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Special session nears end

By Ed Sterling | Published Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Legislation to revise redistricting maps, regulate abortion and change punishment guidelines for youths convicted of a capital felony occupied state lawmakers in special session last week.

Called by Gov. Rick Perry on May 27, the 30-day session ended on June 25. Drawing the House floor spotlight through Sunday night and early Monday morning was Senate Bill 5, relating to the regulation of abortion procedures and providers. Citizens for and against crowded Capitol corridors and the House gallery. SB 5, tentatively approved on a 97-33 vote at 3:24 a.m., faced a final vote in the House.

The House on June 24 preliminarily passed SB 23, relating to the punishment for a capital felony committed by an individual younger than 18. The bill proposes to allow a 17-year-old serving a life sentence to apply for parole after serving 40 years.

The House also tentatively approved SJR 2, a proposed constitutional amendment to change how dollars are moved from the state’s general revenue fund to the so-called rainy day fund on transfers based on oil and natural gas production taxes.

Most special session votes have been along party lines, with Democrats in opposition. Some said that ultimately the abortion-regulating legislation would not stand up to scrutiny by the courts, nor would bills revising certain redistricting maps and limiting a jury’s ability to mitigate parole in capital murder convictions of certain juveniles.

One bill already on the governor’s desk is SB 3, relating to the composition of Texas House districts. Tentatively approved by the Senate earlier in the week, the bill came back with amendments to allow certain Democratic members in abutting House districts to tweak boundary lines in small and mutually beneficial ways.

JOBS RATE STAYS POSITIVE

Texas’ seasonally adjusted total nonfarm employment expanded by 19,500 jobs in May for a total of 324,700 jobs added since May 2012, the Texas Workforce Commission reported on June 21.

Positive every month since May 2010, the state’s annual job growth rate in May stood at 3.0 percent and the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose slightly to 6.5 percent, from 6.4 percent in April.

“The addition of 324,700 jobs over the past year, with private sector employers adding 299,800, is good news for Texas,” Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Andres Alcantar stated in a news release.

OFFER: FERAL HOG GRANTS

Texas Department of Agriculture on June 18 announced it is accepting grant applications to assist regional efforts to control feral hog populations through its new County Hog Abatement Matching Program. Selected applicants will receive funding on a cost reimbursement basis of up to $30,000.

Ed Sterling is director of member services for the Texas Press Association, headquartered in Austin.

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