Texas House

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

The open carry of handguns state-wide is one step closer to being legal.

The Texas House gave initial approval to its version of the open carry bill, HB 910, on Friday. The Texas Senate approved its version of the bill in March. 

HB 910 would allow licensed handgun carriers to openly carry their guns in a holster. The open carry of long guns and rifles is already legal in the state. Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman), primary author of the bill, said he thinks the bill will expand Texans’ rights under the Second Amendment. 

“This bill goes too far for some and not far enough for others, but I think its a good start to show that we as Texans can be respectful and still protect ourselves,” Phillips said.

Representatives were set to debate the bill Tuesday, but Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) pointed out a technical error that postponed discussion. The error was resolved the same day.

Martinez Fischer and Rep. Borris Miles (D-Houston) brought up points of order Friday, but the points were overruled. One of Martinez Fischer’s points was in response to an amendment Rep. Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress) filed that would allow the concealed carry of handguns on college campuses.

“This amendment has to do with what a licensed holder may or may not do,” Fletcher said. “This is the campus protection amendment to campus carry and is acceptable to the author.”

Fletcher, who also authored the House’s campus carry bill, HB 937, ultimately withdrew the measure. Representatives are set to debate campus carry at a later date.

Two of the 18 proposed amendments to the bill were approved. One amendment rewords the phrase “nursing home” to “nursing facility” when referring to facilities where open carry is not allowed.

The other amendment lightens the penalty for openly carrying a gun in a location with the proper signage displayed to ban to prevent open carry. The penalty for disobeying the signage would change from a class A misdemeanor to a class C misdemeanor, resulting in a fine of up to $200.

Additional reporting by Jackie Wang.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas House’s open carry bill, originally scheduled for a review on the House floor Tuesday, was delayed in the Senate because of a technical error.

The bill, which Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) proposed, would allow licensed handgun carriers to openly carry handguns in a belt or shoulder holster. The bill initially passed through House Homeland Security and Public Safety committee last month with a 7–2 vote.

According to several reports, Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher (D-San Antonio) brought the point of order to the attention of the House before the discussion’s start, citing technical errors in how committee testimonies were recorded.

The bill quickly passed back in and out of committee Tuesday, but it is not clear when the full House will hear HB 910 because of the delay.

The Senate approved its version of the policy in March.

Texas House approves $210 billion budget

State representatives pulled an all-nighter Tuesday before granting initial approval to the House chamber's $210 billion budget bill by a 141-5 vote.

During nearly 18-hours of debate, the House approved dozens of amendments to the two-year spending plan. More than 350 amendments were filed to the bill, but many lawmakers withrew theirs from consideration. By Wednesday morning, roughly 430 amendments, including amendments to proposed amendments, had been heard.

If the bill receives final approval, it will be reviewed alongside the Senate’s final budget in a joint committee.

To read more about some of the amendments to the House budget, click here

bill is sitting in the Texas House right now that would require all state public schools to accept a minimum score of 3 on an Advanced Placement exam for college credit. Advanced Placement allows high school students to take college-level classes and exams for college credit. 

The legislation, introduced by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, would change the system currently in place at the University, where 4's and 5's are needed to gain credit for a majority of exams. We generally support this bill, but only if certain precautions are taken. 
The University stresses the importance of graduating in four years to its students, and accepting 3's on all AP exams would certainly help that process. The University accepts 3's for 12 of the AP exams, 4's for 17 more and only 2 exams need to be 5's. A 2 on the German Language and Culture AP Exam counts for UT credit. However, we don't think that all 3's should be accepted. 

Mellanie Patterson, Student Testing Services coordinator for the University, is concerned a score of 3 will not prepare students for the rigors of their course sequences.  

"If they are scoring a 1 or 3, in some instances, they are not very prepared," Patterson said.  

Instead, we think that 3's should be accepted for courses that are either University core requirements outside their major or do not relate specifically to a student's field of study. A biology or pre-med student should not be allowed to skip UT biology courses with just a 3, but they should be able to easily test out of American History courses, for example, if they so choose. If a student changes majors, we believe they should have to change their AP credit allowances, too. 

