June 25, 2016      12:22 PM

Rodney Ellis tapped by Harris County Dems as new county commissioner

Wins by 2-1, now possible looming battle for open Senate seatbetween Senfronia Thompson, Garnet Coleman and Borris Miles

June 24, 2016      7:31 PM

KR: DAPA opinion sets new precedent at U.S. Supreme Court

“Although the one-sentence affirmance by an equally divided Court doesn’t tell us much, we now know that at least four Justices thought Texas had standing to bring this case”

Law professors around the country consider the ruling in Texas’ DAPA challenge yesterday to be precedent-setting event and not simply because it put a major obstacle in Pres. Barack Obama’s efforts to slow down the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants.

And the credit goes to Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign put out a video this morning touting yesterday’s victory and also sent along a press clipping from the Wall Street Journal that called Texas the Obama administration’s “most relentless adversary.”

“The president’s job is to enforce the law, not write the law,” Abbott said in the video. “As the president himself admitted, he violated the Constitution. He said 20 times he did not have the authority to rewrite the law. But yet, he acted as a king and rewrote it himself because he could not get Congress to do what he wanted them to do.”

By Kimberly Reeves

June 24, 2016      7:23 PM

Smith: The SCOTUS Immigration Ruling: A Kafkaesque Conclusion to the Battle Over DAPA and DACA

From the Left: QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the U.S. Supreme Court deadlock over lower court rulings that Texas and other states would “probably” prevail on the merits give a strange, phantom-like cast to the outcome.

Taken together, this week’s U.S. Supreme Court decisions in two cases originating in Texas seem to say, “No worries that the University of Texas admissions policy can consider race because we’re going to deport one million Texas Hispanics anyway.”

We refer of course to the court’s deadlocked vote letting stand a lower court’s rejection of President Obama’s memorandum to immigration authorities. The President’s memo asked that they defer action on the possible deportation of four million undocumented immigrant children and their parents. Texas and other Republican-controlled state governments called this “executive overreach.”

The other case is the zombie litigation involving UT admissions policy that includes some consideration of the race of applicants. It only seems like generations have graduated from the UT School of Law since rejected applicant Abigail Fisher first brought the suit. The Court upheld the affirmative action policy.

The full column by Glenn W. Smith is in the R&D Department.

By Glenn W. Smith

June 24, 2016      3:39 PM

Ethics Commission VC Tom Harrison resigns effective immediately

Texas Ethics Commission Vice Chair Tom Harrison today submitted his resignation effective immediately.

By statute, The House and Senate party caucuses submit each submit a list of names as candidates for appointment by the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker.  In 2004, Senate Democrats submitted Tom Harrison who was subsequently re-appointed by Perry in 2007.  His official term ended in 2011, but absent another nominee from Senate Democrats, he was “held over” to avoid a vacancy.

twelve years on the Commission and after 30 years in an out of State government, Harrison decided it was time to lighten the load.

By Harvey Kronberg

June 24, 2016      12:35 PM

Greenfield: Oh Where, Oh Where Can Our Tax Revenue Be?

Our number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield with an update on the fiscal reality we may face as legislators arrive for the 85th regular session of the Legislature

The Certified Revenue Estimate (CRE) released in October 2015 predicted total tax collections would decrease by 3.8 percent in FY16 and increase by 4.9 percent in FY17. This translates to a decrease of 0.8 percent in total tax collections for the FY16-17 biennium.

As we enter the 4th quarter of FY16 and shortly the general election campaign season, candidates for the 85th Texas Legislature and the citizens of the state should at least have a general idea of the fiscal situation that will be faced.

Figure 1 shows that the negative YTD growth in tax collections (-6.9 percent) is substantially greater than the estimated negative rate (-3.8 percent) for FY16.  Fortunately, the YTD growth rate in total state non-tax revenue (12.7 percent) is more than ten times, an order of magnitude, greater than the Comptroller’s estimated non-tax growth rate (1.0 percent). This has resulted in total state revenue increasing by 3.2 percent compared to the 1.8 percent decline in the CRE.

The full column by Dr. Stuart Greenfield is in the R&D Department.

By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

June 24, 2016      12:31 PM

Coalition organizes for broader support of Mexican-American studies

Social studies textbooks, including the single submission on Mexican-American studies, will be up for a vote this fall – organizers say the long road has created a meaningful movement

A vote to take Mexican-American studies out of Arizona schools six years ago may end up being an event big enough to mobilize an ethnic studies movement in Texas.

