Texas state parks planning updates with dedicated funding

Over the next few years, the state park system in Texas will undergo several repairs and renovations made possible by newly dedicated funding. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), legislation enacted by the 84th Legislature in 2015 to dedicate funding for parks will allow the department to address longstanding maintenance issues, as well as make repairs needed after recent extreme weather.

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Posted in Natural Resources, State Budget | Tagged , , ,

Texas may consider raising age of adult criminal responsibility

Texas is one of seven states in which 17-year-olds accused of committing crimes automatically enter the adult criminal justice system, rather than the juvenile system. The age at which young offenders enter the adult system is referred to as the age of adult criminal responsibility. Legislation to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18 years old in Texas failed in the 2015 legislative session but could emerge again in 2017 during the regular session of the 85th Legislature.

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Posted in Criminal Justice | Tagged , ,

State considers fixes to school finance

Following a Texas Supreme Court ruling in May that upheld the constitutionality of the school finance system, lawmakers are examining several ways to revise the funding structure, which the court called an “ossified regime ill-suited for 21st century Texas.”

The House committees on appropriations and public education held joint hearings in late September on interim charges related to the finance system, including “hold harmless” funding, facilities funding, and recapture.

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Posted in Public Education, Taxation | Tagged , , ,

Debate continues on guns in buildings that contain courtrooms

Some Texas cities and counties have lifted bans on handguns in multi-use government buildings that house courtrooms after individuals complained that the bans were too broad and therefore illegal. At least two challenges to local bans have moved to the courts.

In 2015, the Texas Legislature enacted SB 273 by Campbell, creating a process to challenge local handgun bans on certain government premises. The bill gave the attorney general authority to investigate citizen complaints and to sue local governments if a ban was believed to be unlawfully restrictive.

Two lawsuits have been filed by the attorney general against local governments alleging that their bans are illegal. Another lawsuit was filed by a county against an individual making a complaint and asks the court to declare the county’s ban legal.

The debate over local authority to ban handguns from government buildings and courthouses centers on whether bans may be applied to an entire building if part of it contains courts and court offices, along with other government offices, or whether the bans must be more limited. As courts weigh in, the 85th Legislature could address the issue during its regular session in 2017.

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Posted in Criminal Justice, Judiciary | Tagged , , ,

New federal law requires labeling of bioengineered foods

A recently enacted federal law directs the secretary of agriculture to establish national standards for labeling bioengineered foods, sometimes described as genetically engineered foods or foods with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). S.764  by Wicker (R-MS) preempts state requirements for labeling bioengineered foods or seeds, including a labeling law recently enacted by the Vermont General Assembly. Texas law does not mandate labeling of foods with GMOs, although a bill to establish such a requirement was introduced in the 2015 legislative session.

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Posted in Natural Resources | Tagged , , , ,