- Associated Press - Sunday, April 19, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A plan forbidding family court rulings based on foreign legal codes - one of the tamest of a series of bills designed to stop the influence of Islamic “Sharia law” in Texas - has cleared House committee and could soon be up for a full-chamber vote.

Plano Republican Rep. Jeff Leach’s proposal doesn’t mention Muslims. But it was one of six bills that got a lot of attention after Islamic elders set up a non-legally binding tribunal to help handle issues such as divorce or business disagreements in Irving.

Leach’s bill, though, is the only one of those that has advanced enough through the legislative process to likely have any shot of passing given that there’s only six weeks left in the session. And it still has a long way to go before becoming law.

Here are other issues to watch this week at the Texas Capitol:

SCHOOL VOUCHERS: The Senate seemed poised last week to pass a school voucher plan using taxpayer funds to help parents send their children to private and religious schools instead of public ones. That vote never came but still appears eminent. Championed by tea party-backed Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the proposal allows firms to donate half of what they’d pay in state business taxes to student scholarships worth up to nearly $6,000. The idea is to help poor parents, who couldn’t otherwise afford it, remove their children from struggling public schools. But it faces stiff opposition in the House, where there’s bipartisan support to keep public money in public schools.

SANCTUARY CITIES: Like school vouchers, this contentious immigration proposal was eligible to come up on the Senate floor last week but didn’t. When it does, the GOP-backed plan should be approved despite staunch opposition from Democrats and Hispanic advocacy groups. While it has no legal meaning, “sanctuary cities” typically describe local governments that forbid police from asking about a person’s immigration status. Lubbock Republican Sen. Charles Perry’s proposal would ban local governments from implementing such policies - a move critics say could lead to racial profiling by police.

PUBLIC INTEGRITY UNIT: A GOP-led effort to move public corruption cases out of left-leaning Austin should return to the House floor after a Democratic technical maneuver delayed a chamber vote on it last week. The bill would put the Texas Rangers in charge of investigating criminal allegations of political wrongdoing, and leave it up to district attorneys in an accused elected official’s home county to prosecute. For now, the Public Integrity Unit is based in Travis County, which includes Austin. Then-Gov. Rick Perry vetoed its funding in 2012 after the Democratic district attorney in charge refused to resign following her conviction for drunken driving. That prompted an abuse-of-power indictment against Perry last summer. The Senate has already approved a similar measure, but Democrats’ stall tactics kept the House from following suit - at least for a few days.

NAME CHANGE: Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton will testify Monday before a House committee considering a state constitutional amendment to rename his agency the Texas Energy Commission. Sutton’s commission regulates the oil and gas industry and has nothing to do with trains - yet numerous past legislative efforts to rename it have fizzled.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide