Texas Teacher Pay Raises Approved, Trump's Border Shutdown Threat, O'Rourke's Prolific Fundraising

Good morning!Here are the top political headlines from Austin, Washington and Dallas.🔎 Prefer the online view? It's here.Points from Austin 1. The Texas House on Wednesday passed landmark school funding legislation that would give 650,000 teachers and staff members a minimum pay raise of roughly $1,850, increase funding for every school district in the state and give property owners some modest tax relief. The bill passed 148-1, with only Bedford Republican Rep. Jonathan Stickland voting no.Rebekah Allen reports that the bill is the House's top priority of the session and would overhaul the way public education is financed by the state and infusing schools with new money to improve student achievement.The Senate has already passed a $5,000 teacher pay raise, so at some point the two chambers will have to work out their differences.2. Fast-growing, public, four-year institutions such as the University of Texas at Arlington and UT-Dallas would see a substantial increase in their formula funding under a two-year, $247.7 billion budget approved by the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. Austin Bureau Chief Robert T. Garret reports that UT-Arlington president Vistasp Karbhari praised the "strong support" for higher education in both chambers' budgets. Last week, the House passed a version that would spend $251.1 billion, including federal funds, that also is highly popular with Dallas-area university officials.3. The Texas Senate has approved a bill that would allow local school boards to let employees carry guns during school hours. Lauren McGaughy reports that under current law, teachers, custodians and other school employees trained as "school marshals" to have guns at schools must keep them under lock and key if they have "regular, direct contact with students." Senate Bill 406 by Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, would leave it up to districts to decide whether these employees could also carry concealed handguns with them when students are present.4. Lauren McGaughy reports that a bill that would give legal cover to counselors, attorneys and other state-licensed professionals who deny services based on their religious beliefs has received preliminary approval in the Texas Senate. Senate Bill 17 by Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, was approved by a vote of 19-12 on Wednesday. One Republican, Kel Seliger of Amarillo, voted against the bill and one Democrat, Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, voted in favor. The bill needs the approval of the majority of senators once more before it heads to the Texas House for further debate. The bill is a priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.5. A package of bipartisan bills to fix the state's broken Medicaid system got their first hearing, setting the stage for a behind-the-scenes battle between influential doctor and patient groups that want change and health care companies that profited from the status quo. Those bills came in response to an investigation by The Dallas Morning News last year that 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 under a program called "managed care." J. David McSwane reports that the House effort, led by Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, seeks major overhauls.6. Gardner Selby reports that an East Dallas 9-year-old liked visiting national parks with her parents for free so much, she wondered when she'd enjoy the same privilege at Texas state parks. That's when Lily Kay says she learned there's no such freebie in her home state -- yet. Lily wrote her state representative a letter urging him to file legislation, modeled on a federal program, that would enable more than 417,000 Texas fifth-graders -- and anyone in the vehicle with them -- to enter state parks at no charge. A House panel on Tuesday took Lily's testimony on University Park GOP Rep. Morgan Meyer's proposal, which would apply to fifth-graders in public or private school, or 11-year-olds who are home-schooled.7. 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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