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No timeline on National Guard mission, Paxton asks court to reaffirm same-sex marriage ban

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AUSTIN, Texas — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott predicted Wednesday that Texas and 25 other states would keep prevailing against President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration but refused to put a deadline on when National Guard troops will leave the border with Mexico.

Flanked by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and other top Texas conservatives to celebrate an early court victory against Obama's deportation-relief program, Abbott shifted to defending his decision this week to indefinitely extend the Texas National Guard mission that began last summer.

About 200 guard members had been scheduled to leave the Rio Grande Valley next month, but Abbott now says an unspecified number will remain until Texas hires and trains hundreds of new state troopers to replace the guard.

He would not put a timeframe on the earliest that could happen, but Texas Department of Public Safety leaders have said that getting started would take a year. Unlike state troopers or Border Patrol agents, guard members do not have arrest authority and are limited to being lookouts.

"It is our goal to ensure that only those who are authorized to cross the border, are the ones who are crossing the border," Abbott said.

A federal judge in Brownsville late Monday temporarily blocked Obama's plan to shield more than 4 million immigrants living in the country illegally from deportation. One program to help immigrants brought to the country as children was scheduled to kick in Wednesday.


ABBOTT MUM ON 'CAMPUS CARRY' MEASURE

Despite being outwardly supportive of Texas making openly carried handguns legal, Abbott would not weigh in Wednesday over the other major gun-rights bill this session: campus carry.

New University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven, the former Navy SEAL who coordinated the raid on Osama bin Laden, has made it clear in his short time on the job that he does not want students on his campuses carrying concealed firearms. Proposals to legalize campus carry have heavy Republican support, but some lawmakers want to give universities the chance to opt out.

Asked whether he supports giving universities that option, Abbott wouldn't take a stance. He would only say that he would sign "whichever law reaches my desk that expands Second Amendment rights."


CHIEF JUSTICE: GIVE MORE LEGAL FUNDING FOR VETERANS

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht in his first State of the Judiciary address Wednesday asked lawmakers to approve legal funding for military veterans and also said that laws making it a criminal offense to skip school are not working and need to be reformed.

During a joint session of the Senate and House, Hecht said that funding for the judiciary is roughly one-third of 1 percent of the state budget. At the top of Hecht's wish list is $4 million for a new legal assistance program for veterans, which would be supplemented with $1.5 million from the Texas Veterans Commission.

Hecht later praised a bill by Democratic Rep. Senfronia Thompson and Republican Rep. Sarah Davis that would expand funding for civil aid, including aid that benefits veterans. Also present at the conference was Mick Engnehl, a former U.S. Army mechanic who was honorably discharged in 2011.


PAXTON ASKS COURT TO REAFFIRM SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BAN

Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked the Supreme Court of Texas to reaffirm the state's ban on same-sex marriage after a Travis County probate judge ruled that the ban was unconstitutional.

Paxton said Probate Judge Guy Herman's "misguided ruling does not change Texas law or allow the issuance of a marriage license to anyone other than one man and one woman."

Paxton late Tuesday filed emergency motions with the state Supreme Court seeking to overturn Herman's ruling and uphold the statewide ban. He said that Herman "committed a clear abuse of discretion" by declaring the ban unconstitutional, adding that Herman's ruling may compel same-sex couples to seek marriage licenses in Texas — and district clerks to mistakenly grant them.

Herman could not be reached for comment.


SENATE CONFIRMS SECRETARY OF STATE

Abbott's first major appointment as governor was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday when Carlos Cascos formally became the new secretary of state. The Republican becomes the state's chief elections officer after a long stint as Cameron County judge.


ON DECK

The House gavels in at 10 a.m. on Thursday. The Senate is off through Monday.


QUOTE OF THE DAY

"I'm hoping that longevity goes with the job." — Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, remarking how former Chief Justice Jack Pope will turn 102 in April.

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