Overall, the acceptance of a score of 3 on AP exams across the board for credit at UT would be beneficial to its students. However, it would be important for the University to make sure students use this privilege wisely and don't abuse it. 

We think that this bill should pass and be implemented in a manner that wouldn't compromise the education of students.

Abortion legislation passes Texas House

The Texas House approved legislation increasing regulations on aboritons Wednesday morning, sending the bill to the Senate for a final vote.

The bill, HB 2, was voted in 96-49 after a day of heated debates and numerous attempts at passing an ammendment allowing abortions in the case of rape or incest. All attempts were tabled, and the bill could be heard by the Senate as early as this Friday. 

During the final vote on the bill, a woman began to scream in the gallery and was removed by state troopers carrying her by hands and feet. 

The bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks in Texas and place more regulations on clinics that perform abortions if passed. Supporters of the bill claim it would make the procedure safer, but opponents say it would make getting an abortion more difficult and close most clinics that provide abortions in Texas.

The Morning Texan: 100 degrees, abortion legislation and more

According to the National Weather Service, today's high will be 100 degrees.

At 10 a.m. this morning, the Texas House will meet and likely vote on abortion legislation. Yesterday, the House tentatively approved House Bill 2, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks, place additional restrictions on abortion clinics and increase oversight of abortion inducing drugs. Then, at 2 p.m. today, the UT System Board of Regents will meet to discuss several items, including MyEdu.

Here is some morning reading:

Yesterday's most read story: The Senate Committee of Health and Human Services heard testimony for more than 13 hours on it's abortion bill Monday and Tuesday morning. Check out our live blog here.

What you have to read: Despite enrollment dropping to around 16,000 students during the summer, there is not a significant drop in the amount of energy and water usage on campus because of hot temperatures, and several departments are still operating with the same number of staff.

In case you missed it: Cafe Medici, the popular coffee shop on the Drag, has finally opened after being closed for several months. 

LIVEBLOG: Texas House meets to discuss abortion legislation in second special session

9:15 p.m. — The Texas House tentatively approved Rep. Jodie Laubenberg's abortion bill on Tuesday, following more than 10 hours of debate. The House must vote on the bill one more time before it can be sent to the seante.

Representatives tried to apply more than 20 amendments to HB2, but they were all tabled.

The Texas House will meet again Wednesday, at 10 a.m.

2:00 p.m. — House republicans have now turned down multiple amendments to Rep. Jodie Laubenberg's bill.

Amendments have sought to allow abortion after 20 weeks in case of incest or rape and expand the restraints of when a women's life and health is in danger. Several lawmakers claimed the bill was unconstitutional, and would not survive a court battle.

Laubenberg has refused every amendment offered thus far. The majority of House Republicans have managed to defeat many amendments. 

11:55 a.m. — Rep. Senfroncica Thompson's amendment, which would have allowed for abortion after 20 weeks in the case of rape or incest, was tabled by the Texas House.

11:29 a.m. — Though Rep. Laubenberg, R-Parker, has said repeatedly she would not accept any amendments to her bill, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, has filed an amendment that would allow for abortion after twenty weeks in case of incest or rape.

"I don't want [women] to have to use a coat hanger," Thompson said. "I want them to have a choice."

Laubenberg, however, has said repeatedly she does not want her bill to be amended. 

Thompson is currently taking questions on her amendment.

10:47 a.m. — After Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, laid out her bill before the entire Texas House,  Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, spent more than 10 minutes asking Laubenberg questions.

Farrar criticized the bill at several points, calling the exceptions in the bill "narrow." She also crticized Laubenberg's responses to her questions.

"I am not asking about your opinon on her decision," Farrar said at one point. "I am asking about her health and safety."

"I'm the one asking questions," she said later. "That didn't answer my question."

10:23 a.m. — The Texas House convened at 10 a.m., and is expected to begin discussing abortion legislation and House Bill 2.

HB2 would ban abortion after 20 weeks, increase regulations at abortion clinics statewide and add additional restrictions to the handling of abortion-inducing drugs.

