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From Laundry Loopholes to Teacher Layoff Delays

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Day 46 of the 82nd Texas Legislature 

It’s finally Friday and lawmakers are headed back to their districts for the weekend, after a busy week addressing the governor’s “emergency items” like the sonogram bill and budget crisis hearings. They’d better rest up for next week, though. We’ll see legislation on health insurance exchange Tuesday and by mid-week, voter ID will be up in House committees. 

1. The Largest Mental Institution in Texas

The last time Texas experienced a severe budget shortfall, county jails saw their numbers swell, and it’s likely that this budget cycle, with a $27 billion hole, the same thing will happen again. Lawmakers are considering cuts to community-based mental health care, which means that without places to go or treatment, mentally ill Texans may well end up in emergency rooms or jails at the cost of the taxpayer. [Texas Tribune]

2. The “Laundry Loophole”

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, wants make it a felony for businesses to knowingly hire an undocumented immigrant—well, with one exception. Riddle’s bill leaves out homeowners who unknowingly hire someone who is undocumented to clean the house or yard, creating what critics are calling the “laundry loophole.” [Austin American-Statesman]

3. Buying Teachers Some Time

School districts bracing for cuts may have more time before they have layoff teachers. A bipartisan group of senators filed legislation to give teachers more time to request a hearing with the school district about their termination, essentially delaying layoffs in the hope the lawmakers can find solutions to the budget crisis during the session.  [Dallas Morning News]

4. The Pregnant Felons Bill

A bill authored by state Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels, would make it a felony for a pregnant woman to use drugs or another controlled substance while carrying her baby. While Miller says he wants to crack down on prenatal substance abuse, critics say that punishing a pregnant woman with up to two years in jail or a $10,000 fine is not the way to go about addressing a drug or alcohol problem. [Texas Independent]

5. Cutting Education Without Cutting Teachers

With lawmakers searching for anything to cut to save school districts from the $27 billion, many have zeroed in on the notion that districts spend an exorbitant amount on administration staff. In a recent hearing, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said the ratio of teachers to administrative staff has jumped from 1:1 to 1:4—and he’s got his eye on lowering that number. [Texas Tribune]