December 20, 2014      6:49 PM

Former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier passed away

RIP Mayor Bob. He was 89.

The story from the Houston Chronicle. Check out the video below from Fox 26 in Houston.

December 19, 2014      8:41 PM

Video: San Antonio Texas House Candidate Diego Bernal as the voice of the community

Set to music he wrote himself, former SA Councilman tells his story

December 19, 2014      5:29 PM

Ethics Commission will look into alleged misuse of corporate funds by Empower Texans

“The public subsidizes Empower Texans by granting it a tax-exemption, while it uses those tax-exempt funds to influence elections,” Bresnen said. “That is wrong—and illegal.”

The Texas Ethics Commission said this week that there will be a preliminary hearing in February on alleged misuse of corporate funds in Texas elections by Midland oilman Tim Dunn’s group Empower Texans. Dunn, as QR readers who have followed this are aware, is the chairman of the group, which has a spokesman who was found by the Ethics Commission to be guilty of lobbying without registering.

That spokesman for Dunn, Michael Quinn Sullivan, is appealing that finding in court.

Longtime lobbyist Steve Bresnen, a former top aide to Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, filed this latest complaint against Empower Texans back in February. It centers on “the use of the publicly-subsidized non-profit’s assets to raise money for a political action committee,” which Bresnen said would be a “direct violation of the Election Code’s express prohibition against the practice.”

December 19, 2014      4:43 PM

Press Releases: Staffing changes and a big wireless company settlement

December 19, 2014      4:40 PM

Stanford: Point of schools is not more testing

From the left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues that standardized testing has only led to more standardized testing and not to better education for children

Imagine you’re a runner trying to beat your personal record in the mile. Is the point to get a better time or to actually run faster? Is the elapsed time the point of running, or is the real goal to run faster, to be stronger, to increase your endurance?

Don’t like sports metaphors? Fine. You’ve got a rib roast in the oven. Is it done because the meat thermometer reads 135 degrees? When your family chows down, does anyone congratulate the cook on the perfect thermometer reading or because the meat is tender, pink, juicy, and making me hungry as I write this?

So I put it to you again: What’s the point of data? We can treasure the marks on the door jam that inch up over the years, but the importance is in the growth of a child. You might think that in these cases the data and the actual result are the same, a difference without a distinction. And in that, you would fit right in with the data-driven education reformers these days who think test scores are the same thing as an education.

Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that the test scores are valid measures of classroom learning, something that the American Statistical Association has cautioned against. Last April, the ASA said “teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores” and that standardized testing should never be used as a tool to hold schools accountable. Basically, using test scores to gauge what happens in a classroom is like using that meat thermometer to measure how fast you ran a mile.

But no matter.

The complete column from Jason Stanford can be found in the R&D Department.

By Jason Stanford

December 19, 2014      4:30 PM

Lt. Gov-Elect Patrick announces additional staff

Here is the announcement.

December 18, 2014      5:46 PM

Whitmire formally asks Travis County DA to investigate company with ties to Jack Stick

Perry’s office says “Neither the governor nor our office were involved with this contract”

Following the resignation of Jack Stick, who until just recently had been the top in-house attorney for the Health and Human Services Commission, there are now calls from top state leaders for state and federal investigations of the no-bid contracts that ended up forcing that resignation.

An ongoing investigation by the Austin American-Statesman uncovered the fact that state health officials, at the behest of Stick, awarded no-bid contracts to 21CT, an Austin-based data analytics company in the amount of $110 million. The Statesman also reported that procurement laws were skirted as the contracts were doled out to the company with a “cozy” relationship with Stick.

Not only that, but 21CT had no experience dealing with Medicaid fraud – the issue it was hired to help with – and the state had been talking with companies that did have proper experience. Those companies lost out when 21CT suddenly became the belle of the ball. Stick has said he felt the company was using technology that would be revolutionary in dealing with Medicaid fraud.

Both Gov. Perry and the most senior member of the Texas Senate want to see 21CT investigated.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, formalized that request Thursday afternoon in a letter to prosecutor Gregg Cox in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. Earlier in the day, Whitmire had said he might informally make the request but he took the step of putting it in writing in the afternoon.

December 18, 2014      5:45 PM

Outgoing TXOGA leader joins young Austin law firm

Looney led Texas oil, gas association for 26 years

Rob Looney, longtime president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association, is taking his energy policy expertise to the Austin-based law firm of Beatty Bangle Strama PC, the firm announced Thursday.

“For 26 years, Rob guided the Texas oil and gas industry as it led and revolutionized production throughout the world,” Matt Beatty, managing shareholder at the firm said in a statement. “You would be hard pressed to find anyone in the industry that can match his experience and leadership. We look forward to adding that value as a resource for clients at BBS.”

All the details are over on Texas Energy Report.   

December 18, 2014      5:32 PM

Press Releases: Legislative agendas, some say they are being "taxed out of town," and a gift to MD Anderson.

December 18, 2014      5:31 PM

Charles Butt and other major SA business leaders endorse Van de Putte for mayor

Bill Greehey, former CEO of Valero, also among heavy-hitting supporters

Here is the release from Sen. Leticia Van de Putte’s campaign.

December 18, 2014      5:05 PM

Greenfield: The Revenue Estimate, The Prequel

Economist Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D., says that even though crude oil prices have steeply dropped, tax collections for this biennium should be higher than the FY12-13 biennium.

Prior to the 84th Legislative session the Comptroller of Public Accounts will present the Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE) for the 2015-2016 Biennium. With knowledge of FY14 revenue collections and revenue collections through the 1st quarter of FY15, one should have a basis to evaluate how Comptroller Combs/Hegar’s estimate for FY15 is tracking.

