September 19, 2014      5:22 PM

Stanford: We are all Roger Goodell

From the left -- "So go ahead, America, let’s focus on the boorish, illegal, and sadistic behavior of the gladiators in the arena. Pay no mind that the Roman senate is perfectly happy to make a mockery of our democracy"

What if we held politicians to the same standards as football players? When football players break the law, Americans demand they be benched, cut, or suspended before they get due process, but when politicians are indicted they get to stick around, spending our money until a jury of their peers—there’s a terrifying thought—passes judgment. It’s possible that Americans have misplaced priorities.

Let’s get something straight: Getting cut from a football team is the least that should happen to those who punch women or whip children. I’m all for Americans declaring that violence against women and children is unacceptable and demanding justice. Delaying action to let the legal process play out is a moral dodge and a game for lawyers. We call balls and strikes on the field, and we should call right and wrong off the field.

So why are we so easygoing when politicians are indicted? When Rick Perry was indicted on two felony counts for abuse of office and coercion of a public official, suddenly he became the poster boy of the Republican-of-the-Month club, celebrated in Iowa and New Hampshire for standing up to those liberals in Austin, by gum and by God.

In New York, Rep. Michael Grimm got hit with a 20-count indictment related to his past business dealings, and he’s not only running for re-election in a swing district, but according to sources quoted by POLITICO, he’s winning.

And before you say, “Oh, but we’re unforgiving about the sex scandals,” take a look at Mark Sanford (R-Appalachian Trail) and his fellow congressman Scott DesJarlais, the Tennessee doctor who got a patient pregnant and then pressured her to have an abortion. Both are locks to return to congress—and in deeply red districts, at that.

For the rest of Jason Stanford's column, check out today's R&D Department.

By Jason Stanford

September 19, 2014      11:29 AM

Battleground Texas features SD 10 candidate Libby Willis in new video

Willis, who will face Konni Burton for the seat now held by Wendy Davis, paints her opponent as out of the mainstream

September 19, 2014      10:34 AM

KR: Road to school finance solution looks bleak

Booming oil & gas revenue unlikely to be enough to close gaps left by massive margins tax shortfall or student population growth

The State Board of Education will send over a flush $2 billion to pay for schools and textbooks this fall, but that windfall hardly begins to address the structural gaps in the school finance system created back in 2006.

The economic picture in Texas is the best it has looked in years. But the picture for finding a school finance solution has never looked so bleak. Not even burgeoning oil & gas revenue will be enough to fix the $10 billion structural hole in a system that requires a baseline $26 billion a year to fund public schools.

And that’s where we start: the structural hole created by the margins tax. Forget what the Texas Supreme Court might decide. Texas created a tax to drive $14.2 billion through the school finance system every two years. Last biennium, it was projected to produce $4.5 billion. If funding formulas hold, with or without a court decision, state lawmakers still are obligated to make up the balance of that gap.

Session after session, lawmakers have avoided adding new money to the school finance system and even limited school district tax increases. Now the hole is so huge that it is impossible to find a solution in the state’s typical bag of tricks. The proceeds from the tobacco settlement or additional vice taxes won’t be enough.

The target revenue solution of 2006 was a temporary agreement between state leaders and education leaders, but District Judge John Dietz noted in his opinion it has done nothing but widen revenue gaps between districts. The excess of the state’s Rainy Day Fund would barely prop up the system for a year. And Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, continues his drum beat during hearings in which he insists that Texas cannot bond its way to economic prosperity. Bonding is finite, not infinite.

September 18, 2014      6:18 PM

Sen. Deuell and Texas Right to Life are set for courtroom showdown over "defamatory" advertisements

TRTL says Deuell infringed on their freedom of speech; Deuell argues radio ads were false, which is why stations took them off the air

Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, has fired back at Texas Right to Life after they slapped him with a lawsuit over advertisements that the anti-abortion group ran against one of the most pro-life legislators in Texas during his GOP primary this year.

Whether the ads were false or not, they contributed to a winning campaign for Deuell’s challenger Bob Hall, who narrowly defeated the incumbent in one of the most bitter races of the year.  

