Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Larry Phillips

November special election in HD62

Because I’m a completist, I bring your attention to news like this.

Rep. Larry Phillips

Gov. Greg Abbott has set a Nov. 6 special election to fill former state Rep. Larry Phillips’ seat in North Texas. That’s the same day voters will head to the polls to cast ballots in statewide, congressional and other state legislative races.

Phillips, a Sherman Republican who chairs the House Insurance Committee, submitted his resignation last week — effective Monday — after previously announcing he would not run for re-election. He is instead running for district judge in Grayson County. He won the Republican primary last month and does not have a Democratic opponent in the fall.

[…]

A race is currently underway to take over the seat for a full term starting next year. Republicans Brent Lawson and Reggie Smith are in a runoff, while Valerie Hefner is the Democratic nominee.

I point this out not because there’s anything interesting about this district that went 75.4% for Trump in 2016 but because this is what I had envisioned for SD06 post-Sylvia Garcia. If Sen. Garcia changes her mind and steps down in the next couple of months – the filing date for the HD62 special election is August 23, which is about the time when counties need to get absentee ballots printed for November, thus basically making that the de facto deadline for anything to be included in November – then even with a December runoff, SD06 will have someone in place when the gavel falls in January. The next Senator in SD06 will be there to vote on the rules for the chamber, and to put their name in for the committee assignments they want. None of those things will happen with a January special election. This needs more attention, because it’s a big deal. The people in SD06 deserve to have a Senator in place on day one. Only Sen. Garcia can ensure that happens.

Filibuster threat for open carry

We could have some end of session drama this year again.

Sen. Jose Rodriguez

State Sen. José Rodríguez said Thursday that if the opportunity arises, he plans to filibuster a bill allowing the open carry of handguns in Texas.

Speaking at a Texas Tribune event, the El Paso Democrat said he thought the legislation was “totally unnecessary” and presented a threat to the safety of police officers and the public.

“I think my back is problematical, but I assure you, for this issue, I will stand as long as I can,” Rodríguez said.

The legislation — House Bill 910 from state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman — has already passed both chambers of the Legislature. It is headed to a conference committee, where Senate and House appointees must iron out key differences in the bill.

See here for the background. Sen. Rodriguez’s threat came before the controversial “no-stop” amendment was stripped from the bill by the conference committee.

“The Dutton/Huffines amendment is dead,” said state Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez, an Eagle Pass Democrat who took part in the negotiations over House Bill 910.”There’s nothing more to do. That was the only bit of housekeeping on the bill that was to be had. It’s a done deal, for all intents and purposes.”

Once the House and Senate appointed a conference committee to work out differences on HB 910 Thursday, it took only a few hours for the panel to release a report.

Both chambers still have to approve the amended bill, and I have no doubt that they will if they get to vote on it, though there will surely be some gnashing of teeth over the change. The deadline for passage is midnight Sunday, so if Sen. Rodriguez is going to make a stand, that’s when it will happen.

In the meantime, campus carry is also going to conference committee, and will also likely emerge in a different form.

In the Senate on Thursday, the bill’s author, state Sen. Brian Birdwell, requested a conference committee on the legislation to work out differences between the two chambers.

The Granbury Republican said he had concerns with language added in the House that would include private universities in the new law.

“I am duty-bound to protect Second Amendment rights parallel to private property rights,” said Birdwell. “We must protect most private property rights equally, and not protect one or the other.”

Lawmakers who argued for requiring private universities to follow the same rules as public institutions say it’s a matter of fairness.

“If we are going to have it, I don’t know how I’m going to make a distinction between my kid who goes to Rice University and one kid at Houston,” said state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

[…]

House lawmakers also added provisions that exempted health facilities and let universities carve out gun-free zones. When the bill originally passed the Senate, Birdwell rejected several amendments attempting similar changes.

