Floor Pass

The Lead:

The franchise tax came into existence in 2006 and was trouble from the start. Businesses hated that it taxed their gross receipts instead of their profits, meaning they would pay the franchise tax even if they didn’t earn a profit. Worse, the tax never brought in as much money as promised for Texas schools, falling $4 billion to $5 billion short every year. That has left Texas with a ongoing budget hole every year since.

Lawmakers took on the troubled franchise tax yesterday when HB 500 hit the House floor. Their response to the tax’s flaws? Tax cuts!

As the Observer’s Patrick Michels writes, the House stuffed HB 500 with $667 million in tax breaks for small businesses, including $270 million in tax reductions added through amendments during the floor debate, as House members moved to give tax breaks to businesses in their districts. The bill, which also contains sweeping tax reform changes, passed on a preliminary vote. It’s expected to win final House passage today.

The measure still faces significant opposition in the upper chamber, the Texas Tribune reports, as some senators fear that the bill is too costly. Some House Democrats made that point on the House floor yesterday, wondering why lawmakers would pass tax breaks when the franchise tax already doesn’t supply the state with the money they expected in 2006. Rep. Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas) called it, “a pork barrel add-on attempt to get money for your special interests and special projects.”

 Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. Yesterday, Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Harlingen) brought to the floor House Bill 887, which would create a pilot program for public schools football players to obtain concussion insurance. The bill passed, but Lucio said that it stops short of the protections he had hoped for when drafting the legislation. The bill originally would have limited full-contact football practices to prevent brain damage in players. The Observer‘s Beth Cortez-Neavel has more details.

2. Rep. John Zerwas declared what had already become obvious: Medicaid expansion appears dead this session. Zerwas told the Dallas Morning News that his bill to create a “Texas solution” to expand Medicaid under Obamacare is finished.

3. Speaking of Obamacare, Dr. Steven Hotze, a GOP activist and donor, has decided that one U.S. Supreme Court battle over the health care law just wasn’t enough. He announced yesterday that he plans to file suit against Obamacare. Good luck with that.

Line of the Day:

“It had an $8 billion hole in it when we passed it. It never performed the way they thought it was going to perform, and what we’re doing today is not fixing that problem. This has become just a pork barrel add-on attempt to get money for your special interests and special projects.” —Dallas Democrat Yvonne Davis on the business tax breaks in HB 500.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) and Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) are holding a press conference today to call for the House to pass Senate Bill 1247 (the payday lending reform bill).

2. The House will be churning through as many bills as possible ahead of tomorrow’s deadline to pass House bills. The House has a full calendar, including HB 741, which would require government entities to make “reasonable accommodations” for their employees to pump breast milk at work.

Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston)
Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) and his adding machine.

With more money to play with this session, lawmakers in both chambers have already approved sending more dollars to public schools and women’s health providers. On Tuesday, House members tried to make sure businesses get theirs too.

House Bill 500, which passed this evening, would effectively hand back $667 million to Texas businesses with a slew of changes to the franchise tax—$270 million of which came from amendments tacked on during hours of debate on the floor. The plan is in keeping with Gov. Rick Perry’s call for business tax “relief,” though the Texas Tribune notes the bill will be a tough sell in the Senate.

The much-maligned business tax has never raised as much as it was intended to, saddling lawmakers with an $8 billion deficit at the start of each session since the tax was reworked in 2006. House members dug that hole a little deeper today.

Rather than rework the tax law in a streamlined fashion, House Ways and Means Chairman Harvey Hilderbran (R-Kerrville) proposed a series of tweaks aimed at particular businesses. Lawmakers—mostly Republicans, some Democrats as well—dropped in amendments adding $20 million at a time, one after another. Most defended their proposals as relief for small business owners. Rep. Angie Chen Button (R-Garland) threw in a $20 million break for corporations with federal contracts, mentioning defense contractor Raytheon as a particular inspiration.

Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) brought an abacus to the back microphone to remind lawmakers he was watching what their amendments cost. He kept the heat on Hilderbran all afternoon. Hilderbran and Turner talked in circles about just who benefits from lowering the tax on businesses, building to a fiery exchange.

Hilderbran: “The small businesses, the mom-and-pop employers, get a tax break in this bill, and their employees will be better off.”

Turner: “Is there a tax break in HB 500 for mom and dad who do not own a business?”