The group claims that Deuell infringed on their First Amendment rights by demanding that false ads be taken down. Deuell’s attorneys have answered by asking that a judge in Houston dismiss the lawsuit as frivolous based on the state’s anti-SLAPP law.

By Scott Braddock

September 18, 2014      6:18 PM

Press Releases: Endorsements, campaign attacks and more

September 18, 2014      6:14 PM

Toll road operators report success in new measures to rake in tolls

Registration holds and vehicle bans now in the toolbox for getting tolls paid

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority was under fire during a Senate Transportation Committee hearing Thursday morning in regards to the implementation of a law directed at toll road scofflaws.

Chair Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, convened a panel that included the North Texas Tollway Authority, the Central Texas Mobility Authority, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Dallas County Tax Assessor-Collector.

The meeting opened with Sen. Kirk Watson’s, D-Austin, questioning TxDOT executive director Joe Webber and chief financial officer James Bass, via phone, about the responsiveness of the customer service center. Xerox just picked up the contract for the TxTAG call center, and Webber reported performance improvements: shorter wait times; potential text messages to customers; and a completely automated website for payments.

Webber admitted the transition had not been completely smooth, and Watson was skeptical that the change in vendors had answered every problem. Watson said his office still heard from constituents who had spent hours on hold when calling the customer service center to resolve problems.

By Kimberly Reeves

September 18, 2014      6:13 PM

Judge dismisses Rep. Krause's lawsuit against Texas Racing Commission

But the battle over “historical racing” continues as another lawsuit pulls into the lead

A judge in Tarrant County on Thursday threw out a lawsuit against the Texas Racing Commission filed by a conservative lawmaker who is trying to block the agency from moving ahead with approval of "historical racing."  

Rep. Matt Krause, R-Ft. Worth, said he was disappointed with the finding that he does not have standing in the case but he was encouraged that the judge pretty clearly agreed the commission does not have the authority to approve the slot machine-like terminals at race tracks around the state. Only one commissioner voted against the proposal supported by the horse racing industry.

"Notwithstanding the fact I agree with the applicant regarding the authority of the commissioners, I disagree with him regarding his standing to bring the action," Judge David Evans wrote. "I do not believe that Texas law currently grants him or other legislators standing," he said.

September 18, 2014      9:43 AM

Abbott airs his first negative TV ad of the campaign

On the eve of their first debate, Abbott launches an ad called "FBI," in which Sen. Davis is slammed for accusations about ethics.

September 18, 2014      9:22 AM

As expected, TXOGA names Todd Staples as new president

“'The world is watching as Texas cements its place as a global leader in the energy arena.”

From the Texas Oil & Gas Association's release:

"'Innovations and investments by TXOGA’s 5,500 members are transforming the Lone Star State, creating jobs and providing opportunities for all Texans.  It will be my honor and privilege to work with this dynamic industry at a time when Texas energy production is anchoring our state’s economy and bolstering our nation’s energy security,' said Commissioner Todd Staples. 'The world is watching as Texas cements its place as a global leader in the energy arena.  I’m humbled to have been selected to work with TXOGA’s dedicated staff to represent this membership.'

'Commissioner Staples is a proven and highly-regarded leader in Texas whose experience and leadership will serve TXOGA’s members well,' said Jonny Jones, chairman of TXOGA’s board of directors.”

Here’s the full release from the association.

September 18, 2014      5:58 AM

Eppstein poll says Abbott solid; Davis plagued by high negatives

Poll funded by non-aligned groups finds GOP candidates in firm position in home stretch

Greg Abbott is positioned to trounce Wendy Davis by double digits reports the Eppstein Group in its TIC poll, now in its 25th year.  The poll is conducted on behalf of a group of trade associations and professional groups seeking to sort out public sentiment on a variety of issues as well as the upcoming election.  It is funded to guide those who navigate the political seas into election positions and legislative strategies.

With 1200 live telephone interviews of general election voters that participated in at least one of the last two November elections, the Texas Interested Citizens survey drills down by gender, race, ethnicity and geography.  Of those sampled, “35% of the survey respondents had voted in past Republican primaries, 28% in past Democratic primaries, 11% in both primaries, and 27% were pure general election only voters.”  

