Government

News about politics and government.

Courtesy: SalFalko / Flickr (Creative Commons)

AUSTIN — Texas is on the verge of scrapping its controversial “pick-a-pal” grand jury system, after the House gave final approval to a sweeping overhaul.

The state is currently the only one in America where judge-appointed commissioners nominate prospective jurors, rather than picking randomly selected residents.

The U.S. Supreme Court has criticized the system. But some small-county Texas judges oppose changing it, worried that jury pools may shrink too much.

Without debate Sunday, the House voted 79-59 to approve a bill changing the system, sponsored by Houston Democratic Rep. Harold Dutton.

Drunk Driver / CC

AUSTIN — Texas took a major step toward allowing the licensed open carry of handguns, with Senate approval coming late Friday night after a fierce debate over restricting police powers to ask people carrying guns if they are legal. The open carry bill was expected to easily pass the Republican-majority chamber but got tangled in a bipartisan move to add a ban on police from stopping people solely because they are visibly carrying a handgun.

The vote came less than a week after a biker shootout in Waco killed nine, an incident that was raised several times in the debate.

The bill still needs a final vote in the House, which passed a nearly identical version last month. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has pledged to sign an open carry bill into law. Supporters of the police restriction came from both sides of the aisle, Democrats who thought it would prevent harassment of law-abiding citizens and racial profiling of minorities, and Tea Party-backed conservatives and libertarians who thought it would protect against the unreasonable search and seizure of licensed handgun owners. 

Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio

Former mayoral candidate Tommy Adkisson has thrown his support behind sitting Mayor Ivy Taylor as the run-off election for San Antonio Mayor inches closer against former State Senator Leticia Van De Putte.

On the steps of City Hall, supporters for Taylor gathered behind Adkisson, a former county commissioner, as he listed reasons why he’s endorsing the sitting mayor in the June13 run-off.

Ryan E. Poppe

AUSTIN — A newly struck budget deal is giving new Republican Gov. Greg Abbott the tax cuts he demanded but remains blemished by skepticism that Texas homeowners will notice any savings.

Ending weeks of discord between the House and Senate, the agreement late Thursday on a $3.8 billion package of new exemptions puts Abbott close to signing Texas’ biggest tax cuts in a decade and the bragging rights of finishing his first legislative session on time.

Republicans campaigned hard on tax cuts in 2014, and after the Legislature adjourns June 1, they can boast to voters back home they delivered. But even House Republicans have doubted their base will feel roughly $120 knocked off their property taxes, given fast-rising home appraisals in Texas, is enough.

Ryan E. Poppe

Two immigration-related bills on proposals to ban sanctuary cities and end in-state tuition for immigrants, believed to have been all but dead, are back on the Texas Senate’s agenda despite vocal opposition from a handful of Republicans.

For months, senators, reporters and those watching from the gallery have anxiously awaited a vote on the two controversial bills. For a time though, the bill prohibiting sanctuary city style policies, where local governments practice policies that do not hinder illegal immigrants, in effect “protecting” them, and another, repealing an in-state tuition program that was made available to undocumented immigrant students in the state in 2001, were considered dead.

But this week, the two bills have returned to the Texas Senate’s calendar despite criticism from state Senators like Tyler Republican Kevin Eltife.

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