The bill was filed by Rep. Jodie Laubenber, R-Parker. Last week, it passed through the House State Affairs Committee after more than nine hours of testimony. More than 1,000 people registered to testify, but less than 100 had the opportunity to.

Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, told the members of the committee he would attempt to add amendments to the bill that would set aside state appropriations to help abortion clinics pay for the increased regulations that many fear would close clinics otherwise.

Laubenberg has said she would prefer her bill go unamended.

Follow Bobby Blanchard on Twitter @bobbycblanchard.

Lake Travis

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

If state leaders fail to act, water shortages could cost Texas $12 billion annually. To put that into perspective, that is about 6 percent of the budget the Texas House passed late Thursday night. If the state’s drought conditions worsen, the annual economic loss balloons to $116 billion by 2060. Though as the Texas Legislature debates several bills to turn the tide, other entities are acting with more urgency. The city is opening a brand new water treatment plant in 2014. And the University’s state-of-the-art irrigation system has already reduced water waste since being implemented last year. And UT is also taking a more homegrown approach to landscaping, opting for native plants that require less water. Today, Texans can choose to learn the worth of water for the well will soon run dry.

Read more in depth about water issues

Statewide water shortage threatens Texas economy, population growth

New water treatment plant reported on schedule for 2014 completion

Landscape Services team wins award for sustainability and maintenance

UT's irrigation system saves millions of gallons since last year

Campus saves water with native plants, landscaping design

Opinion: We Asked: Does drought matter?

Opinion Viewpoint: Fracking muddies water


In an hours-long session on March 14, the Texas House’s Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee heard arguments both for and against concealed carry on college campuses. The debate about four bills, which would each end the ban on concealed firearms on college campuses, included testimony from teachers, policemen and survivors of the 1966 massacre at the UT Tower and the 2011 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, CO. 

Our stance on concealed carry is simple: When gunfire breaks out in a public setting, bad things happen. Given the alarming frequency of campus shootings nationwide — including one here in 2010 — putting more guns in the vicinity and more bullets in the air is not the answer. It would make the task for law enforcement much harder and vastly increase the likelihood of accidental death.

We are not arguing that the problem with concealed carry on campus legislation is that it would facilitate mass shootings like the ones in Aurora or Newtown, CT. Proponents of campus carry are right to point out that a ban does nothing to actually prevent someone with malicious intent from bringing a gun onto campus; indeed, Colton Tooley proved as much when he walked around the UT campus firing an AK-47 before killing himself at the Perry-Castaneda Library in 2010. However, concealed carry proponents’ argument that allowing guns would make it possible for regular citizens to defend themselves and incapacitate a shooter in such a situation is naïve and shortsighted. National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre wasn’t wrong to say that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” but we’d prefer those good guys to have a high level of training, a plan and recognizable uniforms. UT has the benefit of its own highly-trained, highly-visible police department, and we’d feel safer knowing that they were the first responders to a crisis rather than, say, the guy in the orange sweatshirt from our physics lab.

Adding more guns to a volatile situation would only serve to make the police response less effective and more prone to human error. When gunfire breaks out in a public setting, it’s not like a John Wayne movie. Crowds scatter. People scream. It’s hard to tell who or where the shooter is. It would be even harder for police — not to mention other armed citizens — to distinguish the “bad guy” if multiple shooters were firing guns at each other from various locations, regardless of their intent. As Austin Police Department Assistant Chief Troy Gay said in the March 14 hearing, “We [the APD] feel that it would just add more to the confusion.” It’s not only easy to imagine an accidental escalation of the tragedy in such a situation, it’s hard to imagine anything else.

Some don’t have to imagine. Claire Wilson James, a schoolteacher from Texarkana who was shot by sniper Charles Whitman at UT in 1966, recalled bleeding on the ground for 90 minutes while various armed citizens converged on the Tower attempting to take Whitman out. “They only made it worse,” James told the Austin American-Statesman before testifying at the hearing. “They actually made the situation more dangerous and put the people who were trying to save us at risk.”