I suspect this one will take a little longer to resolve, but we’ll see. Maybe Sen. Rodriguez will set his sights on it, too. See this Trib story about how removing the “no-stop” amendment also removed a headache for Greg Abbott, and Trail Blazers for more.

The fallout from the chubfest

Cleaning up some loose ends…The campus carry bill that was the subject of much chubbing passed on final reading.

130114152903-abc-schoolhouse-rock-just-a-bill-story-top

The battle over “campus carry” is headed back to the Texas Senate after House lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to legislation requiring universities in the state to allow concealed handguns on campus.

Senate Bill 11 from state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, narrowly avoided becoming a casualty of a key midnight deadline Tuesday before House members brokered a last-minute deal to accept several amendments limiting the measure’s reach.

Despite speculation that opponents would put up a fight before Wednesday’s vote on final passage, the measure sailed through in a 102-44 vote. Three Democrats — Tracy King of Batesville, Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City and Abel Herrero of Corpus Christi — voted with Republicans for the measure.

The language added in the House exempts health facilities, lets universities carve out gun-free zones, and states that private colleges would have to follow the same rules as public universities. It is a significant departure from the version that passed the Senate, where Birdwell rejected several amendments attempting similar changes.

If the Senate does not concur with the new language, lawmakers will then head to conference committee to iron out their differences. After that, both chambers will have to approve the final version of the bill.

Seems unlikely to me that the Senate will concur with the changes, which both weakened and broadened the bill. If I had to guess, I’d say they’ll take their chances in a conference committee. We’ll see.

Speaking on conference committee, that’s where the other carry bill is headed.

After outspoken opposition from the state’s law enforcement officials, the Texas House on Wednesday took a step toward removing a controversial provision from legislation allowing licensed Texans to openly carry handguns.

At the center of debate was language added to House Bill 910 in the Senate that limits the power of law enforcement to ask those visibly carrying guns to present their permits. Opponents say that provision amounts to a backdoor effort to repeal licensing requirements for handgun-toting Texans altogether, endangering the lives of police officers and the public.

The issue will now be hashed out by Senate and House appointees behind closed doors in a conference committee.

The move to negotiate in conference committee passed against the wishes of the bill’s author, state Rep. Larry Phillips. The Sherman Republican said the language was needed to clarify current law.

He found support from some unlikely allies, including state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, who said the provision was needed to prevent racial profiling.

“I’m not willing to give up my liberty in order for the police to go catch some criminal,” said Dutton, who unsuccessfully proposed the amendment when the bill first came up in the House. He gave a fiery speech on Wednesday in favor of keeping the language, which had been added in the Senate by Republican Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas.

[…]

The two former police officers in the chamber — state Reps. Allen Fletcher of Houston and Phil King of Weatherford, both Republicans — also teamed up to argue against it.

King urged lawmakers to give law enforcement officials the courtesy of at least allowing a committee to explore a compromise on the issue.

“I honestly believe that the unintentional result of the amendment … is to make it very difficult to do their job,” said King.

The partisan dynamics of this one are interesting, to say the least. I have no idea what will happen in committee. As the story notes, if the process takes long enough, the bill could wind up being vulnerable to a last-day filibuster. Who will put on the pink sneakers this time?

The other bill that generated a bunch of chubbing was the ethics bill. That passed, too, but not without a lot of drama.

After a passionate and sometimes raunchy Tuesday night debate, the Texas House on Wednesday gave final sign-off to a far-reaching ethics reform package that would shine light on so-called “dark money” while heavily restricting undercover recordings in the state Capitol.

The bill faces a potentially bruising showdown with the Senate over the details. A stalemate could torpedo the bill, and along with it a significant chunk of Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priorities for the session. But the 102-44 vote in favor of the Senate Bill 19 keeps it alive as the 2015 session comes to its dramatic finale over the next few days.

State Sen. Van Taylor, a Plano Republican who has carried ethics reform in his chamber, quickly issued a statement on Tuesday night expressing “astonishment for the elimination of meaningful ethics reform” in the House version of the bill.

