- Associated Press - Saturday, May 27, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas will keep spending $800 million on border security while putting little new money into public schools, maintaining therapy cuts for disabled children and easing handgun license fees as the Republican-led Legislature approved a new state budget Saturday.

The $217 billion spending bill sent to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott will likely be a quiet footnote to a rancorous legislative session that ends Monday - upended by a “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people and an immigration crackdown on so-called “sanctuary cities.”

The tensions simmered into the final weekend as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook and a dozen other tech industry giants sent a letter to Abbott on Saturday that again urged him to abandon a so-called bathroom bill.

“Such laws are bad for employees and bad for business,” the letter read.

Democrats, teachers and advocates for Texas’ poor warned that the lean new budget for a booming state - which boasts four of the five fastest-growing large cities in the U.S. - will have lasting consequences. Deepening the wound, they say, is the Legislature leaving $11 billion untouched.

But a staunchly conservative wing of the Texas Republican Party that’s growing in size and influence made their presence on the budget felt. Led by GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, an evangelical former conservative talk radio host, the Senate resisted calls from Republican House moderates to use more emergency savings to offset an oilfield slowdown and funnel more money to classrooms.

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GUNS ON SCHOOL PROPERTY

Texas lawmakers voted to allow handgun permit holders to have guns in their parked cars outside schools.

The Senate gave final approval to the measure, sending it to Gov. Greg Abbott for his consideration. The vote came a day after Abbott signed into law a sharp decrease in fees paid to obtain a handgun license.

The bill allowing guns in parked cars at schools is aimed at teachers and school workers who want to keep their weapons in their vehicles without violating state law. Opponents worry it raises the potential for danger if a car is burglarized on school property.

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PROTECTING JUDGES

Texas will beef up security for judges under a bill signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott after an Austin judge was wounded but survived an alleged assassination attempt.

The bill requires the state to set up a special judicial security division and allows personal security for state judges who have been threatened or attacked. Court security officers will get special training and the law restricts release of personal information of current and former judges.

Saturday’s bill signing was attended by State District Judge Julie Kocurek, who was wounded by a gunman in an ambush outside her home in 2015. After a long hospital stay and multiple surgeries, she has returned to the bench. Three men have been indicted in the attack.

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RIDE HAILING IN AUSTIN

Ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft, which left Texas’s tech-savvy capital city a year ago over local fingerprint requirements for drivers, are set to return after state lawmakers intervened.

Both companies say they’ll be rolling on Austin’s streets again Monday, when Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign into law a bill that puts the state - not local governments - in charge of regulating the ride-hailing industry.

Uber and Lyft fled Austin after losing a bruising and expensive fight in 2016 to replace the city’s ordinance that required fingerprint-based background checks of drivers, a variety of data reporting and other requirements.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Slim to none.” - Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood on the hopes of a last-day revival of a school finance bill that includes the so-called “bathroom bill” and voucher provisions.


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