AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The most contentious week of Gov. Greg Abbott’s first 100 days ended on a fittingly divisive note: a new flare-up over abortion in Texas.
And the real crunch in the Legislature hasn’t even started yet.
Five weeks are left for Republicans to make good on promises to deliver the biggest tax cuts in a decade, tighten lawmaker ethics and stock up the Texas-Mexico border with hundreds of new troopers and technology. But with time running out, tensions are starting to show.
Here’s the rundown of a stormy week in the Texas Capitol:
Even before former Gov. Rick Perry was indicted last year over vetoing money for public corruption prosecutors in Austin, Republicans have wanted cases of political malfeasance handled outside Travis County, which is run by Democrats. The GOP appears on the verge of finally succeeding after the House approved turning over state-level corruption cases to the Texas Rangers, who are already working on one high-profile case: whether Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton broke the law over an admitted securities violation.
House leaders lashed at Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for stalling on bills passed to his Senate, accusing the firebrand tea party leader of holding up legislation for political leverage. That was followed by Patrick facing questions over his “grassroots” advisory team of ultraconservative activists, which sent a letter to Senate lawmakers calling Abbott’s pre-K proposal “godless” and akin to socialism. Patrick said he didn’t know in advance of the letter. Signs of accord began emerging by the end of the week, but both chambers are now watching the other closer than ever.
Abortion had been a quiet topic this session until Republicans on Thursday unexpectedly inserted new restrictions into a noncontroversial House bill. The measure would have closed an exception that allows abortions after 20 weeks when the fetus has severe abnormalities. The proposal won initial approval then sank when Democrats - who lack the votes to stop legislation on their own - raised technical objections. Texas already has some of the toughest abortion laws in the U.S., and Republican leaders haven’t prioritized tighter restrictions. But the surprise vote raised the likelihood of more battles ahead.
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