- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Fierce opposition from police across the state on Wednesday derailed efforts to pass a bill allowing open carry of handguns on the streets of Texas, a significant delay that could threaten its passage before Monday’s end of the legislative session.

The bill applies to Texans licensed to carry concealed weapons. It had appeared ready to pass the House and be sent to Gov. Greg Abbott to sign into law.

But law enforcement groups rallied strong opposition, demanding lawmakers take out a provision restricting police powers to question people carrying weapons, asking them for their licenses if they had no other reason to stop them.

That argument swayed House members, who rejected an attempt to pass the bill and chose instead to negotiate a new version.

The no-stop provision “handcuffs law enforcement,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a Capitol news conference. He was backed by members of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, the Sheriffs Association of Texas and police unions from Dallas and Houston.

All said the no-stop provision would endanger the public and police who are trained to be wary of firearms in any situation.

“If it doesn’t get removed, the only responsible thing to do is for the governor to veto,” Acevedo said.

An Abbott spokeswoman did not return messages seeking comment.



Disabled students say they were charged with truancy and funneled out of public schools, according to an official complaint they filed Wednesday, accusing 13 districts and the Texas Education Agency of violating federal law.

Three nonprofits - Disability Rights Texas, the National Center for Youth Law and Texas Appleseed - mailed the complaint to the Texas Education Agency on behalf of the students, but are seeking an outside investigator. They accuse the agency and the districts, including those in Austin, Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio, of violating the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The Texas Education Agency declined to comment on the complaint, since it has not yet been received, spokeswoman DeEtta Culberson said. She added that the groups did email the agency informing them of the complaint.

The agency has 60 days to investigate the complaint and decide whether the districts are violating the federal law.

“Based on our review of available data and our conversations with students and parents, they have not appropriately overseen the districts in their implementation of the act,” Deborah Fowler, executive director of Texas Appleseed, said about the agency.

The districts are accused of failing to give students with disabilities individualized education services.

After racking up 10 unexcused absences within six months, Texas students can be charged with failure to attend school, a Class C misdemeanor. The complaint states that during the court process, students with disabilities are funneled out of public schools and pushed into GED programs, alternative schools or mandatory homeschooling.

Between 2010 and 2013, about 1,200 students with disabilities failed GED tests they were ordered by courts to take after being charged with truancy, a criminal offense.

“A GED program is almost never going to be successful for a student with disabilities,” said Dustin Rynders, supervising attorney with Disability Rights Texas.

While data from the agency showed how many students were forced to take GED tests, Rynders said other families - it’s unknown how many - “agree to pull out” of free public schools because they can’t afford the fines, which can be up to $500.



The House has altered a sweeping ethics bill, making it easier for lawmakers - and everyone at the Texas Capitol - to sue people who film them without permission.

Lawmakers voted 100 to 40 Wednesday to allow those being filmed to ask the person doing so what they’re up to. If the person lies, but later releases footage, the amendment would facilitate lawsuits.

The Legislature has been rocked by the American Phoenix Foundation, a conservative group with cameras that has descended on the Capitol, hoping to embarrass veteran lawmakers.

Both Republicans and Democrats have complained about the group. But, since banning filming would violate state law, they’ve looked for other protections.

The House version of the ethics bill must be reconciled with the Senate’s, meaning the amendment may not survive.



Texas House OKs ending Austin residency rule for politicians

The Texas House has passed a proposed state constitutional amendment that would allow statewide officeholders to live somewhere other than Austin.

Drafted by tea party-backed Sen. Donna Campbell, the proposal would excuse the governor and other officials elected by voters statewide form living in the state capital. It already cleared the Senate.

As a proposed constitutional amendment, it needed two-thirds House support, or 100 minimum votes. It barely cleared that threshold Wednesday, passing 102 to 43.

The measure puts a referendum on this November’s general election ballot. It lets voters decide whether to change the Texas Constitution, scraping a statewide officeholder residency requirement dating back to 1876.

The ballot question is expected to cost the state nearly $120,000. But Campbell argues that modern technology has made the requirement obsolete.



Facing a deadline to put bills that originated in the upper chamber to a floor vote, the Senate was scheduled to work until midnight Wednesday. The House was wrapping up earlier, after its midnight run the previous evening. Both chambers will convene Thursday, but work should shift primarily to conference committees.



“Do you know if the portrait will feature the hipster glasses, or be before the glasses,” Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, asking about an official portrait of former Gov. Rick Perry. The House subsequently voted 144-0 to authorize hanging the former governor’s portrait in the Capitol rotunda. It’s unknown if it will feature the glasses Perry began wearing in 2013.

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