- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A high-profile House push to prohibit state, county and local officials from issuing wedding licenses to same-sex couples and shield Texas from gay marriage even if the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes it collapsed amid Democratic stall tactics.

But since Republicans still hold overwhelming majorities in both chambers, couldn’t they bring the measure back? Yes, though not easily.

The anti-gay marriage bill was drafted by Magnolia Republican Rep. Cecil Bell. Midnight Thursday was the last chance for initial passage of bills like his, which originated in the House. The Senate has more time, but no similar bill.

The upper chamber has, however, approved a measure excusing clergy members from presiding over weddings that violate their religious beliefs. An anti-gay marriage amendment could still be tacked onto that.

A potentially more creative approach, meanwhile, might be squeezing much of Bell’s bill into one that isn’t as obviously related - like pieces of pending legislation dealing with seemingly innocuous subjects including clerks, or government paperwork.

Bell says he’d like to see his bill yet live on as an amendment: “You just have to find something that’s germane.”

So, its death is a setback for social conservatives, but until the June 1 end of the legislative session, it could live again. Here’s a look at other issues that had strong weeks - and didn’t - in the Texas Legislature.

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WHAT’S UP

Tax-cut harmony

A weeks-long standoff between the Senate and House about the best way to cut taxes appears to be easing. The Senate had insisted on $3-plus billion in property tax cuts, while the House pushed for a slightly larger sales tax cut. But Gov. Greg Abbott says both sides have hammered out a compromise. That means his first legislative session as governor likely won’t end with him having to call lawmakers back to work to finalize a budget.

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WHAT’S DOWN

Judicial bypass

The House voted to make it more difficult for girls under 18 who face extreme circumstances to get abortions without their parents’ consent. Texas’ “judicial bypass” law allows judges to grant qualifying teens abortions in secret - and about 300 annually took advantage. Nonpartisan advocates had cheered the system as fair and efficient - but since the state already has some of America’s toughest restrictions on nearly all other types of abortion, conservatives looking for more victories on the issue targeted it.

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WHAT’S INBETWEEN

School finance

Killeen Republican Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock had hoped to push a $3 billion plan fixing the way Texas pays for its public schools through the Legislature without waiting for the courts. Aycock, the House Public Education Committee chairman, vowed to coax the potentially groundbreaking plan through the House and take his chances with the Senate. But reluctance to tackle the issue in the tea party-dominated upper chamber led Aycock to scrap his plan. Now school finance, which has sparked decades of legal battles, is back in a familiar spot - waiting on a court decision. A district court judge has already declared classroom funding unconstitutionally inadequate and unfairly distributed. If the state Supreme Court upholds that ruling on appeal later this year or next, it will order lawmakers to eventually fix the system - just like Aycock wanted to do this session.


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