- Associated Press - Monday, March 20, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Texas Senate has preliminarily approved a “wrongful birth” bill prohibiting parents from suing doctors for malpractice after their child is born with severe disabilities.

The 21-9 vote Monday means Conroe Republican Sen. Brandon Creighton’s proposal is just a procedural vote away from heading to the Texas House.

At issue is a 1975 case where the Texas Supreme Court ruled that parents were entitled to damages covering the extra cost of raising a child with disabilities after doctors failed to fully inform them about problems with the pregnancy.

Creighton says doctors still would have to disclose all important information to patients, who also can still sue for negligence. But he says doctors wouldn’t be liable for delivering disabled children, thus discouraging abortions.

Opponents warn of physicians who are philosophically opposed to abortion imposing “their own morality” on patients.



A bill to reduce fees for gun licenses statewide is heading to the full Texas Senate.

Jacksonville Republican Sen. Robert Nichols originally wanted to scrap the entire $140 fee for first-time licenses to carry concealed and holstered handguns, as well as the $70 charge to renew licenses after five years.

But the nonpartisan Legislative Budget Board estimated that doing so would cost Texas $55 million-plus during a two-year state budget cycle.

Instead, Nichols on Monday introduced a modified version reducing the first-time and renewal fee to $40 each. The fiscal impact of that hasn’t yet been calculated.

The Senate State Affairs Committee then unanimously approved Nichols’ amended proposal to the full chamber, where it should pass easily.

Gun advocates are applauding the bill, saying Texas’ fees are among the nation’s highest.



The Texas Senate has given final approval to banning a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure, sending it to the state House.

Monday’s 21-9 vote came amid a silent demonstration by a small group of women in costume in the Senate visitors’ gallery. They held up protest signs, but state troopers and Senate officials waiting nearby pulled them down and escorted the women out.

The bill bans a procedure known as dilation and evacuation, which abortion-rights supporters contend is the safest and most common method used in second-trimester abortions.

Republicans are pushing efforts they say protect fetuses, which comes after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a major Texas anti-abortion law last summer promoted as protecting women’s health.

Similar bans in four other states have been suspended due to legal challenges.



The Travis County sheriff’s office is questioning a Trump administration report highlighting local jails refusing to turn over immigrants who may be in the country illegally to federal agents.

The report released Monday has a list of 206 cases of immigrants released from custody over agents’ objections over a week. Roughly two-thirds are from Travis County, which includes Austin.

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez took office this year after pledging not to comply with most federal detainers on immigrants facing deportation. A spokesman for her office, sheriff’s Maj. Wes Priddy, says Travis County’s numbers appear higher than normal because the report includes the day Hernandez’s new policy took effect and immigration officials knew in advance which detainers would be rejected.

Priddy says it’s “ironic” that Travis County was singled out for volunteering information to federal officials.



The House and Senate both reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. A slew of bills are eligible for Senate floor consideration, and although all won’t come up immediately, it is possible the chamber could tackle a major property tax bill despite state coffers being squeezed by oil prices remaining so low for so long.

The House’s legislative calendar features three bills on reclaimed water facilities, the Red River Boundary Commission and criminal mischief committed on property used for dams or flood control.



“Do I know how it’s funded? With money”- Dallas Democratic Sen. Royce West responding jokingly but somewhat testily Monday to questioning about his bill expanding private universities’ eligibility for a decades-old state tuition grant program. The chamber eventually approved West’s measure 25-5.

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