By Harvey Kronberg

September 17, 2014      10:00 PM

Reliable Sources: TXOGA expected to name Staples as new President tomorrow

Texas Oil and Gas Association poised to formalize new leadership

September 17, 2014      5:10 PM

SB: Meet the candidates for RPT Chairman

Outcome of race to replace Munisteri will be critical to the long-term health of the Republican Party of Texas

In a development that’s been brewing for months and was first reported Monday night by QR, three political leaders from around the state have now announced they’re running to succeed Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri when he steps down. Munisteri, who has done an admirable job of calming the waters after the tumultuous tenures of former RPT Chairs Cathie Adams and Tina Benkiser, has said that he would like to honor the request of Attorney General Greg Abbott to stay in place until The Legislature wraps up its regular session next year. But Munisteri could leave as soon as December. “We’ll see how I feel after the elections,” he said.  

One of Munisteri’s main messages to the party faithful over the years has been that they must do a better job of outreach to women and minorities. Among other things, the chairman has become known for his colorful presentations to Republican groups about demographic shifts and the corresponding implications for the party’s fortunes. When Battleground Texas entered the scene with promises of making this a competitive state, Munisteri’s smart answer has been that Texas is already a battleground, it’s just that Republicans are winning the battle. After all, demographics represent opportunity, not destiny.

Significantly, it was Munisteri’s inclusive message and outreach that inspired state officeholders to come together and retire the party’s long-festering debt caused by Benkiser and Adams. Most contributors profoundly disagreed with party chairs picking sides in primaries.

During an SREC meeting this past weekend, Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Wade Emmert, former Harris County GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill, and RPT Treasurer Tom Mechler all announced they’re running to take the reins from Munisteri when he gives them up. They have competing visions for how to approach a leadership role and, while they may be well-known in their respective communities, they have not ascended to statewide prominence.

By Scott Braddock

September 17, 2014      5:09 PM

Press Releases: Getting Smart on Crime, immigrants driving the economy, endorsements and more

September 16, 2014      5:10 PM

Stuck in Time: SBOE faces wave of opposition to new history books

The compromise the SBOE struck on social studies standards appears to have pleased no one

The State Board of Education on Tuesday took a full day to hear testimony, much of it unhappy, about what is in and out of the state’s social studies textbooks: religion; native culture; the Middle East conflict; and even the role of Moses in America’s founding.

The Texas Freedom Network put out a four-part series last week from a panel of history schools. The series, which reviewed history, geography and government textbooks had praise for a few – witness Edmentum’s balanced approach to US Government textbooks – but mostly criticize textbook publishers for slanting history in order to curry favor with the far right members on the State Board of Education.

Professor Edward Countryman of Southern Methodist University wrote that his heart went out to Texas history teachers.

By Kimberly Reeves

September 16, 2014      5:04 PM

Press Releaseas: Ad wars, endorsements, gas leaks, fair pay and more

By Quorum Report

September 16, 2014      4:39 PM

SpaceX and Boeing win $6.8 billion NASA contract for taking astronauts to space station

Huge boost for company making investments in South Texas

Though it was not immediately clear how it will impact the SpaceX development planned for South Texas, the company on Tuesday was one of two firms awarded a contract by NASA to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Boeing was the other company, which just yesterday was said to have defeated SpaceX for this contract. Turns out they both got it.

The contracts are worth a total of $6.8 billion. Boeing's share is $4.2 billion and SpaceX will receive $2.6 billion. SpaceX, of course, announced earlier this year it chose Brownsville as the future home of a commercial launch facility. The state pumped $15.3 million into that deal.

September 16, 2014      4:13 PM

Bingo coalition sues to block Racing Commission decision on historical racing

Bingo halls will “dry up virtually overnight if casino gambling is allowed…”

A second lawsuit has been filed to try to stop the Texas Racing Commission from moving ahead with approval of slot machine-like terminals that allow gamblers to bet on horse races that have already been run. The “historical racing” machines, as they are known, have become a flashpoint as conservative lawmakers and others rush to block them from operating at dog tracks and race tracks around Texas.

