Lege Lines: A Win for Brewers, a Scam for Paxtons, and More

This bill's for you

From the taproom to your living room: Brewers and distributors agree on legislation allowing direct-to-consumer beer sales. (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Beer-to-Go Is a Go! The scrappy Texas Craft Brewers Guild and their mighty foes at the Beer Alliance of Texas (the big distributors of the big brands) announced on Feb. 13 an agreement on legislation to let breweries sell (up to two cases of) their product directly to consumers, just like wineries and distilleries (and even brewpubs) do. This victory over industry inertia and Texas' insane alcohol code – we are the only state that prohibits beer-to-go – was midwifed by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, and Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, and also includes an agreed 12-year truce between the two lobbying groups...

In the Paxtons' "Sandbox": In a move that longtime Austin ethics lawyer Randall "Buck" Wood calls "beyond the pale" ("It sounds like one of the more blatantly unethical acts I've seen recently," he told The Texas Tribune), Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, has filed Senate Bill 860, which would create a "regulatory sandbox program" to foster "innovative financial products or services" that would be regulated by the Texas Attorney General – who just happens to be her husband, Ken Paxton. Among its provisions, it would let the A.G. exempt certain "innovative entrepreneurs" from registering with the State Securities Board. Failure to do so is currently a felony – one of several for which Ken Paxton was indicted in 2012 and still awaits trial. Though the bill is not retroactive, any court would certainly consider reversal of the law – which Ken Paxton himself voted to approve back when he was a legislator – as affecting a current prosecution. Sen. Paxton says, with a straight face, that her bill has "literally nothing to do" with her husband's legal case, but promotes "consumer protection." And sandboxes...

Pop a Cap in That Cap? The unstoppable force of property tax "reform" has slammed into the as-yet-immovable object known as Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, who objects to the 2.5% revenue cap – passed out of committee – as an unacceptable choke on local control; whose vote is needed to bring SB 2 to the floor; and whose relationship with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is currently colder than the backside of Pluto. Patrick and the bill's author, Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who rushed SB 2 through committee as fast as legally possible, now say there's no hurry and that the 2.5% number isn't set in stone...

It's Heartbeat Time: Far-right Freedom Caucus member Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, has filed a bill that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically at six weeks – often before a woman knows she is pregnant. In contrast to House Bill 896 by Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, which seeks to criminalize abortion outright, Cain's HB 1500 is seeing substantial support from his GOP colleagues, with some 50-plus co-authors backing its direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. Mississippi passed a heartbeat law last week; courts have for now halted laws passed in North Dakota, Arkansas, and Iowa...

Remembering Rosie: On the other side of the reproductive rights battle, Rep. Sheryl Cole, D-Austin, flanked by pro-choice advocates, paid homage on Valentine's Day to McAllen's Rosie Jimenez, the first woman to die from a back-alley abortion after the federal Hyde Amendment cut off Medicaid funding for the procedure. The freshman rep's bold HB 895 – "Rosie's Law" – would expand abortion care for women enrolled in the state's Medicaid program, funded through the Texas Health and Human Services Commission...

Still a Homophobe: Texas' LGBTQ community may have escaped a bathroom bill this session (advocates still warn potty-policing amendments could be tacked on to must-pass legislation), but other discriminatory bills are advancing at the Capitol. Already, Patrick – chief of the Toilet Police – has sent two religious-refusal bills to Senate committees. SB 85, by Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, allows counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists to refuse care for LGBTQ patients (or anyone else) if it interferes with their "sincerely held" religious beliefs. And SB 444 by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, is similar to Hall's but extends to any "holder of or applicant for a professional license" in the state, according to Equality Texas. Perry's bill, however, adds the almost-patronizing exception that health care providers can't refuse life-saving care when they openly discriminate...

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86th Texas Legislature, David Whitley, Texas Secretary of State, voter fraud, non-citizens, Texas Civil Rights Project, heartbeat bill, reproductive rights, Briscoe Cain, Tony Tinderholt, Sheryl Cole, Rosie's Law, Rosie Jimenez, Angela Paxton, Ken Paxton, State Securities Board, regulatory sandbox, Texas Attorney General, revenue cap, 2.5%

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