“Some in the House apparently don’t think elected officials are the problem and instead muddled the bill with a litany of bizarre measures that point the finger at everyone besides themselves, including a page from Hillary Clinton’s playbook to launch an assault on the First Amendment,” Taylor’s statement said. “This is one of those head shaking moments that rightfully raise doubts in the minds of our constituents as to the Legislature’s resolve to serve the people above all else.”

The bill author, Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said dark money has had a corrupting influence on politics in the United States and warned that without reforms those abuses will eventually visit Texas. In the 2012 election cycle, politically active non-profits spent more than $300 million in dark money to influence elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A dark money scandal in Utah also brought down that state’s attorney general.

Quoting from a message to Congress from President Ronald Reagan, delivered in 1988, Cook said the right to free speech depends upon a “requirement of full disclosure of all campaign contributions, including in-kind contributions, and expenditures on behalf of any electoral activities.”

[…]

There’s a deep split among Republicans — and between the House and Senate — over the dark money provision in the bill. It would require that large contributions of dark money — or anonymous donations made to politically active nonprofits — be disclosed.

Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, objecting to the dark money and other provisions, tried to gut the bill, which he said was “designed to protect us from the people. It’s not designed to protect the people from us.”

But his amendment failed 133-33.

That means a showdown is looming, and that could jeopardize SB 19 once it leaves the House floor.

Which could mean a special session if it fails, since this was an “emergency” item for Abbott, though he hasn’t really acted like it’s that important to him since then. Once again I say, I have no idea what will happen, but it should be fun to watch.

As noted in the previous post, the last minute attempt to attach Cecil Bell’s anti-same-sex-marriage-license bill to an otherwise innocuous county affairs bill was likely to come to nothing – late last night, Rep. Garnet Coleman sent out a press release saying the bill had been pulled from consideration in the Senate, which settled the matter – but that didn’t stop the Senate from thumping its chest one last time.

Following an emotional floor debate, the Texas Senate passed a resolution Wednesday evening reaffirming the state’s opposition to same-sex marriage, an action taken as it became clear that a bill to prevent such marriages in Texas was dead.

The body’s 20 Republican senators and state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, voted for Senate Resolution 1028, authored by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, that affirmed “the present definition” of marriage in the state.

“This resolution is intended by those of us who signed it to demonstrate that we continue to support what the people of this state have expressed,” state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said.

Whatever. I’m too tired to expend any energy on this. It has the same legal effect as me saying “Senate Republicans and Eddie Lucio are big fat poopyheads”, and about as much maturity.

Finally, here’s a look at criminal justice bills and where they stand – some good things have been done – and an analysis of how the rules were used as the clock waned. I’m ready for a drink, a long weekend, and sine die. How about you?

Uber and background checks

Uber is back in the news again, and as has often been the case it’s not in a good way.

Uber

Houston officials discovered crimes ranging from aggravated robbery to driving on a suspended license when they checked the backgrounds of prospective Uber drivers who had been cleared by the company’s review, according to a new report.

City regulatory officials cited the cases in documents prepared for a hearing in Austin on Thursday opposing a bill that would give the state control of regulating Uber and strip the city of its oversight – including criminal background checks.

Because Uber’s review, done by a company called Hirease, is based on Social Security numbers rather than fingerprints, it can be more easily manipulated, the city says.

“These companies miss applicants that use aliases,” according to a city report prepared for the hearing. “For example, a recent … driver, who had been cleared by Hirease, underwent a City of Houston fingerprint background check and it turned out she had 24 alias names, 5 listed birth dates, 10 listed Social Security numbers, and an active warrant for arrest.”

As drivers have applied for permits, “several” have been found that have criminal issues not caught by Uber, the report said.

“The charges include indecent exposure, DWI, possession of a controlled substance, prostitution, fraud, battery, assault, robbery, aggravated robbery, possession of marijuana, theft, sale of alcohol to a minor, traffic of counterfeit goods, trademark counterfeit, possession of narcotics, and driving with a suspended license.”