Hilderbran: “If they work for those businesses they benefit from this too, because those businesses thrive, they’re more competitive and they’re gonna grow and then they’re gonna be in a position to elevate wages and hire more people.”

Turner: “Let me telll you my concern here with this bill and some of the others, we talk about—”

At the sound of the speaker’s gavel, signifying his time was up, Turner dropped his head, gathered his papers and stepped aside. Hilderbran sighed, “Daggum, Sylvester.”

On Twitter through it all, the Center for Public Policy Priorities’ tax and budget experts Dick Lavine and Eva DeLuna Castro groused about the ham-handed show of policymaking like they were watching from the Muppet Show balcony. Castro noted the debate showed the “difficulty of cutting business taxes when they’re so low to begin with.” Lavine poked at lawmakers claiming their tax exemptions would only cost a few million, naming school programs the state could fully fund with the difference.

Facing criticism that their cuts would cost the state too much in the next two years, some lawmakers just bumped their cuts back a few years. Lavine called one amendment, from Houston Republican Jim Murphy, a “time bomb” for the 2016-17 budget.

Dallas Democrat Yvonne Davis struck a grave note about the tax reform effort, recalling what a mess the margins tax was when lawmakers created it seven years ago.

“It had an $8 billion hole in it when we passed it. It never performed the way they thought it was going to perform, and what we’re doing today is not fixing that problem,” Davis said. “This has become just a pork barrel add-on attempt to get money for your special interests and special projects.”

Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Harlingen)

The national sport of Texas could get a little safer for kids under a bill passed today in the Texas House. Harlingen Democrat Eddie Lucio III’s House Bill 887 would create a pilot program for public schools to offer concussion insurance, but it stops well short of the protections Lucio had originally hoped for.

Lucio’s original bill would have limited full-contact drills and practice games in public schools to no more than an hour each week. Now he says he’d rather leave it up to the University Interscholastic League to handle those regulations. Lucio said his main safety concern is preventing chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in Texas youth.

CTE is a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head. CTE can lead to headaches, loss of concentration, short-term memory loss, depression and suicidal thoughts. Recent studies show that small hits to the head, or subconcussive hits, can have a cumulative effect on the brain.

The UIL’s Medical Advisory Board recently recommended that schools limit team practice to 90 minutes of full-contact practice per week as a CTE prevention measure, as reported by the Dallas Morning News. That proposal still needs approval from the UIL Legislative Council and Education Commissioner Michael Williams before it can take effect. Some die-hard football fans don’t like the idea.

“The way concussions and health-related issues that derive from concussions manifest themselves are not immediate,” he told the Observer Tuesday. “Sometimes it’s six months or a year after the concussion has been discovered.”

Currently, public schools have insurance programs that will pay a nominal amount for any immediate injury that a kid sustains in school sports. This new, optional insurance program would help cover the cost of things like a visit to the neurologist for any traumatic brain damage caused by football or soccer at school.

“What the family will do is be able to buy in for a nominal fee—like $5—and get $25,000 worth of insurance that’s tailored to concussion-related health issues,” Lucio said.

Even if the Senate goes on to pass the bill, the pilot program would be funded by a rider in the budget bill’s “wish list” that may or may not get included in the final budget.

Lucio said on the floor that TEA would control most of the control of the program. The agency would decide where to try it out, and which private insurer would get the final bid for the contract. He said he’d look into creating a state-funded scholarship for low-income families that wished to participate.

“If the season ends or you graduate, [and] you have a health-related issue that’s derived from your participation in contact sports, you’re not covered,” Lucio told the Observer. “What this would do is give families broader coverage.”

Houston wellness doctor and GOP donor Steven Hotze
Houston doctor and GOP donor Steven Hotze

Flanked by 25 Republican legislators at the Capitol this morning, a conservative lawyer announced his plans to file a privately funded challenge against Obamacare in federal court.

Lawyer Andrew Schlafly is representing Steven Hotze—a GOP donor and Houston “wellness” doctor whose website is currently promoting “Hormonal Balance: The Best Mother’s Day Gift of All”—in a complaint arguing that the Affordable Care Act violates both the Fifth Amendment and the Origination Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Schlafly is perhaps best known for creating Conservapedia, a conservative response to Wikipedia. His mother is Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly.

