News of the Week
Outlook Uncertain for Payday Lending Legislation
Consumer advocates hoped that 2013 would be the year for a serious effort to rein in the most egregious practices in the payday and auto-title lending industry — financial institutions that offer short-term loans to low-income borrowers at high interest rates. But now, the leading vehicle for regulatory reform, Senate Bill 1247, by state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, threatens to stall in a House committee, and the bill’s advocates say they are facing their worst-case scenario.
Texas Blast Recalls Chemical Safety Bill Sunk by Business Lobby
Safety advocates say the deadly explosion of a fertilizer depot in Texas this month underscores the need for action on the issue, both from Congress and President Barack Obama, even in the face of strong industry opposition.
Legislature doesn’t go with Perry’s proposed $1.6 billion business tax cut
Gov. Rick Perry’s $1.6 billion tax cut proposal for businesses had a shelf life of about three days.
STAAR Results May Hold Back 80,000 Fifth-Graders
More than 80,000 fifth-graders and 60,000 eighth-graders in the state are at risk of being held back this year because of poor performance on state standardized tests under a Texas law banning social promotion.
Efforts to Reform Teacher Evaluations in Texas Falter
Less than 3 percent of educators receive scores below the “proficient” level, and the variation in scores from year to year has been so small that state officials stopped collecting the data from school districts after the 2010-11 academic year.
Texas House Votes to Reduce State Exams in Lower Grades
A measure taking aim at the firm that develops the state’s standardized tests briefly stalled legislation reducing high-stakes exams for elementary and middle school students on Tuesday, before it finally passed the Texas House.
Guns on campus bill scheduled for Texas House vote
One of the top pro-gun bills before Texas lawmakers this session was green-lighted Monday for a House floor vote this weekend, and a top backer predicted approval there for the plan to allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry their handguns into college classrooms.
U.S. to pay down debt for first time in six years
In a statement, Treasury said it now expects to pay off $35 billion of debt in the April-to-June quarter, compared to an earlier projection, given in February, that it would have to borrow $103 billion.
Editorial: Ignorance by design in West explosion
State and federal investigations eventually will uncover the extent to which West Fertilizer Co. followed the law regarding the large amounts of highly volatile ammonium nitrate stored on its property. But regardless of what authorities knew, West residents remained clueless — by design — about the extreme dangers they were living next to until an April 17 explosion killed 15 and devastated a 35-block area.
Straus: House Will Find Way to Fund Water Projects
The morning after a major bill to authorize spending billions of dollars on state water projects faltered in the House, Speaker Joe Straus‘ office released a statement saying he wouldn’t “let a technicality seal the debate on water.”
Senate passes Davis’ pipeline bill
The state Senate unanimously passed legislation by Sen. Wendy Davis that would permit the construction of saltwater pipelines along public right-of-way to transport hydraulic fracturing fluid in the Barnett Shale.
Latest teacher retirement changes would hit fewer school employees
Members of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas objected strongly last week to a legislative proposal that would have required about half of current employees to work until age 62 to receive full retirement benefits. They now have no minimum retirement age but must achieve the “Rule of 80,” in which their years of service and age equal 80.
House bill exempts high-performers from some STAAR tests
The Texas House continued to chip away at state-mandated testing by approving a bill Thursday that would allow elementary and middle school students to skip some standardized exams if they earn top test scores in earlier grades.
Rogue Republican might have had a hand in killing water bill
Unmentioned was state Rep. David Simpson, a tea party Republican from Longview in East Texas. About a week ago, Simpson said, he noticed a line in the House rule book that forbids the transfer of money from the state’s general revenue fund to another account in the first 118 days of the session. The water bill fit that description.
Controversial cancer grant could be reconsidered for funding
An $11 million grant at the center of the controversy surrounding the state’s cancer agency would likely be reconsidered for full funding if the Dallas startup, Peloton Therapeutics, receives a favorable review and is not implicated in the criminal investigation, an agency official said Tuesday.
House Panel Reviews CPRIT Reform Legislation
A sponsor of legislation that would overhaul the embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute told a House committee on Wednesday that “there was never anybody feathering their nest” with CPRIT funds and that the problems at the institute could be attributed in part to “overzealousness.”
Texas House passes Price’s booster seat law
A bill sponsored by state Rep. Four Price aimed at making motorists with children ensure their youngsters are buckled up in their booster seats has passed the Texas House.
Bill would bar Texas law officers from asking crime victims about immigration status
Law enforcement officers would be prohibited from asking victims and witnesses in criminal investigations about their immigration status under legislation approved by the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday.
House determined to fund water plan, floating a hybrid possibility
Among the possibilities: Reviving some version of a bill that was killed Monday with a parliamentary maneuver and bringing it back to the House floor, where a spirited debate is likely to ensue; kicking the issue over to voters, as the Senate has proposed; or trying for a hybrid of rainy day fund and general revenue fund money to seed the revolving water fund.
Perry raises eyebrows with fundraising effort during legislative session
While state law forbids officeholders from raising money during the Legislature’s session, Gov. Rick Perry is arranging fundraising calls to major GOP donors to help finance his trips to other states promoting Texas under his tenure.