Texas Capital Highlights — May 18, 2017

May 19, 2017

AUSTIN (AP) — More Texas children could soon have seat belts on the buses they ride to school.

The state House approved legislation 91-43 on Thursday to require new school buses, 2018 models and newer, to have safety belts. The Senate passed a similar measure last month.

Supporters say seat belts cost around $7,000 on new buses costing around $100,000 total. About 1.1 million students ride Texas school buses per day.

The proposal doesn’t include extra state funding, but schools districts can opt out if they can’t afford buses with seat belts.

Those opposing the bill say they aren’t anti-safety, but that installation is costly and schools can use funding for other priorities.

The Legislature approved $10 million for optional school bus seat belts in 2009, but very few school districts actually installed them.



The Texas House has rejected a Senate attempt to add a string of proposals meant to promote open government to a smaller but related bill.

Austin Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson last week attached six amendments to a House open records bill.

He was attempting to revive separate bills increasing government transparency. They cleared the Senate, only to stall in House committee, forcing Watson to scramble to get them moving again.

But Democratic Rep. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville balked, saying Thursday that the amendments were “well beyond the scope” of his original bill. It sought only to expedite state agency denial of some open records requests.

Advocates say Lucio’s rejection dooms Watson’s open records-strengthening efforts, including his attempts to soften two recent Texas Supreme Court decisions that governmental entities don’t have to fully disclose public spending.



The House is adjourned until 10 a.m. Friday. Because of a parliamentary objection, the chamber failed Thursday to take up a scheduled, Senate-approved bill tightening rules on local officials wishing to raise property taxes. That was one of two measures that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, demanded that the House pass to avoid a special session — where Gov. Greg Abbott would call lawmakers back to work after the May 29 end of the legislative session.

The House is now scheduled to take up the property tax plan on Friday as tensions over a possible special session intensify.

The Senate was working late Thursday and even is planning a rare session for Sunday as it hustles through its late-in-the-session workload.



“If a Texas pickup truck could carry a tune all by itself, it would sound like George Strait” — Sen. Jose Menendez, speaking Thursday to a Senate resolution honoring the Texas country legend and other artistic luminaries.

Category: Politics, State/National