[…]

Mayor Annise Parker said Wednesday that the city is determined to enforce its rules.

“We continue to cite drivers, and we can impound cars and we have done that,” Parker said. “This is a problem with the company, and I’m beside myself right now at being angry at Uber. … I don’t want to go cite another driver. I want to hear directly from Uber.”

See here for some background. KUHF reports that the city is trying to figure out a way it can sanction Uber for its background check failures. Good luck with that.

I want to be clear here that I don’t believe that having a past conviction should necessarily be a disqualifier for would be Uber or Lyft drivers. Not all convictions represent a risk to a passenger’s safety, and I believe people deserve second chances. But any background check system worth doing should be able to discover these things. It is an issue if someone lies about their past, and we should be able to find those people out. This should not be controversial.

If the Lege insists on getting involved with the relationship between TNCs and cities, then let them set these requirements.

Lyft

House Bill 2440 by state Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, would grant statewide operating permits to companies like Uber and Lyft if they comply with certain regulations and pay an annual $115,000 fee. The companies use smartphone apps to connect people seeking a ride with freelance drivers using their own vehicles.

Paddie wrote on Facebook last month that his bill is about “free market principles” and would “allow innovative technology companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate under predictable, sensible statewide regulations.”

[…]

At a hearing before the House Transportation Committee on Thursday, Uber spokeswoman Sally Kay said fingerprint scans were inefficient and that Uber’s background checks were more thorough than the safety measures many cities have called for.

“This isn’t about cost,” she said. “This is about the fact that if we relied on the way many municipalities run their background checks, it wouldn’t be strong enough for us.”

[…]

On Thursday, state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, pressed Kay about how Burton slipped through the cracks.

“Did your background check find that this driver was on probation currently?” Phillips asked.

Kay said Uber is investigating the incident and she couldn’t comment. She also said Uber checks applicants for criminal activity within the past seven years, except for sexual offenses.

“That’s not really good enough for me,” Phillips said.

Nor should it be. It’s more than a little ridiculous for Uber to claim that their background checks are more thorough than what cities have called for, given what we’ve seen. The burden of proof for this is on them. Trail Blazers has more.

Last redistricting bill passes Senate, House debates abortion bills

It was destiny.

The Texas Senate on Sunday wrapped up final redistricting loose ends by concurring with changes made by the House to political boundaries for the lower chamber.

In an 18-11 vote, the Senate signed off on a series of small tweaks to the House maps — changes that swap a couple of precincts in Dallas, Webb and Harris counties.

[…]

Bills outlining state Senate and congressional maps were approved by both chambers with no changes. Only the proposal containing the House maps underwent minute tweaks.

All three bills now await Perry’s signature. Democrats have said they plan to challenge in the court the maps the Legislature passed during the special session on the basis that they still discriminate against minority voters.

Greg fills in a few details. The main show for Sunday of course was the anti-abortion bills, but other items were on the calendar before it. The order of business itself caused outrage and a point of order, but things resumed in the evening. The Trib covered that on a blow-by-blow basis. As of the time that I called it a night, amendments were being filed and fought over on SB5. As that bill has passed the Senate, if the House passes it unchanged it can go straight to Rick Perry for a signature. If it gets amended, the Senate has to concur; there won’t be time for a conference committee. The House may try to pass some of its own bills, which would be one way of resurrecting the 20-week prohibition, but with the session ending Tuesday and the rules requiring a 24-hour wait before the Senate could take up any such bills, Democrats would have a good chance to kill them via filibuster, to run out the clock. Of course, there could then be a second special session. We won’t know what happens until very late, so I’ll update this after I wake up and see what ultimately transpired. Assuming they’re finished by the, of course. BOR and RH Reality Check have more.

