Politics

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Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman

Don’t trust the name “bath salts,” warned state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls.

“Bath salts has nothing to do with taking a bath and has nothing to do with salt,” Estes said. “Bath salts” are a drug that can have effects similar to cocaine or amphetamines and can be bought legally online or in smoke shops.

Image courtesy Chrissy Olson http://www.flickr.com/photos/islandgyrl/131024031/lightbox/#/photos/islandgyrl/131024031/

Hold on to your yacht club officer hats! The Texas House Ways and Means Committee has approved a tax break for big yachts, the San Antonio Express News reports.

The bill, authored by State Rep. John Davis (R-Houston) would limit Texans’ sales tax on boats to $18,000, matching Florida’s sales tax, regardless of the cost of the yacht.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has announced another move to help the 3.5 million Texans who had their personal data exposed by her state office. Earlier initiatives to help Texans in the Teacher's Retirement System, Employees Retirement System and Texas Workforce Commission provided discounted subscriptions to credit monitoring services.

Now, Combs says she'll use campaign funds to pay for one year of credit monitoring and Internet surveillance - along with identity restoration services. Combs talked with Ben Philpott, who covers state politics and policy for KUT and the Texas Tribune, about the data breach. You can hear the full interview below.

Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera

Senators left a meeting this morning looking no closer to an agreement on the budget — and Finance Chair Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said the method of financing remains the sticking point.

“If we’re not going to use the Rainy Day fund when it’s raining, we might as well get rid of it," Ogden told reporters after this morning's caucus. "This is what it’s for.”

Image courtesy Office of Rep. Lloyd Doggett

A proposed map of new Congressional districts in Texas has one incumbent representative steaming mad.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) issued a statement about the map earlier today, claiming it effectively splits Travis County up into four Congressional districts.

Graphic courtesy the Texas Public Policy Foundation

The Texas Senate is expected to vote on its version of the state budget this week. Their plan spends about $12 billion more than the House, including increased spending in education and healthcare. A raucous House/Senate conference committee is expected, as the two sides try to work out the differences.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Texas Senate Finance Committee has approved a budget that spends down an additional $3 billion from the state's Rainy Day fund, according to our political reporting partner the Texas Tribune.  The 11-4 vote came faster than expected this morning, and it sets up a showdown between House and Senate lawmakers.

Photo Courtesy the Texas Tribune for KUT News

Comptroller Susan Combs is continuing to clean up the privacy mess her office made when it exposed the Social Security numbers and birth dates of about 3.5 million Texans. In a press release, Combs said her office had negotiated a 2nd discounted credit monitoring subscription for those affected by the security breach.

Photo by Kenn Zuniga

The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit dismissed a lawsuit last week claiming that the President’s National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, claims that the day violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. ”

Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune for KUT News

Texans affected by an internet security breach by the Comptroller's office are now being targeted by a new telephone scam. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott released a statement today saying a state employee reported to the AG that they received a phone call from someone claiming to be with the Employees Retirement System of Texas.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

President Barack Obama is heading to Austin for a fundraiser. The visit is planned for May 10. 

President Obama announced this week that he would run for re-election in 2012. It wasn't a huge surprise, but he is the first to announce his plans.

Photo by KUT News

Political battles are often fought on the right or left of a topic.  But today ideology was divided by the North and South sides of the Capitol.  

Photo by KUT News

Homeowners’ associations might not be able to turn the heat anymore on homeowners.

The Texas Senate passed SB 142, which restricts associations from exercising their rights to foreclose homeowners who didn’t pay dues and fees.

The bill, filed by State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas), aims to protect homeowners from potential abuse of foreclosure, especially on the families of soldiers serving overseas.

Photo by KUT News

So what does cutting the state's public education budget by about $7.8 billion dollars look like?

Based on a bill by Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston), it looks pretty ugly. But he says with the amount of money lawmakers in the House just voted to give to schools during the state budget debate, there's not a pretty way to get money to schools.

Photo by KUT News

A bill in the Texas House that hopes to reduce head injuries in middle and high school athletics received initial approval today. The bill by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-San Benito) would prohibit the use of all football helmets in use 16 years.  It would also require any 10-year-old helmets to be reconditioned at least once every 10 years.

Photo by flickr.com/pierceplace532/

O.K...Maybe "tackle" was NOT the right word to use on this bill, because the bill passed without ANY debate. Rep. Sid Miller's bill passed 137 - 9.

The proposal wasn't exactly a new idea. The bill passed the House in 2009, but never got a hearing in the Senate, according to Rep. Miller (R-Stephenville).

Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News

If you're watching the Texas House budget debate today - don't blink.  

While it took about 16 hours to get through the first three articles of the budget Friday, lawmakers are zooming through their debate on the remaining parts of the budget.  

Many amendments are simply being withdrawn - or moved to Article XI in the budget.  That's the place were projects without funding go to hang out just in case money can be found to fund them.  

Photo by KUT News

The Texas House has ended debate for the night on the state budget.  Lawmakers were able to get through the first 3 articles of the $164 billion bill - that includes general government (I), health and human services (II) and education (III).

Photo by KUT News

House Democrats aren't the only ones not happy about the spending cuts made in that chamber's version of the state budget.  ADAPT of Texas, a grassroots disability rights group, has a full protest on the 2nd floor landing right outside the House chamber.  Their chants have been heard over the last couple of hours anytime the debate in chambers hits a lull.  The ADAPT website lists several reasons for their opposition to the things the group says the bill does:

Photo courtesy the Texas Tribune for KUT News

Family planning was the target in in Article II of the budget. The Windham School District (an education system run in state prisons) appears to be the piggy bank for Article III. The first three amendments take about $1.1 million from Windham to pay for other educational programs. The fourth takes sweeps the entire Windham budget, $84 million, for other programs.

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