Texas, which joined a coalition of states in a challenge that reached the Supreme Court, is not a part of this lawsuit. But Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was good enough to set aside the Senate press room so two dozen lawmakers could help lend some gravitas to Schlafly’s effort—a little unexpected political theater to lighten the mood in the Legislature’s busy last few days.

His suit, which he’ll file in U.S. District Court in Houston, is not the only attempt to torpedo the Affordable Care Act based on the Origination Clause, which says any bill that would raise revenue must originate in the House of Representatives. His challenge based on the “takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment isn’t novel either—he’s general counsel for a group that’s already suing on that point.

“Rather than providing affordable care to patients, what [the ACA is] really doing is causing a redistribution of wealth,” Schafly said. “It’s forcing Dr. Hotze, his company, thousands of other businesses and individuals to pay money to insurance carriers under the threat of penalty if they don’t do it.”

Schafly said even Democrats agree the law is a train wreck, though no Democratic legislators were there to help him introduce the suit.

Texas State Capitol in Austin, Tex.
Patrick Michels

The Lead:

It’s looking more and more likely that Texas high school kids will soon have to take fewer standardized tests to graduate. One of the session’s biggest education bills, House Bill 5, finally passed the Senate yesterday. It’s a major victory for opponents of standardized tests. The bill, as the Observer‘s Liz Farmer reports, reduces the number of standardized tests required for graduation.

The bill also sets up new curriculum standards, which were a source of intense dispute and led to backroom negotiations that delayed the bill over the weekend. Lawmakers were divided over whether Texas schools prepare all kids for college or steer some toward career training and job skills. Supporters hope the bill does both. In the end, the measure passed unanimously. It now moves to a conference committee, which will work out differences between House and Senate versions.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. University students could soon get to participate in free dialogue and open debate in the classroom—with a gun by their side. The House passed a bill yesterday that would allow the president of a college or university to decide whether or not concealed weapons will be allowed on campus and prohibits a student from facing criminal charges if they are found with a concealed gun on a no-gun campus.

2. Rep. Chris Turner’s bill that proposed to ban political “double-dipping” died in committee yesterday. The bill—which would ban veteran state officials from drawing both a state salary and tapping their state pension at the same time— lacked support. That means Gov. Perry, who was caught double-dipping last year, can sleep easy now: He remains one of the highest paid governors in the country.

3. A bill to reform the governor’s Emerging Technology Fund passed the House on second reading yesterday, as the Texas Tribune reports. The tech fund has been accused of engaging in cronyism for aiding the governor’s political allies with grants for tech projects.

Line of the Day:

“The goal is for our students to graduate ready for college and career and hopefully both, but we know not every student’s going to college, not every student is going into a career so we designed a system, I think, where every student has that opportunity and … we’re going to let their passion lead them instead of a system lead them.” —Dan Patrick, in his defense of HB 5 on the Senate floor.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. A franchise tax cleanup bill, HB 500, is scheduled for debate on the House floor. Here’s a good overview.

2. The House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety will hear a bill by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa that would overhaul the Forensic Science Commission. The FSC has seen its share of controversy (see the Cameron Todd Willingham inquiry) but has been mostly free of scandal lately. Hinojosa’s bill would institute a number of reforms, including altering the makeup of the commission.

3. The calendar. Yesterday was the last day for House committees to pass House bills. The deadline for the full House to pass House bills is Thursday.The crunch is on.

Leticia Van de Putte
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) pulled an amendment—requiring four years of math, science and English from all high school students—after a weeks of tough negotiations.

The Senate finally passed House Bill 5, the session’s big education bill, on Monday afternoon after weeks of waiting and a last-minute delay over the weekend. The bill limits the number of end-of-course exams required in high school and alters high school graduation plans to emphasize career skills.

The bill’s unanimous passage came only after hours of debate on amendments today, and back-room negotiations that stalled the legislation on Friday. Opponents of high-stakes testing rejoiced because, like the House version, the bill reduces the exams high school students must pass from 15 to five.

The bill also creates four endorsements, or focuses, that students can choose in 9th grade, and allows students to graduate with the more basic “foundation” diploma if they get a parent’s signature. Students who complete any of the diploma plans qualify for admission to a state university, which isn’t the case today.