UPDATE: Sometime around 3:30 AM, SB5 was brought to a vote and passed. From TrailBlazers:

With a sweeping 97-33, the House voted to tentatively pass the Senate’s catch-all abortion bill largely along party lines after 13.5 hours of debates, parliamentary inquiries and stalling. Instant cheers and jeers exploded on the floor and in the gallery where people have been waiting for a vote since 2 p.m.

While applause rang out among conservatives, the shouts of “Shame” were much louder and many in the gallery were escorted out. In her speech, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, said the war on women was alive and called SB 5 the second missile fired by Gov. Rick Perry this year.

Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, brought up at 2 a.m. a motion to halt the overall debate on SB 5. It required 25 signatures — he had 40. About 16 amendments went unheard because of the motion.

“Anyone who has been here for the last several hours would not describe this as being rushed by any means,” Hughes said. “The people of Texas expect us to take a position on this bill, pro or con. We’re still miles before we sleep.”

Many Democrats were missing from the chamber when the House moved on to debate the juvenile justice bill.

Outside the doors, Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, commanded a stairwell full of opponents to the bill.

“Your being here says that the people who come to Austin who are elected officials have to be held accountable and I know you will hold people accountable in the next election,”Turner said “I’ve never ever seen this kind of outpouring on a Sunday afternoon, Sunday night, early Monday morning in late June.”

It now requires a final vote from the House before going over to the Senate, which will more than likely accept the 20-week ban provision and put it up for a vote. Senate Democrats have said they are ready to use whatever tools they can under the law to prevent the bill’s passage.

“If this issue was so important, then it deserves the right — when people come from across this state when they sign up — for every one of them to be heard, to have their say, to stay all night and listen to everyone of our constituents from across the state,” said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, to loud applause from the 100 or so orange shirts still in the gallery.

“All of a sudden to make somebody else’s agenda, we’re doing everything we can to rush through this process,” he said. “If one has the majority that doesn’t mean they should exercise the majority with an arrogance of power.”

The House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, who had been missing from the front microphone since around 11:50 p.m., came up around 3:20 a.m. to close on her bill. By not debating and instead asking the chair to make motions to table amendments, Republicans saved about 10 minutes per amendment.

The House is in recess until 6:46 AM, which is the earliest that it can reconvene after adjourning at 4:46, at which point it will need to pass SB5 on third reading. Once that has been done, it must go back to the Senate for a vote to accept the 20-week “fetal pain” provision. From the Trib:

To reach the Governor before the special ends, the House must approve SB 5 on third reading on Monday, as the Senate must wait 24 hours to layout the legislation and confirm the changes to the legislation approved by the House. The longer the bill has in the Senate, the longer a Democratic senator would have to filibuster the bill to prevent its passage.

So there’s still some hope, but remember that a second special session is always an option. Just as was the case with putting this crap on the call for this session, it’s entirely up to Rick Perry. I have a hard time believing he will allow this to fail by missing the deadline. My deep appreciation to everyone who showed up to fight against this atrocity, even if you did make poor widdle Rep. Jonathan Stickland wet his pants with fear at having to face people who don’t agree with him. Now let’s channel this energy into 2014. PDiddie, who stayed awake till the bitter end, has more.

UPDATE: There was actually one more thing accomplished last night. From the Trib, same link as before:

With a vote of 86-17 and two present not voting, the House tentatively approved Senate Joint Resolution 2, which would ask voters to approve amending the state constitution to divert half of the oil and gas severance taxes currently earmarked for the Rainy Day Fund to the State Highway Fund. It is estimated to raise close $1 billion a year for road construction and maintenance.

“This will not solve the problem, this is a start to solve the problem,” said state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, the sponsor of SJR 2.

Perry added transportation funding to the special session call after efforts to find extra money for the Texas Department of Transportation failed in the regular session. TxDOT has said it needs an additional $4 billion a year just to maintain current congestion levels.

An amendment by state Rep. Linda Harper Brown, R-Irving, was added to the bill. It would devote one-third of the growth in motor vehicle sales taxes to the transportation fund.

