Top 10 percent measure advances
The authority of the University of Texas to restrict automatic admissions would be extended through the 2017-18 academic year under legislation approved Tuesday by the state Senate. The measure, House Bill 1843, now goes to Gov. Rick Perry.
Under a 1997 state law, students whose grades rank them in the top 10 percent of their Texas high school class are entitled to enroll at any of the state’s 38 public universities. A 2009 modification to that law lets UT cap such students at 75 percent of the university’s freshmen from Texas. As a result, students have had to rank somewhat higher in recent years to gain automatic admission.
HB 1843 would retain the 75 percent cap through the 2017-18 academic year.
Panel advances UT nominees to Senate
A Senate panel voted Tuesday to send the names of three nominees for the University of Texas System Board of Regents to the full Senate.
The vote by the Nominations Committee on Gov. Rick Perry’s appointees — Ernest Aliseda of McAllen, Jeff Hildebrand of Houston and Paul Foster of El Paso — was 6-0.
The trio spent four hours Monday before the committee, with much of senators’ questioning focused on the Austin flagship and its president, Bill Powers. All three sought to assure the panel that they had no intention of trying to oust Powers.
Tax break for veterans’ spouses goes to voters
The Texas Senate has approved a plan to give property tax relief to the spouses of military members killed in combat. The vote puts the idea to voters statewide in November.
The plan would amend the state constitution to allow surviving spouses to claim a full property tax exemption if they are in the same house they lived when their spouse was killed. If they move, they could apply an exemption worth the value of their old home toward their new one. The exemption would end if the surviving spouse remarries.
In the last four years, voters have twice amended the state constitution to grant property tax breaks for veterans who were rated 100 percent disabled and their surviving spouses.
Lawmakers pushing for review of UIL
One of the chief critics of the University Interscholastic League is pushing lawmakers to conduct a thorough review of the governing body for public Texas high school sports.
The Senate on Tuesday followed the lead of Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston to place the agency under the sunset review process in 2015. That’s where lawmakers review an agency and its policies to determine if changes need to be made.
The House has already passed a similar measure.
Patrick, a Republican, has clashed for years with the UIL over his attempts to allow private schools to compete with public schools for state athletic and academic championships.
Patrick calls the UIL one of the “most powerful” agencies at the Capitol and said it should be under close scrutiny by lawmakers.
Senate bill would protect Capitol complex
The Senate took another step Tuesday limiting public private partnerships and protecting the Capitol complex.
The Senate approved House Bill 3436 that prohibits the Texas Facilities Commission and the General Land Office from disposing of land in the Capitol complex. It allows the commission, however, to develop and operate a project with the private sector’s help only if the Legislature authorizes it.
The bill also prohibits any state agency — excluding institutions of higher education — from entering into a public-private partnership until Sept. 1, 2014.
The legislation now returns to the Texas House, which is expected to concur.
Senate OKs tougher sex crime laws
A bill designed to crack down on sex traffickers who prey on underage youths and Texans who view lurid photos on the Internet was approved Tuesday by the Texas Senate.
House Bill 8 ramps up current law in a variety of ways to curb the under-age sex business, from prohibiting felons convicted of those crimes from getting probation to requiring that those convicted of the most serious offenses serve half their sentences before they become eligible for parole.
“These are very serious crimes that we continue to try to stop,” said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, the Senate sponsor of the legislation. “This is one of the most important bills we’ll pass this session.”
State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, added an amendment that will make it a crime for someone to access photos online of underage children engaging in sex. He said the change parallels a recent change in federal law, from previous law that made possessing those photos illegal.