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Gov. Abbott predicts agreement on tax and bathroom issues Saturday

Gov. Greg Abbott predicted Friday that House and Senate negotiators will reach agreement on property tax reform and transgender bathroom legislation Saturday.

“As you may have heard, conference committees have been assigned for those two issues,” Abbott told reporters. “That’s positive. It means the House and the Senate are going to be getting to work on those two issues and will hopefully crank out legislation tomorrow.”

If so, it would mean that the governor would not call a special session to attend to those two issues, a prospect suggested by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the event that they were not resolved by session’s end on Monday.

Abbott made the comment after signing Senate Bill 16, which reduces the fee for a handgun license in Texas, at the Range in South Austin, where Abbott did some shooting with a SIG Sauer P320 pistols after the signing.

Proudly displaying the target showing his marksmanship, the governor joked, according to the Texas Tribune reporter who was within earshot, “I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters.”

In answer to a question about the failure of school finance reform to survive the session, Abbott said it is an issue that may take more than one session to resolve.

“We found several good proposals that surfaced during the course of the session for school finance reform,” he said. “It is so complex that, for one, it’s difficult to get an effective bill passed in one single session.”

“We did make strides toward that with several good proposals. One was a proposal to create a architecture for a way forward to address school finance,” Abbott said. “The second would have been the Senate version, which was sent back to the House, of HB 21, which I thought was a good proposal. But it is the type of thing that Texas and the Texas Legislature will need to continue to work on.

On gun rights, Abbott said, “We very proudly signed into law last session open carry. Now we are making it even more economical, even easier for people to enjoy the right of open carry in the state of Texas by lowering the cost of getting a handgun license.”

Abbott noted that the right to bear arms is enshrined in both the U.S. Constitution and Texas Constitution and that this new law will make it more affordable to bear arms.

The signing was praised by the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, which said that it will make license to carry fees in Texas among the lowest in the country.

“No one should be priced out of their right to carry a firearm for self-protection,” said Chris Cox, executive director, NRA-ILA. “This bill makes it easier for all Texans to exercise this fundamental right.”

Senate Bill 16, sponsored by state Senators Robert Nichols and Joan Huffman, reduces the price of applying for a license to carry from $140 to $40. It also cuts the renewal cost from $70 to $40. The annual cost of a 5-year license will now be $8 per year.

The bill goes into effect on Sept. 1.

Asked about whether Texans might like to see the Legislature enact Constitutional carry — which would allow for the legal carrying of a handgun, both open and concealed, without the necessity of a government permit — Abbott said, “I think Texan are satisfied that they now have a great ability to carry in the state of Texas and we’ll just see where the body politic goes.”

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