About two dozen organizations that run bingo halls across Texas filed suit in Travis County on Tuesday, arguing that a rule adopted by the commission violates the Texas Constitution, the Texas Racing Act, and the Administrative Procedures Act. The rule approved nearly unanimously by the commission, with only one member voting “no,” is set to take effect this month, opening the door for the machines.

This lawsuit is not unlike litigation filed in Tarrant County by Rep. Matt Krause, R-Ft Worth, which is under consideration by a judge who could rule as soon as today. Some legal experts, however, have said Tarrant County is the wrong venue and the proper place to file is in the county where state government is located, as this bingo coaltion has now done.

By Scott Braddock

September 16, 2014      4:09 PM

Bearse: D*#ates are a Necessary Evil

From the right: QR’s conservative columnist argues the low number of gubernatorial debates is sufficient. “I don’t know the right number of d*#ates, except it should be somewhere between 0 and the inane number conducted by the Republican presidential candidates of 2012.”

Is this not the most boring election cycle in modern memory? If it weren’t for Wendy Davis’ television ads where she says Greg Abbott is for rapists, cancer and standardized tests, we would all be comatose by now. The candidates for U.S. Senate, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Comptroller are all in the witness protection program. Who knew Dan Patrick could be so quiet for so long?

We do have our first gubernatorial d*#bate this week. As a survivor of Perry for President 1.0, I still get Vietnam flashbacks whenever someone says the word d*#bate. I will always remember where I was when I witnessed those 49 seconds of terror…under my desk, looking for phone numbers for the Letterman producer. The other night, former Alabama QB Greg McElroy was broadcasting the Aggie game against the Little Sisters of the Poor, and said only three people can call him Gregory, and then proceeded to list four. I had a panic attack.

The conventional wisdom for the gubernatorial d*#ate is that Abbott just wants to get by without any damage. No harm, no foul means he wins. There is some truth to that, though I think that is an over-simplification. This is the first time millions of Texans will see the main candidates for governor in an unscripted setting – well, sort of. I mean, Wendy Davis will be so scripted to say the word “insider” whenever possible it could lead to alcohol poisoning if you turn it into a drinking game. But there is always something the candidates don’t prepare for, which allows us to see them think on their feet. The point is not whether they can name the president of Mexico or the neighboring state governors (One Tough Monogram could not), but how they handle the unexpected. What do they emote on television? Are they cool under fire, too hot, robotic, warm, or drunk like Kinky seemed?

Eric Bearse is a speechwriter, political consultant and public relations specialist. He can be reached by e-mail at eric@ericbearse.com. His complete column can be found in today’s R&D Department.

By Eric Bearse

September 16, 2014      10:36 AM

New Abbott web ad: Unethical and Unfit for Texas

Ominous music paired with accusations Sen. Davis should have abstained from some Ft Worth City Council votes

September 15, 2014      6:37 PM

Three announce for Republican Party of Texas Chairman

“The race begins”

Even though the current chairman of the largest state Republican Party in the nation will stay in his position through at least December, battle lines are already forming over who will succeed him.

RPT Chairman Steve Munisteri confirmed to Quorum Report on Monday night that a trio of big names in their respective communities have all thrown their hats in the ring to replace him: Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Wade Emmert, former Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill, and RPT Treasurer Tom Mechler are all now in the running.

September 15, 2014      5:02 PM

Fight brews over state control of workers comp carrier of last resort

Sen. Fraser is angry: “I think this is a runaway train. What you’re doing is bad, bad policy. You were created by the state of Texas for a specific reason.”

Sen. Troy Fraser is so angry Texas Mutual Insurance wants to cut the cord of state control that he threatened to file legislation next session to bring the workers’ compensation carrier back under state control at a Monday Senate hearing.

This is not the first time Texas Mutual has asked to be freed from state strings in order to pursue outlying markets. The topic was raised last session, too. But Fraser created Texas Mutual and he remembers history. When the company was created by the state in 1991, no carrier would write policies in the Texas market.  

Richard Gergasko, president of Texas Mutual, has proposed an apportioned risk pool where Texas Mutual would remain a provider, but the risk of the marketplace would be spread proportionately among workers’ compensation carriers. Gergasko said spreading business beyond Texas borders posed no risk to the state, was supported by Texas Mutual competitors and would benefit shareholders.

