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The Texas House voted overwhelmingly to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton Saturday, only the third time in the state’s history that has occurred.
The Austin American-Statesman and numerous news outlets reported the chamber voted 121-23 to remove Paxton, 60, from office while he awaits a trial in the Senate during a special session yet to be called.
Last week a House investigations committee heard evidence from investigators and sent 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton.
The evidence presented by investigators against Paxton included a 2015 state securities case, an ongoing federal probe into his connection with campaign donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate developer, and an extramarital affair he tried to conceal from his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, R-Allen.
Adding to Paxton’s legal woes, a $3.3 million settlement with some of his former employees who were whistleblowers fell apart after the House refused to approve paying it with taxpayer money. The case remains pending.
Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, chair of the investigations committee, in closing remarks Saturday urged House members to vote in favor of impeachment.
“The evidence is substantial. It is alarming, and it is unnerving,” he said.
Paxton called the bipartisan vote — 61 Democrats and 60 Republicans voted for impeachment — “politically motivated.”
“The ugly spectacle in the Texas House today confirmed the outrageous impeachment plot against me was never meant to be fair or just,” Paxton said in a statement.
Bill ending vehicle inspections heads to Abbott
Vehicles registered in Texas would no longer be required to pass safety inspections under a bill headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, the Houston Chronicle reported.
House Bill 3297, sponsored by Rep. Cody Harris, R-Palestine, also creates a new annual $7.50 inspection replacement fee that will be added to annual vehicle registration fees. Thus, owners won’t save any money but will not have to take their vehicle to a licensed inspection station.
The measure passed the Senate along party lines, 20-11, with the Republican majority arguing the annual inspections are a burden to residents without making Texas roads safer.
Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, told his fellow senators that a recent study by the American Society of Civil Engineers found fewer highway fatality deaths in states with an inspection program.
“It found that states that have vehicle safety inspections have 5.5% fewer fatalities per year than states that don’t have inspection programs. In Texas, that’s 261 dead people every single year,” Johnson said.
If Abbott signs the bill or allows it to become law without his signature, it will go into effect Sept. 1.
Texas is currently one of 15 states still requiring regular inspections. Although the statewide inspection rule is on its way out, vehicle emission inspections will still be required in 17 metropolitan counties.
House approves changes to university tenure policies
The House last week gave approval to a bill changing tenure policies at the state’s colleges and universities, the Statesman reported. The lower chamber’s measure differs somewhat from the Senate version, which would completely ban public colleges and universities from grant tenure to faculty members beginning in 2024.
The House version “provides a framework to the state’s universities about what the Legislature expects regarding tenure, including how tenure is granted to faculty members, how tenured faculty are reviewed and when tenured faculty can be dismissed,” the Statesman reported.
The bill now goes back to the Senate in an effort to work out differences in the two measures.
Budget writers strike $321.3 billion two-year deal
Budget writers for the Texas House and Senate have come to agreement on a $321.3 billion two-year budget that includes $12.3 billion for property tax cuts and provides considerable new funding for higher education, the energy grid, mental health and broadband, according to the Texas Tribune. The property tax reductions are dependent on passage of a constitutional amendment in November.
A $15 billion supplemental spending proposal uses some of the state’s record surplus to provide funding for a higher education endowment, enhanced retirement for public school teachers, border security, Medicaid costs and state debt reduction, according to the Tribune.
Both plans were expected to get floor votes in each chamber before session adjournment on Monday night.