Texas Legislature Down to Crunch Time, Daylight Saving Time Lives on, Being Dallas Mayor Is in Vogue

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. The Legislature is in the home stretch this week, and it's likely that the final property tax and school finance changes to promised by GOP leaders will be delivered. First, lawmakers passed legislation that slows how fast property tax bills rise. They called it one of the most transformational tax changes the Legislature has ever passed. Then the Legislature passed another bill that lowers school property tax rates. This is the bill where taxpayers would see and feel the tax cut, lawmakers said. "Texas taxpayers will see property tax reductions," House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said after passing the school funding bill. So how much should you expect your bill to shrink next year? Rebekah Allen reports that taxes may decrease a little bit, tax experts said, but maybe not at all. Meanwhile, Eva Marie Ayala reports that public school district superintendents say an "accounting ploy" threatens to keep $1.8 billion from school districts even though lawmakers promised to funnel more money to public education. Dallas-area school and business leaders on Friday urged the Legislature to reject a Senate provision that would call for calculating school funding based on current year property values instead of using the prior year. Dallas school officials estimate the district could lose up to $100 million in new money under such a scenario. Plano a estimates $35 million loss.2. Meanwhile, lawmakers are trying to hammer out the final budget and budget writers are urging the Legislature to cut off further funding of a massive, 12-year technology overhaul at the state's child support enforcement unit that they say has been a disappointing waste of hundreds of millions of dollars. Austin bureau chief Robert T. Garrett reports that key legislators dropped the bombshell this week over the so-called "T2" project at the attorney general's office. Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, a GOP budget writer from Southlake who was instrumental in persuading House colleagues to pull the plug:"This was a $60 million idea -- $340 million ago." The episode only added to Texas' star-crossed efforts of the past quarter-century to privatize computer work at state agencies. More than one of the debacles has involved Accenture LLP, the successor to Andersen Consulting that on the child support upgrade is drawing fire from indignant lawmakers. But technology giants Electronic Data Systems, IBM and Xerox also absorbed criticism for over-billing or shoddy work on past state IT deals.3. A bill to outlaw red light cameras in Texas is on its way to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk after passing the Senate 23-8, Lauren McGaughy reports. Abbott is expected to sign it into law. The bill would prohibit cities from operating photographic traffic camera systems that catch citizens speeding or running red lights and issue them fines. A handful of Texas cities, including Arlington and Richardson, have quit using the devices, or, like DeSoto, decided against installing them. But several others, including Dallas, Irving, Garland and Plano, continue to champion the cameras, which they say improve public safety.4. A bill cast by conservatives as religious freedom protection and by liberals as a tool to discriminate against LGBT people was passed by the Texas House on Monday. Rebekah Allen reports that he so-called "Save Chick-fil-A" bill heads back to the Senate for final approval of a House amendment before it goes to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for his signature or veto. It passed by a 79-62 vote; Houston-area Republican Rep. Sarah Davis broke with her party to oppose it. Fort Worth GOP Rep. Matt Krause, the House sponsor, said the bill stops the government from taking adverse action against a business or person for their contributions or memberships in religious organizations. The bill was borne out of the city of San Antonio's vote to boot Chick-fil-A from the airport based on its charitable donations to certain Christian organizations. Democrats insisted the bill is a vehicle to discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender people, under the guise of religious liberty and protecting businesses.5. Democrats were preparing for acrimonious battles in the last week of a mild legislative session. House committees voted out controversial bills that they didn't particularly want to see hit the House floor. But by Sunday night, none of those Republican-authored bills made the list, leaving them all but dead very late in the session. For Democrats, the exclusion was a gift. For the bill authors, it was a letdown. And for political observers, it left a lingering question: Why? James Barragán and Lauren McGaughy explain what happened.6. A House-approved plan to stop Texans from having to change clocks twice a year and let them pick either daylight saving or standard time year-round is dead, Robert T. Garrett reports. On Monday, author Rep. Lyle Larson said he was "very disappointed" that his proposal was "summarily dismissed by the Senate." Though Larson's proposed constitutional amendment and an enabling bill easily cleared the House last month, the idea of letting voters weigh in on clock changes never gained traction in the Senate.7. W. Gardner Selby reports that social conservatives have dinged ruling Texas Republicans for being too timid about abortion -- especially after another state moved this week to provoke a showdown over the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing the procedure. Granbury Rep. Mike Lang, the GOP chair of the House's 10-member Texas Freedom Caucus, said he was disappointed Texas hasn't aligned with states where Republicans have pushed through legislation nearly banning abortion. Luke Macias, a consultant to far-right candidates, said in an email that Texas "has never been able to lead when it comes to protecting the unborn." He called the Capitol's "Big Three" -- Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dennis Bonnen -- the "major bottleneck" for such action. Meanwhile, one abortion-related bill was passed by Texas House members, who approved a bill late Friday night that would bar local governments from contracting with abortion providers and could keep Austin from supporting a low-income women's health clinic. The bill heads back to the Senate for final approval of an amendment, and then could go to Gov. Greg Abbott for signing. It passed the House 81-65, with Republican Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston crossing the aisle to vote with Democrats.8. Tired of long lines to get or renew a driver's license? James Barragán reports that help may eventually be on the way. The Texas House on Friday approved changes meant to alleviate long lines at the Department of Public Safety's driver's license centers. Senate Bill 616 by Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, would increase the expiration term of driver's licenses from six to eight years -- the maximum allowed under federal law -- and would commission a third-party study on moving the issuance of driver's licenses from DPS to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which oversees in the process in many other states.  Continue reading...

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