the Legislature back for a summer special session, after the Legislature failed to pass legislation that would keep the agencies open during the regular legislative session that ended in May.