Critics of the measure have noted, among other things, that the revenue will dry up whenever the current oil drilling boom ends. Phillips added a “perfecting amendment” to ensure the money was not used for toll roads and to make the balance needed in the Rainy Day Fund a floating target instead of a fixed $6 billion.

I presume this has to go back to the Senate as well, so unless it is taken up before SB5, it too would be vulnerable to a filibuster.

UPDATE: Via Michael Li on Facebook, a reminder that to the likes of Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, “pro-life” means what she says it means, no more, no less.

A priceless exchange occurred between Harper-Brown cohort Jodie Laubenberg of Rockwall and Dallas Dem Rafael Anchia. Laubenberg proposed to enforce a three-month waiting period before expectant mothers could begin receiving prenatal and perinatal care under CHIP. Anchia pointed out that the eligibility change would kick nearly 100,000 children out of the CHIP program. “That is absolutely untrue!” Laubenberg shot back, proving her point by waving a sheet of paper. Then again, “That is absolutely untrue!”

“You know,” Anchia replied, “I can hear you yelling, but just because you yelled, it doesn’t make it true.” Anchía pointed out the consequences of denying health care to the unborn. “You do know, don’t you, that these are U.S. citizens?”

“But they’re not born yet,” Laubenberg, a “family values” conservative, retorted. Dukes, standing behind Anchia at the back mic, whipped her head around in a shocked double take. Anchia, smelling blood, observed, “You have an anti-life amendment,” which set Laubenberg off on a loud tirade in which she claimed to be the most pro-life member of the House.

Yeah.

Perry works against his own stated interests

I don’t understand this at all.

A bill that would have increased vehicle registration fees to raise money for transportation projects met its demise in the Texas House on Thursday.

House Bill 3664 by state Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, was designed to generate money to pay down the state’s transportation-related debt and fund improvements on non-tolled roads across Texas.

After a spirited discussion, Darby postponed the bill until May 28 — one day after the session ends and lawmakers go home. He cited pressure from outside forces that made voting for the measure difficult for some legislators.

Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday he would call a special session if fees were increased for transportation.

“Send me a balanced budget that has no fee increases for transportation and $2 billion for infrastructure for water, and everyone can go home and enjoy their summer,” he told reporters, explaining that he would call a special session if legislators don’t approve $1.8 billion in tax relief.

[…]

The bill highlighted divisions within the Legislature’s Republican majority. While some disagreed with the revenue raising approach to addressing transportation concerns, supporters of the bill said transportation funding needs were reaching a critical point.

“There’s no doubt that our transportation system is in dire crisis,” said Transportation Committee Chairman state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, who amended Darby’s bill to reduce the proposed fee increase from $30 to $15.

Phillips said the state was facing a $4 billion transportation funding shortfall, and he asserted that not addressing it was “a failure to lead.”

“Are you going to be a leader or are you going to just follow?” Phillips shouted at his colleagues.

“Baaaaaaaaaaa”, most of his colleagues replied. What’s truly amazing about this is that the original proposal for vehicle registration fees was to double them, which is to say increase them by $50, three times as much as Darby’s watered-down bill. That was proposed by Sen. Tommy Williams and endorsed by the Texas Association of Business, who I would think is a little miffed to be dissed like this, both by Perry and the nihilists at Empower Texas, who pushed a typically dishonest alternative instead. I didn’t think raising the registration fee was the best solution, but it wasn’t a terrible idea, and I was crazy enough to think it might be an acceptable solution for a serious need. That’ll learn me. So now we’ve got no transportation solution, no water solution, and no easy way to fund those solutions if we make another attempt at it. What once looked like a productive session is rapidly devolving into a big mess. Good luck sorting it all out in overtime. Trail Blazers has more.

UPDATE: More from EoW and PDiddie.

