State Capital HIGHLIGHTS

State Capital HIGHLIGHTS


House panel calls for Paxton’s impeachment

A Texas House investigations committee sent a recommendation to the full chamber to impeach state Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Austin American- Statesman reported. The committee has filed 20 articles of impeachment against the embattled attorney general and posted them on the House website.

Committee chair Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, provided video and transcripts from a Wednesday hearing where members heard the report from five outside attorneys investigating Paxton.

The evidence presented by investigators against Paxton includes a 2015 state securities case, an ongoing federal probe into his connection with campaign donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate developer, and an extramarital affair he tried to conceal from his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, R-Allen. A $3.3 million settlement with his former employees fell apart after the House refused to approve paying it with taxpayer money, and the case remains pending.

“I urge you to read the transcript and view the video also available on the committee’s website,” Murr told members. “After a period of time for your review and reflection, I intend to call up the resolution adopting the articles of impeachment.”

The five-member committee, three Republicans and two Democrats, then voted unanimously to send the full House. The regular session of the legislature ends at midnight Monday, May 29.

Bill ending vehicle inspections heads to Abbott Vehicles registered in Texas would no longer be required to pass safety inspections under a bill headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, the Houston Chronicle reported. House Bill 3297, sponsored by state Rep. Cody Harris, R-Palestine, also creates a new annual $7.50 inspection replacement fee that will be added to annual vehicle registration fees. Thus, owners won’t save any money but will not have to take their vehicle to a licensed inspection station.

The measure passed the Senate along party lines, 20-11, with the Republican majority arguing the annual inspections are a burden to residents without making Texas roads safer. State Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, told his fellow senators that a recent study by the American Society of Civil Engineers found fewer highway fatality deaths in states with an inspection program.

“It found that states that have vehicle safety inspections have 5.5% fewer fatalities per year than states that don’t have inspection programs. In Texas, that’s 261 dead people every single year,” Johnson said.

Texas is one of 15 states still requiring regular inspections; vehicle emission inspections will still be required in 17 metropolitan counties.

If Abbott signs the bill, it will go into effect Sept. 1.

House approves changes to university tenure policies The House last week gave final approval to a bill changing tenure policies at the state’s colleges and universities, the Statesman reported. The lower chamber’s measure differs somewhat from the Senate version, which would completely ban public colleges and universities from grant tenure to faculty members beginning in 2024. The House version “provides a framework to the state’s universities about what the Legislature expects regarding tenure, including how tenure is granted to faculty members, how tenured faculty are reviewed and when tenured faculty can be dismissed,” the Statesman reported.

The bill now goes back to the Senate to try to work out differences in the two measures.

Budget writers strike $321.3 billion two-year deal Budget writers for the Texas House and Senate have come to agreement on a $321.3 billion two-year budget that includes $12.3 billion for property tax cuts and provides considerable new funding for higher education, the energy grid, mental health and broadband, according to the Texas Tribune. The property tax reductions are dependent on passage of a constitutional amendment in November.

A $15 billion supplemental spending proposal uses some of the state’s record surplus to provide funding for a higher education endowment, enhanced retirement for public school teachers, border security, Medicaid costs and state debt reduction, according to the Tribune.

Both plans were expected to get floor votes in each chamber on Saturday.

Boaters urged to ‘Clean, Drain and Dry’ Texans have begun heading to state lakes and waterways as Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer boating season. Officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department urges boaters and paddlers to protect Texas lakes from invasive aquatic species.

“Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick-off to boating season in Texas, and while we want everyone to have a great time, we also want them to avoid giving free rides to invasive species and helping them travel to new lakes,” said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries regional director. “The best way to prevent the spread of many harmful aquatic invasive species is to clean, drain and dry your boats and equipment – every time.”

The biggest threat to Texas lakes is zebra mussels and giant salvinia, which continues to spread to new areas of Texas. Other invasive species that can be spread include quagga mussels, crested floating heart, and water hyacinth.

Giant salvinia is now found on 27 East Texas lakes and numerous creeks, marshes and rivers between Houston and Beaumont, according to TPWD. Zebra mussels are now found in 36 Texas lakes, and in rivers downstream of infested lakes, TPWD urges boaters to follow three simple steps to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species: Remove mud, plants and debris. Drain all water from the boat and gear. Once home, open all compartments and let everything dry completely for at least a week if possible.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: