Teachers Rally, O'Rourke in Conservative Crosshairs, Preston Hollow Property's Link to District 13

Good morning! Here are the top political headlines from Austin, the campaign trail, Washington and Dallas.Points from Austin1. Education funding and teacher pay raises continue to dominate the Texas Legislature as it nears the midpoint of its 86th session. Rebekah Allen reports that the Texas Senate unveiled its plan to overhaul public school funding late Friday night with a bill that includes merit-based raises for teachers and outcomes-based funding for schools. Lawmakers across Texas have committed to fixing public school finance as their top priority in the legislative session by directing more state dollars toward schools and increasing teacher salaries. Now that the House and Senate's school bills have both been filed, it's apparent the two chambers have different ideas of how to achieve school improvements. Meanwhile, Gardner Selby reports that on Monday, teacher groups rallying public school workers at the Texas Capitol gave partial credit to lawmakers for focusing on school finance Monday but they made clear they seek much more. Prior to a midday outdoor rally, leaders of two major Texas groups said a Senate-advanced plan promising $5,000 raises to teachers and librarians was a step forward. But that action left more than half of school employees who don't teach out of luck, the advocates said.2. Lauren McGaughy reports that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has released his top 30 legislative priorities for the year, which include defunding abortion providers, raising the smoking age and expanding the ability of tenants to possess firearms. Patrick announced the priority bills in a news release Friday evening. In a statement, he described the proposals as not only his priorities but "also priorities of the majority of the Texas Senate and the conservative majority of Texas." The 30 bills included proposals to overhaul the school finance system and cap local tax revenue increases, the two initiatives at the top of the list for Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. But Patrick says he's also pushing giving Texas teachers a pay raise to the top of his list.3. James Barragán reports that in Dennis Bonnen's first year as House Speaker, he is championing a school finance overhaul that would give additional funding to schools to help students with dyslexia. That support, Bonnen said, stems from growing up as a dyslexic kid in a small town and the herculean efforts his teachers and parents made to help him.4. Criminal justice advocates are challenging state lawmakers to spend three minutes in a hot mobile prison cell that will be set up at the Texas Capitol Tuesday, Lauren McGaughy reports. It's unclear who'll accept -- and climb into a box that'll be heated up to 120 degrees. Texas Prisons Air-Conditioning Advocates, a group of inmates' families and other supporters. Casey Phillips, TPAA founder and president, said lawmakers can't expect people to be rehabilitated upon release if they're treated poorly behind bars.5. Texas lawmakers filed more than 8,000 bills and resolutions by Friday, the deadline to submit ideas for new laws they want to enact. Lauren McGaughy reports that's down from 2017, when lawmakers filed more than 13,000 bills and resolutions. Just around 10 percent became law. That year, the most heated debates took place over immigration policy and LGBTQ rights. This year, the top three leaders -- Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen -- have pledged to focus on property tax relief and overhauling the state's system for funding public schools. Abbott also promised to prioritize disaster response, teacher pay, mental health and school safety as "emergency items." Another bill filed before the deadline was a bill by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, that could result in doctors being fined for not trying to save an infant born after an abortion. And Texas' cannabis companies could see their business opportunities grow under a bill filed Thursday by the Fort Worth lawmaker who helped create the state's first medical marijuana program.6. 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.• There's an Alice in Wonderland quality to this year's session. First came the "Big 3" leaders' January press conference at the Governor's Mansion. As Gov. Greg Abbott's golden retrievers cavorted, he, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dennis Bonnen all but held hands and sang kum-ba-yah in talking about their agreed-upon goals of education and property taxes. Some cracks in the unity, though, grew visible when Patrick by his lonesome pushed a $5,000 pay raise for teachers. • After Patrick last week released his list of top priorities, conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan on Monday called the effort ho-hum. "It is frustrating that it appears conservative reform is now being rationed in the upper chamber," Sullivan of Empower Texans wrote on his blog, "... more akin to what they lived under during David Dewhurst's tenure as lieutenant governor."• Whipsawing Lege observers even more is the role reversal on which chamber is sprinting out of the gate. While Patrick sauntered into March before posting his priorities, Bonnen's House is moving. On Tuesday, the budget-writing House Appropriations panel is expected to tentatively OK and send to the printer a two-year budget. Also Tuesday, the Public Education panel will hear the chamber's complicated school-finance overhaul. Still waiting on both of those from the Senate ... In 2015 and 2017, it was the Senate that moved the fastest.Points from the trail  Continue reading...

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