Texas Legislature

Tomorrow, when the Texas House of Representatives gavels in for its 140-day session, members are expected to elect Rep. Joe Straus III of San Antonio to a fourth term as Speaker. 

The state’s top officials have a number of areas of focus — including property and business tax relief, roadways, improving access to and the standards of public education, protecting the border, and a revamp of the Sunset Advisory Commission — going into the new legislative session, which begins next week. One of Gov.-elect Greg Abbott’s stated priorities is to restructure the sunset commission with a citizen panel that will look into wasteful government expenditure and decreasing state regulation. “We need citizens with a seat at the table helping us to reshape the way the regulatory agencies are running the State of Texas,” he said, also adding that he wanted state agencies to cut their budgets. He, Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Joe Straus all favor ending the diversion of Oil & Natural Gas tax revenue from the state highway fund to other programs, so transportation projects can be prioritized properly.

Eileen Pace / TPR News

Update (4:05 p.m.): In his final decision, Travis County District Judge John Dietz said that the property tax system set up to fund school districts was ineffective at distributing funding equally to campuses across the state. 

Attorney David Thompson represents the largest number of schools in the lawsuit.

Flickr user Emad Ghazipura / cc

The Texas House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety is considering legislation for the 2015 session that would completely revamp the Texas Driver Responsibility Program.  

The program allows the Department of Public Safety to assess surcharges on traffic tickets on top of the fine and court cost. DPS notifies the drivers via mail through a private contractor, the Municipal Service Bureau or MSB.

Lawmakers have expressed concern about the interface between the DPS and MSB and local law enforcement.

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