Hot List: Day 108 of the Legislature


The Lead:

A House committee approved a campaign finance reform bill yesterday that would require certain nonprofits to disclose their political fund-raising. It’s the same bill the Senate passed, then tried to recall last week by asking the House to, in a highly unusual move, give the bill back (the House said no).

The bill, SB 346  by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), would require groups like Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, and its tea party enforcer Michael Quinn Sullivan (no friend of Speaker Joe Straus), to disclose the people donating to their political operations. Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has been a major player in campaigns the past several elections, challenging Straus’ leadership team for being, in its view, insufficiently conservative. The group doesn’t have to disclose much of the money it spends on Texas politics. The bill would bring that secret action into the light, requiring groups that spend more than $25,000 on an election cycle to report donors to the Texas Ethics Commission.

As Quorum Report writes, the House State Affairs Committee passed the bill with no amendments. It now goes to the House floor. If the full House passes the bill without any changes, the measure would go straight to the governor—no conference committee.  You’d think the bill likely faces a veto. But if it does pass, it would remove much of the secret money in Texas politics.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. Juvenile facility workers put kids into solitary confinement for a myriad of reasons, but a bill by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte could change that practice. The Observer’s Patrick Michels writes that not everyone agrees on the proposed change to limit solitary confinement for kids.

2. The UT soap opera continues. A House committee heard  a Senate bill to limit the UT Regents power, as the Observer’s Beth Cortez-Neavel reports.

3. Another repeat episode is Sen. Brian Birdwell’s attempt to revive legislation that’d allow people to carry weapons onto college campuses if they had a concealed handgun license, as the Texas Tribune reports.

Line of the Day:

“It should not matter that as diverse as I am—being gay, disabled, Latino and a veteran—I am a person of this great state. Anyone, regardless of race, color, culture, age, religion, ethnicity, sex, disability, orientation, gender identity or expression—each person deserves the same equal opportunity as each of you representing this great state, no matter who we are.” –Retired Marine Staff Sgt. Erica Alva told a hearing on prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ workers.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Matters will hear two bills that would provide exemptions on the franchise tax, which already doesn’t bring in enough money. The plan is, of course, acclaimed by Gov. Rick Perry. His plan would cost about $1.6 billion over the next two years and he said the “money does more good in the hands of taxpayers than it does in the hands of government,” reported The Dallas Morning News. The committee will also hear Sen. Chuy Hinojosa’s bill to impose a fee on cigarettes.

2. Rep. Bill Callegari’s bill in the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee would allow people to drive 10 mph over the speed limit without getting fined. That may be the most sensible bill the Lege has considered all session.

3. The Homeland Security Committee will also hear Rep. Yvonne Davis’ bill that would require drug tests for people applying for a Concealed Handgun License. If it’s good enough for welfare applicants….

4. Texas is the land of high stakes testing, and apparently it happens as early as kindergarten and pre-K. The Senate Education Committee will hear Sen. Leticia Van de Putte’s bill to curtail such testing.