Tax Swap Plan Flops, Red Light Cameras May Be on the Way Out, Dallas Mayoral Endorsements

Good morning! Here are the top political headlines from Austin, Washington, the campaign trail and Dallas.🔎 Prefer the online view? It's here.Points from Austin1. Rebekah Allen reports that a bill that would have increased the state sales tax by a penny is dead -- only four days after Texas' top three leaders hailed it as one of the most effective ways to deliver meaningful property tax relief for home and business owners. House leadership cast the blame on the Senate. And the bill's author, Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Humble, pointed the finger at one senator in particular who he said led a wave of conservative opposition to the bill: Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston. Proponents cast the sales tax increase as revenue neutral because every dollar raised would be applied to lowering property tax rates. But an analysis by the Legislative Budget Board found that low- and moderate-income Texans would pay more in total taxes.2. Austin Bureau Chief Robert T. Garrett gives a behind-the-scenes look at the the split between in one of Texas' most enduring political partnerships. For about two decades, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Sen. Paul Bettencourt have fought for lower property taxes and staunchly conservative causes as collaborators in Houston grassroots politics and talk radio. But this session, they're having a public spat. This week, Bettencourt's defiance of state GOP leaders helped scuttle their plan for a deeper cut in property taxes -- paid for with an extra penny of sales tax. While Bettencourt says that he consistently opposed the idea and that critics are overstating his role in tanking it, the episode embarrassed Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott.3. The Texas Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would make it more difficult to remove Confederate and other historical monuments, Lauren McGaughy reports. Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said while introducing his Senate Bill 1663, said, "My bill today is simply a process for the state to rely on when considering removing or altering a monument in Texas. ... We have a real solution in this bill that doesn't include hiding from our past." The bill passed by a party line vote of 19-12 after more than four hours of often emotional debate. Currently, city councils and county officials can vote to remove local historical monuments, as they have recently in the city of Dallas. Creighton's bill would require two-thirds of these local governing bodies to approve the removal, relocation or alteration of any historical monument, or name change of any street, bridge, park or area, in place for longer than 25 years.4. Are red light cameras in Texas on their way out? W. Gardner Selby reports that Texas House members green-lighted legislation that would require cities to phase out the use of red light cameras to issue traffic tickets over the next few years. Republican Rep. Jonathan Stickland won approval of his bill, sending it to the Senate for debate. Senators could also take up Sen. Bob Hall's companion measure, approved by a committee, that bans such devices as of this September. The cameras are used to take photos of drivers who run red lights, who are then fined $75 per violation. Legislators have tried for years to ban them, and Gov. Greg Abbott in September encouraged them to do so because he said they're expensive and could contribute to drivers being rear-ended.5. W. Gardner Selby reports that a Houston-area legislator is hoping to persuade Texas House colleagues to approve a 10 percent state retail excise tax on e-cigarette and vape tobacco products -- an idea a Dallas health care advocate instigated last fall. If the tax passes into law -- GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has not aired a position on it -- the added cost to consumers would range from $1 to $5 per purchase. The additional money would go to help public schools.6. A bill that would encourage churches and nonprofits to report suspicions of sexual misconduct to prospective employers of current employees and volunteers was tentatively approved by the Texas House Tuesday, Robert T. Garrett reports. McKinney GOP Rep. Scott Sanford, who is on staff at a Southern Baptist church in Allen, said he hopes his bill will lead to more sharing of information about sexual predators.The bill is a response to February news reports in the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News disclosing that in the last two decades, 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers faced allegations of sexual misconduct involving more than 700 victims. Some of the leaders and other perpetrators were able to find jobs at churches despite convictions or pending charges.  Continue reading...

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