Highlights from around the Capitol



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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas lawmaker is scrapping his effort to reveal the names of judges who permit teens to have abortions if they can't get the required consent from their parents, in favor of an even stricter measure.

Carrollton Republican Rep. Ron Simmons' legislative director Zach Flores said "ongoing conversations" led him to pull his proposal from a Wednesday committee hearing.

State law for years has allowed judges to grant abortions to girls younger than 18 years in extreme cases, but the law also mandates that most information on the cases remain confidential.

Simmons' bill would have partially changed that, and, critics said, would have further politicize the election of judges and endangered judges' lives.

But, Flores said, "at this late stage in the session," Simmons pulled the bill to instead support a bill by Victoria Republican Rep. Geanie Morrison that advanced to the House floor this week. The measure would make sweeping changes to the so-called judicial bypasses.

"Both bills share the goal of saving as many unborn lives as possible, and ensuring the integrity of the judicial bypass process," Flores said.

Each year, about 300 teenagers are granted a court-approved abortion after proving to a judge that they are mature enough to make the decision, or that telling her parents would lead to physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or that consulting them would otherwise not be in her best interest.

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ABBOTT GETS PLAN LETTING SOME HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS BYPASS TESTING RULES

The Legislature has approved a proposal allowing thousands of Texas high school seniors to potentially graduate this year despite failing standardized tests needed to earn a diploma.

Amarillo Republican Sen. Kel Seliger's bill offered an alternative graduation plan to an estimated 28,000 Class of 2015 seniors who failed to pass at least one statewide exam in algebra I, biology, English I and II and U.S. history.

It established individual educational committees to determine whether a student could graduate instead based on other factors, like attendance and grades.

The Senate passed Seliger's plan quickly, hoping qualifying students could graduate this spring. A tweaked House version allowed students to fail two exams.

The Senate on Wednesday approved those changes 30-1, sending it to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk to be signed into law.

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SENATE ADVANCES LIMITS ON HAIL DAMAGE INSURANCE CLAIMS

The Senate has voted to impose limits on Texas homeowners filing insurance claims for roof damage following hailstorms — despite opponents' worries it favors insurers over policyholders.

Republican Sen. Larry Taylor's proposal establishes deadlines for filing claims and strengthens penalties for inflating claims adjustments.

It was approved 21-10 Wednesday, but needs a final vote before clearing the Senate.

Taylor said it will stop groups trolling neighborhoods after large storms, signing up people with minimal damage in hopes of building large lawsuits against insurers.

He argued that enriches attorneys and appraisers rather than homeowners, and can spark unnecessary suits settled out-of-court. He said other Texans also see insurance premiums rise as a result.

During hours of debate, however, Democrats said the limits could keep homeowners with legitimate insurance claims from suing.

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SENATE VOTES TO SCRAP PERRY TECH FUND

The Senate has voted to heed Gov. Greg Abbott's call to abolish a technology incentive program his predecessor used to distribute $200 million in taxpayer funds to Texas startups.

A bill disbanding Rick Perry's pet Emerging Technology Fund passed 30-1 Wednesday and heads to the House.

The fund's remaining balance will go to a new fund to improve research at Texas universities by offering incentives to recruit top academic minds, and to the Texas Enterprise Fund, a second governor-controlled business incentive program.

Perry is preparing an expected 2016 presidential run and credits the Emerging Technology Fund with bolstering Texas' economy. But it drew criticism for funding some firms that didn't create jobs or went bankrupt.

Abbott has expressed concerns about business incentive funds and says he'd rather improve university research.

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HOUSE OKS REPORTING MANDATE ON PREGNANT PRISONERS

Texas sheriffs could soon have to produce detailed reports on how they treat pregnant inmates under a bipartisan bill that has won preliminary House approval.

Austin Democratic Rep. Celia Israel faced some hazing — a tradition when first-year lawmakers propose their first bill. But ultimately, her colleagues voted Wednesday to advance her plan, which now needs only a final, procedural vote to clear the House.

It requires sheriffs to report to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards by Sept. 1, 2016, on pregnant inmates' work assignments, diets and health care. The reports would also state how many pregnant inmates experience miscarriages.

At any given time, Israel said, about 400 pregnant women are incarcerated in county jails. She added that with such a special population, "more information can only be good."

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ON DECK

The House reconvenes at 10 a.m. Thursday and is taking up key transportation bills. The Senate makes an unusually early start at the same time, and plans to cast a final vote on Taylor's hailstorm insurance bill in addition to tackling a slew of other measures.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

"We put in some amendments, we have no earthly idea what they do," Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, only half-joking as he referenced the parade of changes senators made during hours of debate on Taylor's hailstorm insurance proposal.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Associated Press

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