Great moments in understatement

State Rep. Rob Eissler, the author of the repeatedly postponed HB400, the bill that distributes the $7.8 billion in public education cuts to individual school districts, says what may be my favorite thing this session:

Lawmakers who philosophically endorse reduced spending can balk at what that means practically: teachers losing jobs, getting paid less and managing larger classes. “There’s an ugliness to a lower-funded environment that people don’t like to face,” Eissler said.

Ya think? As always, the idea is that budget cuts are great as long as they only affect other people. The hypocrisy of people who fervently supported budget cuts for thee but not for me used to outrage me but now it mostly amuses me.

Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, said “there’s a tension” in his party about how to handle mandate relief. He led the charge against HB 400 from the right with an amendment that would have made any measures temporary, kept the class-size ratio intact and applied salary reductions and furloughs to administrators as well as to teachers.

“Those of us who represent districts that are smaller, it’s different than maybe those big-city districts where it’s much more a business,” Phillips said. “For our school districts, it’s not a business but teaching kids.”

Well, Larry, the fine people of your district votred 66.5% for Rick Perry, who has been very clear about the House budget being what the voters demanded and expect. It is clearly your duty to give the people of your district what they obviously want. I don’t see why this would be a problem for you.

As of this writing, a final budget deal appears to be in place, but the details are still a bit sketchy. The good news, such as it is, is that the conference committee has agreed to the Senate’s $4 billion in cuts for public ed instead of the House’s $7.8 billion, but that’s still a lot of cuts to be made. Without some form of enabling legislation, it’ll be done by proration. Pick your poison, Larry, and then tell your constituents you were just doing what they wanted you to do.

You kids hang up and drive!

Some action on the cellphones and driving front.

The House tonight tentatively approved a bill restricting teens’ use of cellphones until they’re 18 and overhauling driver’s ed requirements in Texas. The bill would require all new teen drivers to have an additional 20 hours of behind the wheel experience, 10 of them at night, before they could get a driver’s license. And it would lengthen the ban on a new teen driver having more than one passenger under 21 in the car. The ban now last six months, but would be for the first year under the bill, passed on a voice vote.

Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, said he offered the bill after the community of Pottsboro in Grayson County had two teens killed in car crashes in one month. Parents there formed a group, “Less Tears, More Years.” They campaigned for more parental awareness of the risks of today’s teen driving — and more driver ed.

That one wasn’t on my list of bills to watch earlier in the session, but it’s been passed to engrossment (meaning, it was passed on second reading; it still needs final approval in the House) and assuming it doesn’t become a casualty of the calendar, I imagine it will pass the Senate, though I suppose some of the driver’s ed provisions might generate some debate. I don’t see anything particularly onerous in this, so unless someone knows of a hidden danger lurking in there, I think this is worthwhile. And according to Atrios, similar restrictions are being worked on in the Pennsylvania legislature.

You kids hang up and drive!

Some action on the cellphones and driving front.

The House tonight tentatively approved a bill restricting teens’ use of cellphones until they’re 18 and overhauling driver’s ed requirements in Texas. The bill would require all new teen drivers to have an additional 20 hours of behind the wheel experience, 10 of them at night, before they could get a driver’s license. And it would lengthen the ban on a new teen driver having more than one passenger under 21 in the car. The ban now last six months, but would be for the first year under the bill, passed on a voice vote.

Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, said he offered the bill after the community of Pottsboro in Grayson County had two teens killed in car crashes in one month. Parents there formed a group, “Less Tears, More Years.” They campaigned for more parental awareness of the risks of today’s teen driving — and more driver ed.

That one wasn’t on my list of bills to watch earlier in the session, but it’s been passed to engrossment (meaning, it was passed on second reading; it still needs final approval in the House) and assuming it doesn’t become a casualty of the calendar, I imagine it will pass the Senate, though I suppose some of the driver’s ed provisions might generate some debate. I don’t see anything particularly onerous in this, so unless someone knows of a hidden danger lurking in there, I think this is worthwhile. And according to Atrios, similar restrictions are being worked on in the Pennsylvania legislature.