Greg Abbott

State of Texas

AUSTIN — Advisers to Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick described a major bipartisan pre-K initiative as socialist and keeping children in a “Godless environment,” in a letter sent to lawmakers Tuesday.

The letter was a rebuke over a preschool push being led by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, whose office responded by defending its plan while not addressing the criticism. It was written by a “grassroots advisory” board of conservative activists that Patrick, a Tea Party leader, assembled upon taking office in January.

“We are experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our young children from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers’ day out programs to a Godless environment with only evidence showing absolutely NO LONG-TERM BENEFITS beyond the 1st grade,” the letter said.

Joey Palacios / TPR News

AUSTIN — Tax cuts and better pre-K in Texas — two major promises of new Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — pushed ahead Wednesday when the House rallied behind a $2 billion proposed sales tax cut before passing an early education bill that schools say underwhelms.

Both moves simultaneously disappointed Democrats, deepened tensions with Senate Republicans and raised the chances of a rocky final two months in Abbott’s first legislative session.

Across the aisle from the House, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick dug in his heels, calling the House tax plan “out of step” and saying he will insist on property tax relief for rising home appraisals.

Senate Media Services

AUSTIN  — A state contracting scandal that dealt Republican Gov. Greg Abbott the first crisis of his administration escalated Monday with a scathing state report about Texas’ health commissioner, who responded by giving no indication he would resign.

An outside investigation ordered by Abbott did not explicitly call for the removal of Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek, who was appointed by former Gov. Rick Perry in 2012 and makes $260,000 a year. But a two-month review of a $110 million no-bid contract awarded last year — which public corruption prosecutors in Austin are also now investigating — concluded that failures by Janek helped create an environment in the 56,000-person commission that enabled the deal.

The 92-page report urged changes at the top to fix deep problems in the agency that oversees the state's Medicaid program, welfare payments and access to women’s health services. But in a letter to state leaders, Janek sounded like he did not intend to leave.

Ryan E. Poppe

State lawmakers will hear testimony Wednesday on a controversial bill aimed at limiting the type of ordinances and rules that city councils can pass. Opponents argue that the bill calls “what constitutes local control and limited government” into question.

Ryan E. Poppe

Texas’ Republican leaders are confident they will win an overall lawsuit challenging President Obama’s executive order on immigration. The presidential order shields about 4 million people, in the country illegally, from deportation.

Brownsville Federal District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled this week that without a temporary injunction, “the genie would be impossible to put back in the bottle.” He stated that the president had overstepped his authority, and violated the U.S. Administrative Procedures Act.