Teacher Pay Raise Battle, Castro on Iowa Campaign Trail, Allred Targeted and Dallas Mayor's Race

Good morning!Here are the top political headlines from Austin, Washington and Dallas.Points from Austin1. Texas teachers have been promised a pay raise this year, and on Monday, lawmakers took the first step when the Texas Senate Committee on Finance unanimously approved a bill that would give every classroom teacher a $5,000 raise beginning next year. The bill now advances to the full Senate. If it succeeds there, it would head to the House for debate in committee. Sponsored by Fort Worth Republican Jane Nelson, the bill would require school districts to give every full-time classroom teacher $5,000 more than they're making this year. About 350,000 educators would be eligible for the raise, which would cost the state roughly $4 billion. But Lauren McGaughy reports that even though the Senate measure is moving, it's unclear if the final number will be $5,000. Last week, Democrats announced a plan to give many school employees raises. Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen haven't publicly endorsed these across-the-board raises, however, instead backing incentive pay for "the best and brightest." With so many competing plans, which one will win out? Part of the equation to get raises for teachers is the school finance plan expected to be rolled out soon. Eva Marie Ayala reports that Dallas ISD is viewed as a road map for the overhaul.2. Legislators from both parties are rolling out bills this month to overhaul the Texas Medicaid system, introducing protections for vulnerable patients who are denied treatments, increasing state oversight and signaling a crackdown on health care corporations that get richer by providing less care. Investigative reporter J. David McSwane reports that a package of about a dozen bills aims to fix widespread problems exposed by a Dallas Morning News investigation last year. That series, "Pain & Profit," showed how companies that Texas pays to care for millions of sick, disabled and extremely poor people were skimping on treatments and medical equipment to boost profits.3. James Barragan and Lauren McGaughy report that 12 Senate Democrats have declared their opposition to embattled interim Secretary of State David Whitley, seemingly dooming his confirmation chances after a controversial advisory last month that warned election administrators about noncitizens potentially voting illegally. Whitley's confirmation requires the support of two-thirds of senators, or 21 if all 31 are present for the vote. The Senate has 19 Republicans who would probably support the governor's nominee, but without the support of any Democrats, confirmation is mathematically impossible. Meanwhile, Barragan was in San Antonio on Monday to cover a federal court hearing over lawsuits filed to stop the review of voter rolls related to the advisory. The judge ordered more counties to stop removing any voters until the lawsuits are resolved.4. Powerful Republican Flower Mound state Sen. Jane Nelson sat down with Lauren McGaughy to talk property taxes, teacher pay and the voter roll snafu. Read what she had to say here.5. Bureau chief Robert T. Garrett reports that wealthy Texans and large corporations, including many involved in energy, banking, real estate and lucrative state contracts for road building and Medicaid services, contributed nearly $5 million for Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's inaugural last month. On Friday, the 2019 Texas Inaugural Committee said it raised $4,945,000, a slight uptick over 2015's haul of $4.7 million. Abbott and Patrick, both Republicans, began their second terms on Jan. 15. They jointly exert considerable influence over the Legislature, which is meeting this year, and state policy and regulations of business. North Texans who were among a dozen six-figure contributors to the inaugural committee included Dallas' Ray Hunt, Kenny Troutt and Kelcy Warren and Fort Worth's Bobby Cox. Each gave $100,000.6. At our 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.  Continue reading...

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