AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Hubbub surrounding proposals to allow open carry of handguns has overshadowed another bill that could spark an equally large battle but actually appears to be on a faster track to becoming law: campus carry.
A proposal allowing students, faculty and staff with proper licenses to carry firearms in college classrooms and buildings has 19 co-sponsors in the Senate, enough to bring it a full floor vote. New Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has already referred the bill to committee, likely clearing the way for its swift passage through the full chamber.
But opponents got more firepower last week when new University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven, a former Navy admiral who directed the special forces operation to kill Osama Bin Laden, said concealed handguns at colleges would make campuses less safe.
Staunch university opposition has derailed campus-carry bills in the past — even when they appeared to have the votes to pass.
The issue is likely to grab more of the spotlight moving forward. Here are some other issues to watch for in the Texas Legislature this week:
HOUSE COMMITTEES: Senate committees are set and its Finance, Transportation and Health and Human Services panels are already meeting, or plan to start this week. The House is still waiting on Speaker Joe Straus' assignments. Tradition dictates, though, that the announcement comes late in the week so representatives not picked for what they'd hoped can head back to their districts for the weekend to stew in private — rather than sulking more openly at the Capitol.
CHRIS KYLE DAY: Gov. Greg Abbott is declaring Feb. 2 "Chris Kyle Day" in Texas, honoring the late serviceman whose life is the subject of the Hollywood blockbuster "American Sniper." Spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said Abbott will issue an official proclamation Monday, and that the flag at the Texas State Cemetery, where Kyle is buried, will fly at half-staff. Kyle, from the Fort Worth suburb of Midlothian, was 37 when he was killed in 2013 at a North Texas gun range. He did four tours in Iraq and is considered the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history.
MORE MUSLIM CAPITOL DAY FALLOUT?: Republicans and Democrats alike lined up to react after Rep. Molly White instructed her staff to ask Muslims visiting the Capitol last week to declare their allegiance to America. White, a first-term Republican from Belton, put an Israeli flag in her office and said aides should ask people attending the biennial Texas Muslim Capitol Day to renounce Islamic terrorist groups. Abbott said, "We must have civil discourse." Fellow Republican Straus was more-forceful in releasing a statement saying legislators should treat visitors with respect and that "anything else reflects poorly on the entire body." The all-Democratic legislative delegation from El Paso, meanwhile, accused White of seeking "headlines with hate." The House convenes Monday afternoon, and while lawmakers sometimes close ranks around one of their own in times of adversity, it's not hard to imagine some of Whites' colleagues wanting to bring the issue up on the floor.