No doubt saying “no” has been the biggest driver of efforts to infuse Hispanic culture into Texas social studies standards. Mary Helen Berlanga left the State Board of Education before she achieved that goal, calling the fruitless results of her efforts her biggest defeat.

But even as Berlanga departed, efforts to counter the end of ethnic studies was building: first, with a banned book caravan against the Arizona law; then, with opposition to a similar bill filed in Texas by then-Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, in 2013; and, eventually, with an effort to bring a Mexican-American studies course to Texas classrooms with the upending of Texas diplomas brought about by House Bill 5.

“When we showed up at SBOE, maybe six of us, we were like, ‘Whoa, why are all these people here?’” said Tony Diaz, who organized the caravan and is known as El Lirbrotraficante. “Then we realized, ‘They’re here to talk about Algebra II.’ It really became something of a learning experience, to look at how people were approaching this, how they talked to the board.”

By Kimberly Reeves

June 23, 2016      5:08 PM

Supreme Court leaves key question in Fisher v UT unanswered

No expectation the decision will have broad impact on other universities, with the exception that UT’s combination of the Top 10 Percent Rule and holistic review could be used by others to be considered constitutional

Today’s decision out of the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the current admission standards at the University of Texas at Austin, but left the core question of the original case unanswered.

That didn’t stop supporters, including The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, from hailing this morning’s opinion on race-conscious admissions as a continued commitment to the principles of 2003’s Grutter v Bollinger decision and an acknowledgement of racial diversity as a desired educational benefit on college campuses.

“The ruling does not create any additional limitations on race,” said attorney Marissa Bono of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund on a conference call. “Instead, it reiterates race is instrumental in creating the educational benefits of diversity on a college campus. It was a ‘factor of a factor of a factor’ in a holistic review. This is just another step in a long line of challenges that show diversity is a compelling interest.”

By Kimberly Reeves

June 23, 2016      5:07 PM

Democrats ask federal government to intervene in big cuts to therapies for disabled kids

"We urge CMS to expeditiously review the State Plan Amendment to ensure that the proposed rate reductions do not restrict access to medically necessary therapy services..."

The letter from the Texas House Democratic Caucus to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services can be downloaded by clicking here.

June 23, 2016      9:42 AM

Supreme Court deadlocks on President Obama's immigration executive actions

The 4-4 ruling leaves in place a lower court ruling blocking the president from moving forward with deferred action for undocumented immigrants

June 23, 2016      9:22 AM

Supreme Court upholds affirmative action in admissions at the University of Texas

"The race-conscious admissions program in use at the time of Fisher's application is lawful under the Equal Protection Clause."

June 22, 2016      1:05 PM

Texas Democrats tout poll showing Trump may endanger some GOP state lawmakers

31% of likely voters not sure how they’ll vote for president; 45% say corruption is “widespread” in Texas government

Editor’s note: The full poll, with crosstabs, is available for our subscribers at the end of this story – SB

A group of Democratic state lawmakers unveiled a poll on Wednesday showing that even many Republican Texans have the kind of reservations about presumptive GOP Nominee Donald Trump that could translate to some success for the minority party in legislative races this fall and help them build toward future gains in The Legislature.

Republicans, naturally, were quick say the poll’s findings are being promoted by “a group of individuals who are incapable of winning a statewide election.” But Democrats said the numbers they’re looking at have nothing to do with making this a swing state.

Democrats instead argued that they are trying to make a clear-eyed assessment of whether the battlefield is as it was in 2014 – a non-presidential cycle in which their ticket lost by more than 20 points – or if the political terrain has changed thanks to a “strong” Democratic presumptive nominee in Hillary Clinton versus an unconventional and “weak” GOP presumptive nominee in Trump.

By Scott Braddock

June 22, 2016      11:09 AM

Speaker Straus appoints Representatives Larson and Phelan to SWIFT Advisory Committee

“The SWIFT is helping provide the water supply needed for a growing population and a healthy economy,” Straus said.

The announcement from Texas House Speaker Joe Strausoffice is here.

June 22, 2016      7:26 AM

More specifics revealed on budget losses to Texas Racing Commission

Documents show the gap in funding will be a combination of something between $91,000 and $700,000, which would be the combined amount the agency will need to carry it through the first quarter

New documents out of the Texas Racing Commission show just how dire the financial crisis is within the agency and how that pressure is affecting the racing industry across the state.

The commission passed – and was later forced to repeal – historical racing as an option for racetracks.

