Legislative update 4/29

The Senate has approved 27-3 (Hancock, Nelson and Paxton against) a watered-down bill by John Whitmire to loosen the penalties for truancy. Originally, Whitmire wished for truancy to be struck from the list of criminal infractions (Class C Misdemeanors). Facing resistance from Senate leadership, Whitmire amended the bill so that truancy would still be a criminal offense, but the fine would be lowered from $500 to $100, and schools would have to evaluate truant students with counselors before referring them to court. The Texas Tribune has the full story.

Domestic Partnerships
Trib also reporting on a non-binding by the AG (Abbott) on the subject of Domestic Partnerships. Abbott argues that School Districts and Municipalities offering limited benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees violates the (deceptively named) “Marriage Protection Amendment.” This layman’s personal opinion is that Abbott’s opinion is complete garbage. When the amendment prohibted unions “similar or identical” to marriage, they meant California/New York style Civil Unions that were marriage in all but name.

Little kid Exams
The House voted unanimously (well, voice vote) to pass HB 2836, Bennett Ratliff’s (R-Coppell) bill to reduce the standardized testing load for the kids in Primary School. The Trib reports that the bill would ax the writing tests for 4th and 7th graders. Additionally, the remaining tests would could not exceed two hours to complete for the “lower grade levels.” This seems really broad, but I am guessing they mean K-8 (typically what is defined as “Primary” as opposed to “Secondary.”) I am also going to guess they mean two hours per section of the test, not two hours overall. I only attended Public School for one year in the TAAKS era, but from what I remember of the 3rd grade, it took FOREVER. Reducing a whole week of tests to two hours would effectively kill the program, so I doubt that is what was meant.

Guns on Campus
The Chron reports that the “Guns on Campus” bill will be getting a full vote before the House of Representatives. This Saturday, a final vote will be taken, and it will probably be successful. This is, as I have mentioned, the bill that would allow colleges like UT, UH and TSU to opt-out, while allowing private colleges like SMU and Baylor to opt-in. Good news for my friends in Austin, bad news for my friend in Dallas.

I never really expected anything else from this bill in the lower chamber. The real test will be seeing how united Whitmire and the fellow Democrats will stand in blocking this bill from the floor in the upper chamber. Time will only tell.

Gas Chambers
Kirk Watson, the author of SB 360, which last month unanimously passed a bill to prohibit rural counties from using carbon monoxide gas chambers for dog/cat euthanasia, reported on his Facebook that the legislation has passed unanimously in the House as well. A cursory search online shows that the legislation, indeed, passed 135-0. Now, from what I understand, the only step left is for Governor Perry to sign it, since the bill is verbatim identical in the two chambers. Also, I believe that if it is unanimous, the legislation takes effect immediately rather than September 1st.