Lauren Reinlie

Lowering Expectations

Senate Bill 1227, an expansive financial aid bill, sets uniform standards for students receiving financial aid under state grant programs. Currently, the TEXAS Grants program, which primarily provides assistance for low-income, minority and first generation students, is subject to a 2.5 GPA requirement. Another grant program called Texas Equalization Grants, which provides financial aid to cover the additional costs incurred by students who choose to go to private schools over public schools, is not subject to the same GPA requirements. The Senate voted in SB 1227 to change that by raising the requirements for the Texas Equalization Grants to match those of TEXAS Grants.

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Good Bill Gone Bad, Moves On

The House is flying through bills in a rush to meet the midnight deadline of having all senate bills passed through second reading. One of the bills that was whisked through with no debate is Senate Bill 747.

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What was he thinking?!?

Rep. Todd Smith presented Senate Bill 111 on the House floor today. The bill will require that state universities adopt a plan to offer college credit for high school students who participate in the IB program, a rigorous academic program offered in schools across the country.

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Ok, Now let me see your face, please

Today the Senate passed HB 2337, the biometric boondoggle, which would require the DPS to take facial recognition information from people applying for or renewing their drivers’ licenses. With little drama, the bill passed 28-2.

When the bill first came up, though, Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, did cast several frantic glances at his aide across the room. Apparently he was at a bit of a loss for the facts to answer the questions of a few legislators. After a few hours break and a couple of ammendments, the concerns were apparently quelled.

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Top Ten Resurrection

Sen. Education Committee Chair Florence Shapiro brought top ten legislation back from the dead today after declaring it caput over the weekend. A committee vote Saturday on HB 2330, which would cap top ten percent admissions at 50 percent, resulted in a deadlock with a 3-3 tie.

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Gay marriage in the Senate

Sen. Todd Staples is making a motion on the floor of the Senate to suspend rules of order and hear HJR6, the constitutional ammendment banning gay marriage. The ammendment would add language into the constitution that restricts marraige to that between one man and one woman as well as bars the state from recognizing any arrangement similar to marraige. This would constitutionally ban civil unions in Texas.

The ammendment is just changing the constitution to match current law, says Staples.

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Hinojosa's Last Stand

Earlier today, Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa's office sent out a press release stating that he has a list of 11 senators who oppose HJR 6, which would allow a constitutional ammendment banning gay marriage to go onto the ballot in November. If the 11 senators form a block to vote against the resolution, the bill would fail to obtain the the two-thirds necessary to pass a constitutional ammendment off the Senate floor.

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Hugs and Tears in State Affairs

Dozens of people have testified and are still in line to testify on the constitutional ammendment to ban gay marraige, HJR 6. The Senate State Affairs commitee has heard hours of emotional testimony and many more are lined up to testify. Both inside and outside the Senate Chamber there is a strong sense of solidarity as people testifying against the bill share hugs and tears on this most personally sensitive of issues.

Tracy and Steve Kriese have a 19-year-old son who is gay. He came out to them when he was 14. As a Morman family, they say, originally they had a very difficult time with it.

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Stayin' alive?

The Lege may still have a chance to give a student a seat on the board of regents of state universities this session. Sen. Jeff Wentworth's SB 936 passed through the Senate Education Committee today and onto the Local and Uncontested Calendar, which could get it a speedy move off the Senate floor.
Students have been fighting for representation on the board of regents for years. Last week, the House killed Rep. Patrick Rose's student regent bill when it failed to recieve hearing by the House deadline.

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Too Little Too Late

Recently emerged from the woodwork, Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley provided heated testimony to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee against the probation reform bill, HB 2193. No one from the public testified against probation reform bills when they were initially heard in both House and Senate committees. In fact, a wide arrary of groups offered ample support for reform - from the ACLU to the conservative think-tank Texas Public Policy Foundation.

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A Shift in Focus

This afternoon in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, Chairman John Whitmire abandoned his own omnibus probation reform bill in favor of the House version, which Whitmire calls "much more moderate."

HB 2193, authored by Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, passed off the House floor Friday. Whitmire says he could have passed his own bill if he had more time, but due to the quickly impending end of the session and "a lot of misinformation about both bills," he has turned his attention to the version that has already passed through the House in order to expedite the process.

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We're On Your Side

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee heard testimony on a bill calling for reform of the Texas juvenile justice system Wednesday. Sen. Chuy Hinojosa, D-McAllen, presented SB 1632, which focuses on reform for the Texas Youth Commission, the state's juvenile corrections agency. TYC is rife with cases of abuse along with other problems such as lengthy stays, high rates of recidivism, and high cost. The commission was created to deal with the most violent and serious juvenile offenders, but the majority of the kids are in for non-violent crime. Hinojosa's bill calls for data reporting to the committee, multi-cultural linguistic training for staff, and the creation of an independent agency to oversee the commission.


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Way to Go, Al

All the dailies missed what was perhaps the most condemning comment at Monday's debate over Rep. Warren Chisum's gay marriage amendment. (A brief mention can be found at Burnt Orange Report). Our favorite Democrat Al Edwards of Houston, one of the Ds who voted in favor of the amendment (see post below), made it very clear what his opinion of homosexuality is.


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They Couldn't Have Done It Without Them

The constitutional ammendment banning gay marriage, HJR6, narrowly passed the House Monday afternoon with 101 votes, needing 100 to pass.


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Students Demand Attention for Higher Ed

Over 20 students camped out on the University of Texas campus Wednesday night as part of a weeklong effort asking the Legislature to invest more in higher education issues.


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