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Government/Politics

Lawmakers Rush To Pass Final Bills Before Session Ends Monday

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Ryan E. Poppe
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The final gavel comes down on the state legislature today, as Texas lawmakers end their five-month session. Legislators had 140 days to move on key pieces of legislation, but needed a final working weekend to get for some of the more controversial bills across the finish line.

On Friday, lawmakers agreed on the one bill they had to pass — a two-year state budget. The more than $209 billion spending plan includes property tax relief, more money for more Department of Public Safety troopers along the border, and $30 million to restore the Alamo Complex in San Antonio.

Legislators also agreed on an open carry bill that allows licensed gun owners to openly holster their handguns in public. Over the weekend, they also adopted a measure that, if signed by Gov. Greg Abbott as expected, would allow licensed owners to carry handguns into college classrooms.  

The bill’s author, Granbury Republican Sen. Brian Birdwell, said the bill, generally referred to as “campus carry,” also protected the rights of private property owners by not forcing private universities to adhere to its provisions. “When I buy a piece of property or I own a piece of property, that’s my piece of property to exercise my rights on,” Birdwell explained.  

Changes to the bill would also allow university officials to set up areas on campuses deemed “gun-free” zones.

Legislation determining who investigates state officials charged with corruption also squeaked through. Republicans stripped that power from the Travis County District Attorney’s office — Travis County has a Democratic DA. The DA in an accused official’s home district will now investigate charges. 

Sylvester Turner, a Houston Democrat, slammed the bill, and said local DAs could not be expected to do the job. “We are placing it in places where there is no expertise, and quite frankly, the resources are not going to be there to investigate them,” Turner said in an impassioned statement on the House floor.

Lawmakers also passed a resolution, which, if approved by voters, would provide $2.5 billion in transportation funding. They also passed a bill that decriminalizes truancy. Those bills are now among hundreds awaiting Gov. Abbott’s signature or veto.