Advocates of the bill, like Senate Education Committee chair Dan Patrick (R-Houston), said that change should quell concerns that the plan isn’t rigorous enough.

“The goal is for our students to graduate ready for college and career and hopefully both, but we know not every student’s going to college, not every student is going into a career so we designed a system, I think, where every student has that opportunity and … we’re going to let their passion lead them instead of a system lead them,” Patrick said.

Under an amendment tacked on by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), students on the foundation plan must complete four years of science and four years of math with Algebra II to qualify for automatic admissions to state universities under the Top Ten Percent Rule.

That means some students who graduate with the career endorsement may not qualify for automatic admissions, depending on which math classes they choose. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), who led Friday’s negotiations, introduced an amendment that would have required Algebra II for all students.

“I tell ya, I find it quite insulting,” Van de Putte said of people who insinuate that some students just can’t succeed in Algebra II, which is considered a college-ready indicator.

Van de Putte said her amendment would reduce the possibility of reverting to an old system that tended to steer minority students into career and technology fields instead of college—a concern that prompted groups like the National Council of La Raza to agitate against the bill. Van de Putte said today’s system already funnels minority students into the lower degree plan.

“I want to make sure with this amendment that we’re not failing our kids because we’re so afraid with failing ourselves,” Van de Putte said.

However, Van de Putte ultimately withdrew her amendment so lawmakers could discuss her idea in conference committee.

In a statement after the bill passed, she explained her lingering concerns with a graduation path that isn’t built for college readiness. ”I worry that some ninth-graders, especially from families without a history of higher education, won’t realize what they can achieve. I fear that choosing the minimum plan will lead to a minimum wage job,” she said.

Van de Putte also tried, unsuccessfully, to require multiple notifications to students reminding them that choosing the career endorsement may disqualify them from automatic college admissions. “If we’re going to let 15-year-olds decide what their endorsements are, we need to let them be fully informed,” Van de Putte said.

Several legislators from both parties said one notice would be enough, and Patrick raised his voice saying that he didn’t want blue collar work to be stigmatized.

Among Van de Putte’s successful amendments was an option for school districts to offer a seal of bi-literacy on qualifying students’ diplomas, and another protecting dropout recovery schools from being penalized for low test scores.

The bill now moves to conference committee where lawmakers members will negotiate differences between the House and Senate versions.

The Lead:

It was gun-show day on Saturday in the Texas House. The Lower Chamber, on its first working Saturday of the session, passed 14 out of 15 gun bills, the Observer’s Beth Cortez-Neavel reports. The bills passed despite concerns some Democrats expressed that the hastily taken voice votes didn’t allow members to fully consider the consequences of each bill. The measures, among other things, will make it easier for schools to have armed guards, reduce the number of training hours needed for a Concealed Handgun License, and withhold state funding from any state agency that enforces federal gun-control laws.

Attorney General Greg Abbott reportedly helped author that last measure—an effort to essentially nullify federal gun control. That would appear unconstitutional, and several lawmakers pointed that out during Saturday’s debate. But why would some crusty old thing like the U.S. Constitution stop the Texas House?

House members weren’t the only ones shooting their mouths off, er, making a stand for guns. Gov. Rick Perry caused a media controversy with his dramatic introduction at the National Rifle Association convention in Houston on Friday.

With the gun debate over, it’s back to regularly scheduled legislating today. The House has a full calendar of bills to consider.

Weekend Headlines:

1. Divisive debates over women’s health have been rare this legislative session, especially compared to the controversies of 2011, the Texas Tribune writes. Legislators are compromising to secure more funding for the women’s health services.

2. In an interesting twist, the business lobby could pressure the Legislature enough to get rainy day funds approved for a water plan, as the Dallas Morning News reports. State general revenue funds could be eaten up by the water plan if rainy day funds aren’t approved, which could mean no tax breaks for businesses. Heaven forbid.

Line of the Day:

“This is a bill about saying that we’re making a political statement, that we don’t like President [Barack] Obama, that we don’t like what’s going on in Washington, and that we can go back home and say we took it to the president.” —Democratic Rep. Chris Turner (Grand Prairie) during Saturday’s gun-bill debate.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The Senate may actually pass House Bill 5, which restructures high school degree plans to offer more career and technical opportunities and reduces the number of end-of-course exams. The bill got caught up in back-room negotiations on Friday after Sen. Leticia Van de Putte introduced an amendment aimed at maintaining a more structured degree plan.