Last week, Vice Chair Ron Ederer informed his colleagues that dwindling fees would not be enough to carry the agency through the biennium. Late last week, the agency responded to a Texas Public Information Act request filed by Quorum Report and released the minutes of a Corpus Christi meeting where the deficit was discussed in stark detail.

The combined drop in fees will be a $717,500 hit to the agency budget, according to the minutes of the meeting, held at Gulf Coast Racing on May 23.

By Kimberly Reeves

June 22, 2016      6:34 AM

Texas Energy Report: Craddick directs RRC staff to review, reduce regulatory burdens

Asks for report back on Aug. 9, says initiative will aid ailing oil, gas industry

Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick introduced a streamlining initiative Tuesday to relieve the financially troubled oil and gas industry of unnecessary regulatory red tape and to perhaps save state money.

During the commission’s open meeting, Craddick directed staff to take a look at rules, reporting requirements and other oil and gas regulatory requirements and find ways to increase efficiency and reduce administrative burdens. She instructed Executive Director Kim Corley to report back in time for commissioners to launch the effort at its Aug. 9 open meeting.

Craddick and the commission declined to share (beyond a handful of industry advocates) an unofficial, starter list of streamlining candidates that drew brief discussion at the publicly broadcast meeting.  

Texas Energy Report, however, learned that the unofficial document is titled “Railroad Commission of Texas Oilfield Relief Initiative.” One listed item would review regulations and reporting requirements of marginal stripper wells, a priority for smaller oil and gas concerns.

The full story can be found in Texas Energy Report.

By Polly Ross Hughes

June 21, 2016      5:39 PM

Paxton provides one piece of the puzzle on property disposition of failed charter schools

“The AG opinion today has provided some direction as to what that process should be, including the involvement of the General Land Office (GLO) in the Commissioner’s disposition of such property.”

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office today offered an answer to one subsection of an issue that continues to dog the Texas Education Agency: what to do about the real property of a charter holder once a charter is either returned or revoked.

Recent legislation has accelerated the actions on revoking charters issued by the state. In the last two years, TEA has revoked 17 charters, which is more charters than it revoked in the last two decades. That’s left the agency with pressing property issues, including the issue of what to do when a charter holder liquidates a property holding TEA considers to belong to the state.

The question raised in a request sent by former Commissioner Michael Williams was whether TEA was obligated to return real property to the portfolio of the Permanent School Fund. Paxton’s reply was that TEA had a right to claim the property, and that it would be up to the agency to come up with a matter of disposition, in conjunction with the General Land Office.

By Kimberly Reeves

June 21, 2016      3:21 PM

Estes: Disarming the Second Amendment Will Not Stop Terrorism

In this op-ed, Sen. Craig Estes argues “The solution to Orlando, San Bernadino, Paris, Mumbai, and scores of other attacks across the world is not banning scary-looking guns. It’s figuring out how to shut down these terror networks and their hateful propaganda.”

Partisan spin doesn’t usually surprise me—after almost fifteen years in politics, I’ve come to expect it from both sides in response to both triumphs and tragedies. But I was honestly surprised when, after the worst terrorist attack on our soil since September 11th, the Left’s response was to blame the National Rifle Association, the Republican Party, and an imaginary class of scary-looking firearms. 

Remember when the country used to come together after terrorist attacks and unite against our common foes?

Well this isn’t 2001 anymore.

The full op-ed by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, can be found in the R&D Department.

By Sen. Craig Estes

June 20, 2016      4:45 PM

SB: Cook request for AG opinion on eminent domain puts Paxton in a difficult situation

Some Capitol observers wonder if the AG will help Chairman Cook block eminent domain powers in similar fashion to how he helped Gov. Abbott wrest more power from appropriators – especially given that Cook says Paxton defrauded investors

Texas House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook last week looked to the Attorney General’s Office for help in shoring up the rights of property owners as a company prepares to build a bullet train from Houston to Dallas – with the proposed corridor cutting through Cook’s rural district.

“It would be problematic if a company that does not have the power of eminent domain was entering or directing others to enter upon property it did not have the right to condemn,” Cook wrote to Ken Paxton’s office. “Thus, this issue is of great importance to Texans, especially rural Texans, whose property is already being entered upon in preparation for the initiation of eminent domain proceedings.”

Putting aside for the moment the question of whether the rail line would be good for the state and its thousands of “super commuters,” Cook’s request raises another topic of discussion at the Texas Capitol: Will Paxton issue an opinion helpful to the very member of The Legislature who says Paxton defrauded investors as part of the felony case against the AG?

By Scott Braddock