Texas House Moseys Into the Third Week of the Legislature's Special Session

AUSTIN — After a whirlwind start, Texas' legislative special session is entering its third week. The Dallas Morning News' weekly political preview: The Look Ahead, has answers to your pressing legislative queries.The Senate and its president, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have worked quickly on Gov. Greg Abbott's special session agenda. The upper chamber has burned the midnight oil, worked on the weekend, and passed 18 of Abbott's 20 dictates.Meanwhile, the House and its leader, House Speaker Joe Straus, have been taking a more deliberate pace.Patrick seems poised to fulfill his promise of passing all of the governor's priorities in the Senate, but Straus's dallying could sound the legislative death knell for the governor's most socially conservative priorities, including the so-called "bathroom bill" — a measure opponents say discriminates against transgender Texans and would likely spark boycotts of the state. Two things are sure, a showdown is looming, and someone's going home unhappy when the special session ends. Here's a scorecard for those of you keeping score at home.Mark your calendars At 2 p.m. on Monday, a House committee is expected to debate a measure targeting mail-in ballot fraud. Follow along with @gromerjeffers on Twitter.Also at 2 p.m. on Monday, the House is expected to consider a measure that would continue the state's Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity. The task force is charged with studying Texas' alarming rate of maternal deaths, which is the highest in the developed world. Follow me for updates.At 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the House Public Education Committee will debate a bill that would create a school voucher program for students with disabilities. The panel will also consider a bill that would establish a commission to study the state's byzantine and oft-criticized system for funding public schools. Follow along with @RobertTGarrett.At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Texas Impact, a statewide religious network that opposes the bathroom bill, will hold a press conference kicking off the Y'all Means All Interfaith Lobby Day on the south steps of the Capitol. @lmcgaughy will have the rundown.At 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, will hold a press conference where she will announce legislative action on ethics reform. Follow @lmcgaughy for updates.At 10:30 on Thursday, the Texas Pastor's Council will hold a rally in support of the bathroom bill. @lmcgaughy will be there.In case you missed itTo many Capitol observers, Straus is a bulwark against a rash of potentially disastrous proposed laws — measures that critics say could have significant negative economic impact on the state.Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, in an interview with The Dallas Morning New, said he didn't see the need for the bathroom bill. "I'm struggling with, where is the necessity of this bill?" Cook said. As chair of the State Affairs Committee Cook could determine the measure's fate.The Senate on Wednesday gave a boost to Abbott's effort to limit local governments' regulatory authority. The governor has urged the Legislature to curb local governments that he says have gone too far in regulating everything from cellphone use to when homeowners can remove trees on their property.In response to a rash of absentee voter fraud in West Dallas, Grand Prairie and other parts of the state, lawmakers are expected to approve bills during the special session that increase penalties for mail-in election crimes targeted at the elderly. "Once we increase the penalties, including turning misdemeanors into felonies, our hope is we won't be dealing with mail-ballot fraud anymore," said Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth.Prospects for education bills remain dubious, lawmakers and school group lobbyists said Wednesday. They added that at least one proposal, a Senate plan to dedicate Texas lottery money for future teacher pay raises, appears dead.The Senate on Wednesday passed two anti-abortion bills — one banning abortion coverage in primary insurance plans, and one targeting funding for the reproductive rights group Planned Parenthood.By the numbersAs of Sunday, the Senate has passed 18 of Abbott's 20 legislative priorities. The House has passed two.  Continue reading...

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