Highlights from in and around the world of Texas politics
Posted 6:41 p.m. Wednesday
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas could soon follow North Carolina as the only states with so-called "bathroom bills" now that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is on board after ending months of silence that businesses and LGBT rights groups fighting the efforts had taken as an encouraging sign.
A key vote in Texas could come early as Wednesday with time running out for the GOP-controlled Legislature to get behind Abbott's endorsement and deliver a bill to his desk before adjourning in May.
The sudden buy-in from Abbott is significant, and stands apart from other Republican governors who have kept distance from similar proposals or outright rejected them over the past year. Most recent was in Arkansas, where Republican Gov. Asa Hutchison said the state didn't need a bill similar to a North Carolina law, which caused economic backlash and was partially repealed last month by a new Democratic governor.
The prospect of Texas passing a "bathroom bill" was languishing before Abbott issued a statement Tuesday backing a House proposal that supporters say mirrors the recent compromise in North Carolina.
The bill doesn't include the most well-known part of the old North Carolina law: the requirement that people use bathrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate. Abbott was noncommittal over similar language that passed the Texas Senate in March over opposition from businesses including Facebook and Google, celebrities and disapproval from the NFL and NBA.
Silence from Abbott, coupled with Republican House leaders outright saying they didn't want a "bathroom bill," stalled the idea in Texas for the past month. But opponents were scrambling again ahead of a House State Affairs committee meeting Wednesday that has revived the effort.
SCHOOL FINANCE FIX
The House began debate on a bipartisan, $1.6 billion bill to begin overhauling the state's troubled school finance system.
Houston Republican Rep. Dan Huberty's proposal increases annual, per-student funding about $200 to $5,350. It also raises funding for school district transportation and educating dyslexic students.
The bill tweaks the current "Robin Hood" system, decreasing some local property tax revenue that school districts in wealthy areas share with those in poorer parts of the state.
It should pass the House on Wednesday, but may not survive the state Senate, which is more focused on school vouchers.
No school finance fix is required since Texas' Supreme Court has ruled the system flawed but barely constitutional.
Huberty calls his proposal a key first step, but says a full fix will take several years.
STATEWIDE RIDE-HAILING REGULATIONS
The Texas House has voted to create statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies, potentially voiding a local Austin ordinance that caused Uber and Lyft to stop operating in the state capital.
The bill by Chris Paddie, a Republican from Marshall, brings ride-hailing companies under Texas regulators' control while requiring them to pay state fees.
Opponents tried to block the bill using House procedural rules and debate stretched on for hours, but it passed Wednesday 110-37. A final, largely formulaic vote Thursday sends it to the Texas Senate.
Paddie said the bill wasn't just about Uber or Austin, though that company left the city last May, after local voters endorsed an ordinance requiring drivers to be fingerprinted as part of background checks.
Paddie's bill requires annual background checks, but not fingerprinting.
TOP 10 PERCENT RULE
A bill setting new limits on the state's top 10 percent university admissions law is advancing in the Senate.
Texas guarantees state high school graduates admission to public universities if they finish in the top 10 percent of their class. The 1997 law was designed to promote campus diversity, most notably at the University of Texas.
The bill by Sen. Kel Seliger would cap top 10 percent admissions at 30 percent. It passed the Senate Higher Education Committee on Wednesday and goes to the full Senate for consideration.
The Senate approved a bill that would allow home-schooled students to participate in public school sports and other activities.
Texas has about 350,000 home-schooled students who are currently barred from competing in the University Interscholastic League, the state's governing body for high school sports. The students would have to demonstrate grade-level proficiency in order to participate.
The Senate has passed similar measures in the past and its fate in the House is uncertain.
TEACHING EVOLUTION IN TEXAS
The Texas Board of Education has preliminarily approved revised science curriculums, inserting compromise language that critics say diffuses concerns about casting doubt on the theory of evolution.
In February, the board sided with a committee of teachers and experts that recommended scrapping previous requirements asking high school biology students to consider "all sides" of scientific theory. But it also adopted rules that they "evaluate scientific explanations" on the "complexity" of human cells and on the origin of DNA.
Amid concerns that could make students believe God helped create human life, the committee asked the board to endorse a compromise replacing "evaluate" with "compare and contrast" and "examine."
The board unanimously approved the change Wednesday. A final vote comes Friday.
Progressive groups cheered the move, saying it safeguards lessons on evolution.
The House is working late into the night Wednesday to pass a major school finance bill. The Senate reconvenes at 11 a.m. on Thursday.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"While our system is lawful, it is awful," state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, explaining what his sweeping school finance bill will do.