2. The House a long calendar of bills to consider, including HB 887, which would limit full-contact football practices for high school and middle school teams to one hour per week. Studies have shown that small impacts sustained during football practices can contribute to severe brain damage. Full-contact practices, of course, are a Texas high school football tradition. So this one should be interesting.

3. The House will also hear the bi-partisan-backed House Bill 953, which would offer a franchise tax credit to businesses that do research in partnership with a Texas higher education institution.

In Gun Debate, Texas House Goes Off Half-Cocked

House Tentatively Passes 14 of 15 Gun Bills on Voice Votes

In the wake of Sandy Hook and other gun tragedies, many state legislatures are passing stricter gun regulations. But not in Texas.

The Texas House took a step in the other direction Saturday afternoon, tentatively passing all but one of the 15 gun bills on its agenda. The message from the House was clear: the Legislature wants more Texans to pack heat.

Despite some controversy, all the bills were rushed along through voice votes so members could catch the last legs of the Kentucky Derby. (Speaker Joe Straus tweeted that he was drinking a mint julep at the podium.)

The bills would drop concealed handgun licensing (CHL) classes from 10 hours down to six, allow public schools to hire armed public-school marshals, and lower the CHL renewal fee for members of the international, national and state guard, and for state-employed correction officers.

One of the two more controversial bills, House Bill 1076, by Republican Rep. Steve Toth from the Woodlands, would criminalize any potential federal gun regulations in Texas.

He’s said House Bill 1076, a “Firearm Protection Act,” will prevent any state-funded entity, including schools, universities, and state employees from enforcing any federal orders or laws that impose a “prohibition, restriction or other regulation, such as capacity or size requirement or a background check” that does not already exist as a Texas state law.

Any agency that enforces federal law, instead of adhering to Texas’ own codes, will be cut off from state funding. Individuals could also get a Class A misdemeanor – the most serious misdemeanor in Texas, which means a $4,000 fine or a year of jail time.

On the House floor, Rep. Chris Turner, a Democrat from Grand Prairie, and a few other Democrats called out the bill as purely political. “This is a bill about saying that we’re making a political statement, that we don’t like President [Barack] Obama, that we don’t like what’s going on in Washington, and that we can go back home and say we took it to the president,” Turner said.

Eagle Pass Democrat Rep. Alfonso Nevárez said he’s all for Second Amendment rights, “but that’s just rhetoric … all we’re hearing about why it’s such a great bill is that it’s good for America, for Second Amendment rights. Great. But there’s a lot of great bills that we’ve passed today … on this one we really need to step back and look at it.”

Toth said that he and the bill’s other authors enlisted Attorney General Greg Abbott’s help in drafting the bill to “to make sure that we had something that would be air-tight.”

That’s all well and good, Nevárez said, but “the AG’s batting 1,000 right now when it comes to battling the federal government.”

When Toth asked for the help of Attorney General Abbott in drafting the bill, he also asked National Rifle Association and militia hall-of-famer Sheriff Richard Mack, former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, to weigh in.

Mack told the Observer earlier this session that this bill is indeed about the message it sends out. “I think it’s a bold move,” Mack said. “It’s the right thing to do. [The bill] reinforces what we believe in Texas and in this country—that the bill of rights and the constitution are more important than political agenda,” he said. “It sends a strong statement to Washington and the local officials that the Second Amendment is still the supreme law of the land and that it is not to be trifled with.”

But as many legislators pointed out, HB 1076 would seem to violate the “Supremacy Clause.” The clause, or Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, mandates that in any conflict between federal and state law or constitutional rights, the federal law takes precedence.

Political posturing indeed.

Tan Parker
Patrick Michels
State Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound)

On Saturday morning, the House showed just how far the criminal justice debate in Texas has come.

The House passed SB 213, the sunset bill for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The measure reauthorizes the agency with a few major changes, including an amendment to prioritize closure of certain private prisons.

That’s a remarkable development. Not long ago, many legislators wanted to build more prisons, especially privately operated prisons. But on Saturday an amendment by conservative Weatherford Republican Phil King will require the department to prioritize closing the most costly private prisons over less-expensive ones (in a “cost-benefit analysis,” as King put it).

