Senate votes to ban smoking at Capitol
Texas senators voted Thursday to ban smoking on the Capitol grounds.
Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, complains that smokers pollute the areas and entryways around the Capitol and subject visiting school children to second-hand smoke. His proposal would make it a Class C misdemeanor, which is subject to a $500 fine.
Smokers would have to move outside the fence surrounding the Capitol grounds, which is several hundred feet from the building in some places.
The ban was placed on a broader bill about the agency that manages the state Capitol complex. That bill, and the smoking ban, now goes to the House for consideration.
UT regent failed to disclose lawsuits
University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall Jr., who has pressured UT-Austin to be more transparent and accountable, is coming under fire for failing to disclose a long history of courtroom battles before he was appointed to the board, the Texas Tribune reports.
The nonprofit media organization found at least six lawsuits that were not listed on Hall’s regent application as required. One lawsuit — a nasty business dispute with multiple appeals — featured Dallas trial lawyer Lisa Blue, who was on Hall’s team, plus a cameo appearance by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, who was on the other side.
Hall, a Dallas entrepreneur, acknowledged the omissions and promised to provide new details to Gov. Rick Perry’s office “shortly.” He said the failures were unintentional. But several top lawmakers, already upset about the pressure Hall and other regents have put on UT-Austin, say they feel misled about Hall’s background when the Senate confirmed his nomination to the UT board two years ago.
Teacher gun training bill headed to full Senate
A plan to train teachers for classroom gunfights is headed to the full Texas Senate — but with the new stipulation that such instruction not cost more than $1 million in state funds.
The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. It applies to charter and public schools that don’t already employ armed guards.
The measure was initially estimated to cost $9.3 million. But it was amended to authorize a maximum $1 million, and for school districts to seek donations to raise additional funds, if necessary.
Senate approves bill to limit ticketing youth
Efforts to keep misbehaving teenagers out of the criminal justice system are advancing in the Texas Legislature.
In a unanimous vote on Thursday, the Senate approved a bill that would limit the practice of issuing tickets for minor classroom offenses.
One independent study has shown that 275,000 non-traffic tickets are issued to juveniles in Texas every year. Others have shown that black and Latino students are more frequently charged with misdemeanors for acting out in school. Studies also show those who receive tickets are more likely to enter the juvenile jails.
A panel of judges recommended the changes. Support came from civil rights groups and from conservatives swayed by cost savings.
Dallas Democratic Sen. Royce West’s proposal would replace the tickets with counseling and community.