State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, who filed one of the bills up for debate, backed up his initiative with a statement on his website saying in part, “We have a strong certification process here in Texas and concealed handgun licensees have gone through a thorough background check.” While we’re skeptical that the 10-hour certification course required by section 411.188 of the Texas Government Code fully qualifies average citizens to deal with crises effectively, it’s beside the point. Even in the unlikely event that every armed student or professor on the scene was as qualified as any law enforcement officer, the same confusion and lack of coordination would reign between them and the police — with potentially disastrous results. The last thing anyone needs is the “good guys” shooting at each other.

As far as the initiatives being discussed in the Legislature are concerned, we’re open to the proposal of House Higher Education Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, who has suggested allowing universities to decide for themselves whether or not to allow concealed firearms. “I’m not sure there’s a need for a one-size-fits-all on this issue,” Branch said at a public event at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in January. We hope a bill to that effect is added to the mix. Such a conciliatory measure would allow UT, whose administration and student representatives both adamantly oppose guns on campus, to continue prohibiting them, while allowing other universities that so desire to end the ban. Under such a system, the presence of concealed firearms on campus would be another factor in a student or professor’s decision to go to a particular school.

We stand with UT President William Powers, Jr., UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, UT Student Government and the Austin Police Department in strong opposition to concealed carry on campus. The only shootout UT needs is the one on the football field with that school in Oklahoma.

Historic moment for South Texas

On Monday, Feb. 3, two bills filed in the Texas House and Senate detailed plans for the creation of a Rio Grande Valley university by joining UT-Brownsville, UT-Pan American and the UT Regional Academic Health Center, all institutions in South Texas. As one, these three institutions would benefit, if the new proposals become law, from access to the Permanent University Fund. One of the largest endowments in the nation, the Fund is, according to the Texas Constitution, only accessible to certain schools in the UT and Texas A&M Systems. Presently, that list of key-holders excludes UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American.

By granting South Texas institutions access to the Fund, a plan Gov. Rick Perry endorsed in his State of the State speech last week, the Texas Legislature has directed tightly-controlled resources to a region where they are most needed. Some might argue that those resources, which, after all, are substantial and exist for the sole purpose of enriching the UT and A&M University Systems, should be spread around the state more generously. But don’t dismiss the momentous historical occasion the Legislative, System-wide and gubernatorial support the development represents for the Rio Grande region, which is expected to experience explosive population growth in the coming decades. South Texas will benefit, as all localities do, from the introduction of higher educations which brings jobs, medical care and greater opportunities.

In many ways, the existence of UT-Austin is an important part of what makes Central Texas such a rich place to live. We can only hope the same for South Texas. “Our investment in the children of South Texas will be returned a thousand-fold,” Rick Perry said last week. We, uncharacteristically, applaud the governor.


Cruz takes no prisoners

Texas voters got what they asked for when they elected Ted Cruz to the U.S. Senate: a debater and point-maker. But they did not get, so far, a winning debater and point-maker. Since he took office in January, Cruz has earned a place as the only current U.S. Senator to lose every vote he has cast.

“Senator Cruz promised the voters of Texas he would take principled stands when it comes to fiscal responsibility and protecting America’s sovereignty,” his spokesman, Sean Rushton, recently told The Washington Times. “He didn’t come to Washington to make friends; he came to help save the country. Senator Cruz is proud of his votes and will continue to stand up for America and the Constitution.”

Cruz apparently subscribes to the notion that voting against every measure that crosses his Senate desk can be equated with courageous and principled leadership. The opposite is true; it would be courageous of Cruz to seek advancement of our country’s interests in the face severe ideological divisions. It is much easier for Cruz to loudly reject ideas than to have the courage to compromise.

Cruz has opposed minor procedural changes in the Senate, the $50 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package and President Barack Obama’s appointment and the resulting confirmation of Sen. John F. Kerry to the post of secretary of state.

Right or wrong, Cruz has not gotten his way once. And whether you believe in Ron Paul’s brand of political stubbornness or President Obama’s compromising attitude — sometimes deemed over-solicitous by his supporters — Cruz’s initial senatorial appearance as a poster boy for conservative lost causes makes us long for his more practical predecessor, former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.