Quite a few Republicans have embraced a smart-on-crime approach and believe that mass incarceration, especially of nonviolent offenders, is not only fiscally irresponsible, but doesn’t reduce crime. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), chair of the House Corrections Committee, said, “It is our intention here to be fiscally responsible. … I believe it is very important that we close at least two facilities, if not more.”

“Thankfully, it’s a good situation that we find ourselves in Texas, that crime is on the decline,” he said.

The sunset bill, authored by Rep. Walter T. “Four” Price (R-Amarillo), was approved by a voice vote and also encourages the department to establish a clear “re-entry” plan to transition inmates back into society.

The floor debate did include a few tense moments, including an exchange between Rep. Marisa Marquez (D-El Paso) and Price. Marquez’ amendment, which would have required the TDCJ to report how much it costs to hold inmates in solitary confinement, was defeated. Her amendment was to be the first discussed, but she withdrew it to consult with Price. After some negotiation, she brought it back onto the floor. “We have discussed the amendment in detail, and we have revised it,” Price said. But a few seconds later, he added: “I’m going to be voting no, but I want to leave this to the will of the House.”

Marquez explained that she wants the TDCJ to report how much the state pays per inmate so Texas can find a way to minimize the money spent on solitary. “But I don’t want to do that if we don’t have information,” she added. “So what this amendment does, is it looks for that information.”

After the amendment was defeated, Marquez told the Observer, “I should’ve called for a record vote” instead of a voice vote. “I think that would’ve changed a lot of people’s minds. I think many of the Republican leadership voted with me, as I could look up, because they could understand that we are in a financial crisis and that we’re looking at every different agency, asking them to cut.”

“We have an agency that has continued to be irresponsible in reporting those types of numbers and the cost per ad-seg inmate in our institutions,” she said.

In addition to Marquez’ financial qualms, there is strong evidence that keeping prisoners in solitary confinement for long periods of time can be destructive to the psyche.

Marquez continued, “I think it’s unfortunate that the…issues of mental health, medical care, probation and parole have not hit this floor this session.”

Texas State Capitol in Austin, Tex.
Patrick Michels

The Lead:
Lawmakers are giving up their Saturday—the first chamber weekend workday of the session—to debate a slew of controversial gun bills.

The gun day fun day festivities include legislation that would decrease the classroom hours required to get a concealed handgun license, allow licensed gun owners to bring guns onto higher education campuses, designate some public school workers as gun-carrying school marshals, and nullify any federal gun laws from being enforced in Texas. That’s just a few.

Many of the bills are expected to pass in the House, but may have difficulty getting ahead in the Senate according to the Dallas Morning News.

Yesterday’s Headlines:
1. The House voted yesterday to continue the Texas Economic Development Act, a program created in 2001 that allows school districts to offer property tax cuts to businesses. According to the Texas Tribune, critics of the program say it allows school districts to “pick winners in the marketplace and is not worth the resulting increase in jobs and investment.”

2. The Dallas Morning News reports the House tentatively approved a bill that would help the fight against the West Nile Virus by letting local health officials enter abandoned or uninhabited and foreclosed properties to treat standing water, where mosquitos breed. The bill still needs a two-thirds vote in the House on its final reading to become effective immediately.

3. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced on the Senate floor that, despite hours of closed-door negotiations, there weren’t enough votes on Friday to pass House Bill 5, the sweeping test reform bill championed by Sen. Dan Patrick that reduces standardized testing and changes graduation requirements. Dewhurst said later he intends to bring the bill up in the Senate on Monday, according to the Quorum Report (article subscription only).

Line of the Day:
“If he believes the answer to violent crime is not prosecuting felons and fugitives, not prosecuting gun crimes but going after the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens, I would like to invite the vice president to engage in an hour-long conversation and debate.” —U.S. Senator Ted Cruz’s open invitation to Vice President Joe Biden at Friday’s NRA National Convention in Houston.

What We’re Watching Today:
1. Guns.

2. Before the gun show begins, the House is slated to hear a sunset bill that would keep the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and a few other law enforcement agencies, running for 12 more years. There are 27 pre-filed amendments to the bill that could change how the agencies run.

3. Two House committees are also working weekend overtime: Ways and Means and Corrections.

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