‘Despicable' Driver's License Agency, Teacher Pay Raises, the Socialist Bogeyman, Dallas Corruption

Good morning!Here are the top political headlines from Austin, the campaign trail and Dallas.Points from Austin1. Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday sharply chided the Department of Public Safety, which he blames for the flubbed handling of a recent inquiry into possible noncitizen voting. Abbott threw a flurry of punches at DPS, tying its performance on an error-plagued check of whether ineligible foreigners are registered voters in Texas to a more commonly known vexation for residents -- long waits at state driver's license offices."The way DPS has handled driver's licenses in the state of Texas is despicable and it has been nonresponsive," Abbott said. "And it seemed like they deployed that same, nonresponsive approach in dealing with the secretary of state on this [noncitizen voting] issue."2. Amid the controversy, Abbott has continued to stand by his embattled nominee for secretary of state, David Whitley. As Abbott's former travel aide, Whitley drove him to events and helped him transfer from car to wheelchair, becoming almost like family to the governor. Austin bureau chief Bob Garrett sat down with Whitley last week for an interview about his life, career and the political storm his office kicked off after proposing that counties check to see if a list of nearly 100,000 registered voters contained any ineligible noncitizens. The Senate's confirmation of Whitley, a former choirboy from Alice, hangs in the balance as 12 Democratic senators said they oppose his nomination.3. The Texas Senate has officially given its blessing to a proposal to give $5,000 raises to every teacher in the state. Next stop for the bill is the Texas House, where several members have expressed a preference for merit-based raises or giving local districts the freedom to make their own salary decisions. Teachers and other school employees have expressed concerns about the bill in recent weeks because it excludes other support staff including bus drivers, counselors, nurses, teachers' aides, and custodians.4. A Dallas Republican has partnered with dating app Bumble on a bill that would punish people who send unwanted lewd images online. Rep. Morgan Meyer's bill would criminalize the sending of lewd photos to unwilling recipients through text message, social media and online dating applications.5. Irving and Las Colinas are examples of Texas' economic buoyancy and diversity, Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday as he accepted for the state another Governor's Cup award from Site Selection magazine. "You need to know this, Irving-Las Colinas has more Fortune 500 companies than any other city in the United States," Abbott said in Austin.6. Days after former Dallas City Council member Carolyn Davis pleaded guilty to taking bribes from a real estate developer, a state lawmaker running for mayor said he will file legislation to "combat and hopefully eradicate corruption" in the awarding of affordable housing tax credits.7. A Texas lawmaker has filed a bill to ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks, before a woman may realize she's pregnant. Republican Rep. Briscoe Cain's "Texas heartbeat bill," HB 1500, would ban abortion after heartbeat detection except in the case of medical emergencies. Current law allows abortion up to 20 weeks. "Put simply -- if the heartbeat is detected, the baby is protected," the Deer Park lawmaker said in an email.8. Rep. Victoria Neave owes $26,000 in unpaid property taxes, according to a lawsuit filed against her in Dallas County. The lawsuit filed by several Dallas County taxing entities names Neave, a Democrat whose House district covers East Dallas, Garland and Mesquite, and Mark Scott Jr., her law partner and ex-fiance. The lawsuit states they owe $26,760 for a northeast Dallas home the two co-owned.9. Texas has cut about five dozen people from its social studies curriculum to streamline the number of historical figures about whom students will learn. The State Board of Education voted on these cuts to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, curriculum in November. But a finalized list wasn't available until recently. Here's who made the cut and who didn't.10. A North Texas Democrat wants to create a day of recognition for the late Tejano singer Selena. Richardson Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos filed a bill that would designate April 16, the singer's birthday, Selena Quintanilla Pérez Day in Texas.The bill says the day would be "in memory of the contributions to Tejano music of Selena Quintanilla Pérez, an award-winning singer and recording artist."11. Gov. Greg Abbott is urging state agencies to continue to follow the "spirit" of the Texas Open Meetings Act despite a recent ruling that struck down a key provision in the law. "Texas has long been, and will continue to be, a leader in governmental transparency," Abbott wrote to them last week. "You should not waver in your commitment to providing transparency in the work you perform for Texans at your respective governmental entities."12. At our new site, Texas Tracker: Your Guide to the State Legislature, you'll find stories, analysis and more from the Capitol. If you're a Dallas Morning News subscriber, you can customize your feed. Sign in, click the issues you want to follow, and you'll see only posts matching those topics.Bob's breakdownBob Garrett is the Austin bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News. A fifth-generation Texan, he has covered state government and politics for decades. Here, Bob offers his take from the Capitol. Today is unofficially Dan Huberty Day at the Capitol. The five-term House member from Humble, a Houston suburb, will unveil a proposed $9 billion overhaul of school finance formulas. It includes new money for public schools and a smaller amount of money to pay for lowering school property taxes over the next two years. For a second session, Huberty is the House's chief education policy writer. In 2017, House leaders let him offer a school-finance overhaul costing a mere $1.8 billion over two years. Amid fights with the Senate over private-school vouchers for disabled students, Huberty's 2017 measure died. But this year, the former Humble school board president is enthused over how he has a bigger pot of money to play with. It means he can offer more sweeping changes to the state's antiquated system of paying for public and charter schools. As the Senate showed Monday, it's on a different path on education. It unanimously passed a bill that would give $5,000 raises to every teacher in the state, costing $3.8 billion over the next cycle. Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, hasn't offered his school finance plan. But after his chamber's vote to offer a whopping, mandatory pay raise, Taylor's overhaul will carry a price tag much closer to Huberty's 2017 version than Huberty's 2019 deluxe plan.Points from the trail  Continue reading...

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