Up, Down in Texas Politics: Guns; Testing Rules; UT Search

What looks to be the year of the gun in the Texas Legislature began bill-passing season with a bang.

The Senate marked the first day it was allowed to approve any bill by passing a plan that would allow Texans with gun licenses to carry their weapons openly. Two days later, it advanced a bill letting license holders carry concealed weapons on college campuses.

And those votes would have come even faster had not a committee error caused a daylong delay.

Texas is currently just one of six states to ban open carry. But the prohibition has also stood for 140 years, first imposed following the Civil War to disarm former Confederate soldiers and freed slaves alike.

At least 20 states, meanwhile, allow some form of "campus carry" -- though only a handful make it a defined right in state law, as Texas is seeking to.

Neither bill is likely to have as easy a road through the House. The GOP controls both chambers, but the dynamics of the lower chamber make it possible for opponents to delay, and possibly derail, one or both of the proposals.

Here are other issues that had strong weeks -- and didn't -- in Texas politics.


High School Seniors In Danger Of Not Graduating

The Senate also wasted little time approving a plan to let 28,000 Texas high school seniors graduate this year despite failing one of the state's standardized exams needed to earn a diploma. The bill offers an alternative graduation plan to Class of 2015 seniors who couldn't pass one of five required exams in algebra I, biology, English I and II and U.S. history. Supporters would like to see the proposal become law fast enough to let eligible students graduate this spring.


Health Agencies Consolidation

Continuing questions about a no-bid contract scandal have delayed a plan to fold five existing state agencies into a single, super entity. House and Senate lawmakers have announced that creating a sweeping new agency will happen far more slowly than originally proposed -- with key facets now not beginning until next year and the largest changes delayed until 2019. That means that the Health and Human Services Commission, the Department of Family and Protective Services, the Department of Aging and Disability Services, the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation and the Department of State Health Services will stay separate for now. Consolidation was recommended following a multimillion dollar no-bid contract the Health and Human Services Commission signed with an Austin tech firm in 2012. But now, legislative attempts to tighten state contract rules are sapping momentum from making the merger happen quickly.

University of Texas' Presidential Search

So much for having daily afternoon tea on the 40 Acres. Andrew Hamilton, a vice chancellor at the University of Oxford and top contender to be the next University of Texas president, has instead been hired to head New York University. The Briton interviewed this month with the UT System Board of Regents -- and had been a leading candidate to succeed Bill Powers, president of the flagship Austin campus.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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