- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Republican-controlled Texas House is poised to consider rules allowing religious child welfare agencies to prohibit gays and same-sex couples from adopting children - a potential major victory for social conservatives that Democrats attempted to block using stall tactics.

The measure protects agencies that object to such adoptions on religious grounds from being sued. It’s an amendment to a larger bill reorganizing the Department of Family and Protective Services that’s scheduled for consideration Tuesday.

It has the votes to pass easily, but the amendment is attached to a Senate bill. That means it must clear the House by midnight in order to make it all the way through the legislative process, with Monday’s end of session looming.

House Democrats, therefore, have a chance to run out the clock, and they took the floor to draw out debate on bills being considered ahead of the health agency overhaul proposal.

Fearing that there weren’t enough hours to tackle it and other top priorities - including a bill to allow licensed Texans to carry concealed handguns onto college campuses - Republicans tried to reorganize Tuesday’s House calendar. But because that required two-thirds support of the chamber, it narrowly failed along party lines, 96-53.

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‘CAMPUS CARRY’ BILL LOOKS TO BEAT CLOCK IN HOUSE

The Texas House may take a late-night vote Tuesday on whether to allow concealed handguns in public college classrooms and buildings.

But lengthy debate on bills being considered before it could leave the measure bumping up against a midnight deadline for the lower chamber to pass bills that originated in the Senate.

It sailed through the Republican-controlled Senate in March, but wasn’t set for a vote in the House until the final week of the legislative session. If approved there, it’s close to heading to Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed into law.

Abbott has pledged to expand gun rights in his first session as governor.

Gun rights groups say the bill is an important self-defense measure for students and teachers, and often cite the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings when a gunman killed 32.

Opponents say it will make campuses less safe. Opposition from higher education officials has killed the bill in previous years.

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SENATE REVIVES ANTI-GAY MARRIAGE BILL THAT DIED IN HOUSE

The Texas Senate has revived an anti-gay marriage bill that had appeared dead in the final week of the session.

The measure bars public funds from being used in same-sex marriage licenses. Although it failed in the House, it was inserted into a Senate bill and is likely set for a vote Wednesday.

If it passes the Senate, it will go back to the House to consider before session ends June 1.

Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio, chair of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee, said Republican Rep. Cecil Bell asked senators to keep the bill alive for a last-ditch effort to pass it through the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Lucio said he voted for the bill, unlike other Democrats, to support “traditional structure of the family and family values.”

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‘JOHN WAYNE DAY’ HONORS ACTOR’S 108TH BIRTHDAY AT LEGISLATURE

Wearing a brown plaid coat worn by John Wayne in 1945’s “Flame of Barbary Coast,” Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has declared a day in honor of the quintessential screen cowboy.

An avid collector of movie memorabilia, Patrick wore the coat as he presided over the Senate Tuesday.

He declared it John Wayne Day in Texas to mark the Hollywood legend’s 108th birthday and named the actor an honorary Texan.

There were proclamations from the House, Senate and Gov. Greg Abbott. Senators told Wayne’s visiting children and grandchildren of their love for movies including “True Grit,” ”The Searchers,” and “Rio Bravo.”

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, whose district is near the set of Wayne’s 1960 movie “The Alamo,” quoted her favorite Wayne-ism: “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.”

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SENATE OKS BORDER SECURITY BILL THAT’S TOP ABBOTT PRIORITY

The Texas Senate has preliminarily passed a $300 million border security bill - one of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s priorities and part of a sweeping, $800 million border package.

Senators voted 27-4 Tuesday to advance the bill. It needs a final Senate vote, then heads back to the House, which must agree upon tweaks.

The plan includes hiring hundreds of new troopers to guard the Texas-Mexico border, where they’ll replace National Guard troops that then-Gov. Rick Perry deployed last summer.

Also included in the proposal is allowing state troopers to work 50-hour weeks, and a provision for a committee to eventually oversee Department of Public Safety border activities.

Republican Sen. Brian Birdwell, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said the border security measure addresses the “No. 1 concern in Texans’ mind.”

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RENEWAL OF ADMISSIONS DEAL WITH UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS CLEARS LEGISLATURE

The Texas Senate has voted to extend a deal with the University of Texas allowing the school to accept new students whose grades don’t rank in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class.

Senators voted unanimously Tuesday to keep the 2009 agreement, sending it to Gov. Greg Abbott.

State law requires public universities to admit students whose grades rank in the top 10 percent of their graduating class.

But the compromise allows the University of Texas to admit one student not in the top of their class for every three admitted who are.

Because of high enrollment, currently 51,000, only students in the top 7 percent of their class are now automatically admitted to the University of Texas.

Many lawmakers want to scrap automatic admissions provision altogether.

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SENATE OKS WRONGFUL CONVICTION EXONERATION COMMISSION

he Texas Senate has approved a bill establishing an 11-member commission that will examine wrongful convictions.

Tuesday’s 31-0 vote came years after Houston Democratic Sen. Rodney Ellis first tried to pass the measure. The House already approved a similar bill, and both versions may go to conference committee.

The commission is named for Timothy Cole, who died in prison after he was wrongfully convicted of rape.

Cole was cleared 10 years after he died, and in 2010 became the first Texan to receive a posthumous pardon.

Ellis said the commission will examine exoneration cases since 2010 “to see what went wrong” and make recommendations to avoid similar occurrences.

Texas exonerated 39 people in 2014, leading the country. Most were drug convictions dismissed after lab results were found to be faulty.

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ON DECK

The House was working late Tuesday, facing a midnight deadline to approve bills that originated in the Senate. The Senate was also staying in session for long hours, ready to adjust its bills depending on what happened in the lower chamber. Wednesday could be just as busy, though, this time with a key Senate deadline looming. The legislative session ends June 1.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Everyone’s going to be peeing in a cup” - Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, who is sponsoring a major ethics bill, but was objecting to a provision the Senate placed on it requiring that all candidates for elected office undergo drug testing - and make the results public.

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