- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 18, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Gov. Greg Abbott is giving his first clear support for a “bathroom bill” that supporters say is similar to North Carolina’s recent compromise but opponents still reject as discriminatory.

Abbott on Tuesday said he’ll work on a bill with the Republican-controlled Legislature before it adjourns in May. His significant endorsement follows months of relative silence over a state Senate measure that would require people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate.

But Abbott is now backing a House version that sets aside that language. It instead bans cities from adopting nondiscrimination ordinances that would apply to restrooms.

The NCAA is again letting North Carolina host championship events under that state’s newly revised bathroom bill. On Tuesday, the NCAA awarded Texas several future championship sites.

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‘CONSTITUTIONAL CARRY’

A proposal to allow Texans to carry handguns openly without permits is eligible for a Texas House floor vote.

A House committee Tuesday approved the bill by Republican Rep. James White of Hillister. Backers of the 2nd Amendment call the issue “constitutional carry.”

The committee passed a modified version of White’s proposal, which would have allowed virtually any Texan 18 or older to openly carry handguns.

It now mandates guns be holstered. Those carrying without licenses also still must meet some requirements for obtaining licenses, including being at least 21 and without prior felony convictions.

Last session, Texas approved open carry of handguns but only for Texans with concealed carry licenses.

There appeared to be little support for further relaxing gun laws, which could yet make White’s bill a tough sell.

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ARMED FIRST-RESPONDERS

The Texas Senate has endorsed allowing paramedics and other first-responders, including volunteer firefighters, to carry concealed handguns in restricted areas.

The bill by Republican Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas met little resistance in the Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday. A similar measure is pending in the House.

Huffines says first-responders sometimes arrive on crime scenes even before police do and could be in danger if the situation is not yet contained. He says paramedics, firefighters and others should be allowed to protect themselves if necessary.

The bill requires the eligible first-responders to get the usual concealed handgun license, plus an extra 20 hours of training. They would be allowed to carry in restricted areas only while on duty.

Training would include tactical response shooting and how to seek cover.

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TEACHING EVOLUTION

The Texas Board of Education is voting again this week on revised science curriculums that would require students to “evaluate scientific explanations” on the “complexity” of human cells and on the origin of DNA.

That’s language which academics say deliberately casts doubt on the theory of evolution.

It’s been cheered by religious conservatives, however. They argue it encourages high school students to think critically about science.

In February, the board scrapped anti-evolution rules asking students to consider “all sides” of scientific theory. But critics worry the new curriculum still injects religious ideology into classroom instruction and could make students believe God helped create human life.

The board’s 10 Democrats and five Republicans will vote on the new curriculum on Wednesday and then again Friday. They can still make changes either time.

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ON DECK

The House is back in session at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and will spend hours grinding through amendments before expected passage of a $1.6 billion plan to begin overhauling the state school finance system. The Senate is back at 11 a.m. but will tackle an agenda not expected to take as long.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Rep. Simmons is offering a thoughtful proposal to make sure our children maintain privacy in our school bathrooms and locker rooms,” - Gov. Greg Abbott in his statement endorsing the House version of the “bathroom bill” proposed by Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton.

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