“That’s a very interesting statement. You said it’s supported by your board of directors and it’s in the best interest of the company,” Fraser challenged from the dais. “Give me the good public policy reason why this should happen.”

By Kimberly Reeves

September 15, 2014      4:59 PM

Press Releases: Awards, fact checks, endorsements and accusations of violent rhetoric

September 15, 2014      4:48 PM

Libertarian for Governor Kathie Glass web ad: Stop Obama

Argues that people who vote straight Republican have been duped: "Rick Perry didn't stop Obama when he could have. Greg Abbott won't either."

September 15, 2014      12:51 PM

Business leaders ask Texas lawmakers to crack down on "patent trolls"

States are just now starting to combat the problem that may be costing Texas businesses millions

Business leaders representing a variety of industries on Monday asked Texas senators to try to figure out a way to deal with what’s been described as a growing problem of so-called “patent trolls” who “extort” money from firms in pretty straightforward ways. While groups as diverse as Texans for Lawsuit Reform and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association agree there is clearly a problem, what’s much less clear is what, if anything, The Legislature can do about it.

A “patent troll” is a person or a company that claims to own a patent then tries to enforce it against accused infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees. Since the “troll” doesn’t actually manufacture or supply the services in question, some have described what they’re doing as “economic rent-seeking.” During a hearing of the Senate State Affairs Committee, representatives from various industries described the ways in which this plays out.

For example, Texas Association of Realtors Chairman Dan Hatfield told lawmakers that some of his members have been either sued or threatened with lawsuits because they operate websites that include a search engine. An individual or company that claims to hold the patent on the type of search engine being used on a realtors’ website will claim that the realtor needs to pay a licensing fee to that patent holder, he said.  

By Scott Braddock

September 15, 2014      7:19 AM

New Wendy Davis TV ad: Time Went By

Unleashes new attack; asks "what insider was Greg Abbott covering up for this time?" when he passed on investigating charges of sexual abuse at a state school

September 15, 2014      7:17 AM

New Greg Abbott TV ad: Working Texans Plan

Bashes California; says he'll work to keep Texas #1 in jobs

September 12, 2014      4:45 PM

Press release section: Kolkhorst endorsed; Battleground instructional video on vote by mail and more

September 12, 2014      4:42 PM

Stanford: Time for GOP to deal with Gohmert

From the left: "It’s time for Republicans to put Gohmert down in front of the cartoons with a juice box. We’ve got enough real problems in the world without making up fake ones."

There are a lot of offensive ways to observe 9/11. A yoga studio near DC offered a 20% off sale (“9 + 11 = 20% OFF!”), and a sex toy company soberly tweeted remembrance of “those lost, & honor those still fighting for freedom.” But the most off-putting way to remember the terrorist attacks on 9/11 was by Rep. Louie Gohmert, who thinks of Sep. 11 as the anniversary of Benghazi, or as he says it, “BENGHAZI!!”

If this were a just world in which a person was judged by his merits and rose in life accordingly, Louie Gohmert would be relegated to writing the sorts of letters to the editor that are never published. He is a cranky man who needs no tin foil to achieve flights of self-assured delusion. He should be mowing lawns for a living and attending John Birch meetings in the evenings. But he’s from East Texas, so he’s a congressman.

It’s guys like Gohmert who have earned congress record-low approval ratings, lower even than colonoscopies, head lice, and root canals. Of course, liberals have their crazies, too. Go to any precinct meeting, and you’ll encounter earnest activists in bedazzled sweatshirts who will insist that George W. Bush allowed 9/11 to happen so that he could invade Iraq so Halliburton could get the oil to make Dick Cheney wealthier. But we don’t elect these people to congress.

Republican primary voters have decided to treat the United States House of Representatives like a tea party meeting and have turned the gavel over to folks like Gohmert, who believe—despite all documented evidence to the contrary—there remain legitimate questions about the president’s birthplace.

Check out the rest of Jason Stanford's column in today's R&D Department

By Jason Stanford

September 12, 2014      8:56 AM

New Abbott web ad: Healthy Texans

"A healthier tomorrow for more Texas families is within our reach."