Should tax collection growth continue at its current growth rate, we should expect $54.0 billion in tax collections in FY15.  This compares to the current FY15 estimate of $49.8 billion.  This will result in total tax collections for the FY14-15 biennium of $105.0 billion, $6.2 billion more than in the current estimate.  Total state revenue in FY15 should be $2.6 billion more than in the current estimate.

Below is an analysis of tax collections for FY14 and for the first three months of fiscal year 2015.  Also shown is the current estimate for FY15 from the 2014-15 Certification Revenue Estimate (CRE). 

One should note that except for the cigarette tax, every state tax collected in FY14 exceeded their FY14 estimate. In fact, except for sales tax and cigarette tax, receipts in FY14 for all other taxes exceed the current estimate for FY15.  Tax collections in FY14 exceeded the estimate for FY14 by $2.1 billion, and exceed the FY15 estimate by $1.2 billion.

The complete column from Dr. Stuart Greenfield can be found in the R&D Department.

By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

December 17, 2014      4:01 PM

Speaker Straus becomes Vice Chair of national GOP campaign committee

Straus’ elevation to vice chair puts him on track to lead the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee in two years

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, is the next Vice Chair of the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, a group that helps raise money for Republicans in state legislature across America.

“Speaker Joe Straus is a committed leader for the people of Texas and a strong, conservative voice who is leading the charge nationally to protect our individual liberties and preserve our nation’s commitment to the principles that make us strong,” said Republican State Leadership Committee President Matt Walter.  “We are thrilled that Speaker Straus will be at the helm of the RLCC during the pivotal 2016 election cycle, when we will build upon our record gains in state legislatures across the nation.”

December 17, 2014      3:55 PM

Press Releases: Payday lending practices, amnesty outrage of the day, discrimination of same-sex parents, tackling state debt and more

December 17, 2014      1:17 PM

George P. Bush announces Government Relations Team

Biles to lead team, Forse, Quirk, and King to expand legislative outreach efforts during session

Here is the announcement from George P. Bush in advance of his taking over at the General Land Office.

December 17, 2014      10:27 AM

Liberal groups look for religious allies in battles over faith

“We really need that voice of faith, people who will speak out on how faith isn’t supposed to be used as a weapon.”

WASHINGTON DC – A new alliance of progressive groups is trying to figure out the best ways to minimize the impact of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because, they believe, it is used too often to discriminate. At an inaugural conference this past weekend, those allied organizations traded advice on how to approach the sensitive topic at the state level. 

Congress passed its own Religious Freedom Act with bipartisan support back in 1993. Texas has its own version, which has been used to justify zoning practices, stop students from using RFID trackers and shape various city codes. Supporters call the measure a protection of religious freedom. Opponents typically refer to the measure as “a license to discriminate.”

The breakfast panel at the State Innovation Exchange, known as SiX, was intended to provide pointers to progressive lawmakers on how to contain the act’s impact.

Ilyse Hogue of NARAL said conservatives too often equate junk science with true facts. She also took aim at a system that allows pharmacists to refuse to dispense birth control pills. Too often, the choice is a platform for the pharmacist to shame the girl making the request, Hogue told the audience.

By Kimberly Reeves

December 16, 2014      7:51 PM

Austin Mayoral race: Steve Adler leads Mike Martinez 70% to 30% in early vote

Martinez has reportedly called Adler to concede

December 16, 2014      5:24 PM

Press Releases: Property taxes, education, fighting cancer and Chanukah

December 16, 2014      3:41 PM

Bearse: Left-wing Ideologues Hiding in Plain Sight

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues that liberals hide their own extremism while flogging conservatives for not being pragmatic

Why do liberals get a pass on the label “dangerous ideologue”? When Senator Ted Cruz implemented his strategy to shut down the federal government over ObamaCare – and more recently his strategy to defund the president’s executive order on immigration – he was vilified in the press, and the subject of disdain in cocktail parties across Washington. His ideology was extremist because he actually carried out the promises he made on the campaign trail.

But what about Elizabeth Warren? Here is a senator from Massachusetts who doesn’t really believe in capitalism. She is the preferred choice of the Obama ideologues, moveon.org operatives, Occupy Wall Street zealots and Seattle anarchists. She is a hard-left ideologue whose efforts to stop the bill to keep government funded was done out of principle, according to the media narrative. Because Cruz’s principles disagree with press sensibilities, he is a dangerous ideologue. Warren’s ideological principles just make her palatable for president.  

One of the tricks liberals like to play is to pretend they don’t have an ideology, but instead are just about solving problems. In fact, they scorn ideologues on the right while denying they even have an ideology. This is the tactic employed at the blog formerly known as Burkablog, where politicians are divided into two camps -- people driven by ideology, and people who want to solve problems. The conservatives are ideologues, the moderates and liberals just want to solve problems. It’s how many on the left claim they are centrists – they deny their solutions have an ideological bent.

The complete column from Eric Bearse is available in the R&D Department.

By Eric Bearse

December 16, 2014      1:50 PM

Martinez-Fischer campaign has raised $1 million for Senate special election, memo says

“My campaign is built by a team of battle-tested professionals, many of whom have both lived in SD 26 and won competitive races throughout Bexar County, including contests won by Senator Van de Putte.”

You can see Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer’s campaign memo by clicking here.

December 16, 2014      11:01 AM

Kolkhorst to be sworn in as Senator on Monday clearing the way for a special in her House district

One day after a trio of special elections was called for other seats, the timeline for House District 13 becomes clearer

Here is the announcement about Senator-Elect Lois Kolkhorst’s upcoming swearing in ceremony.

December 16, 2014      8:06 AM

Sylvia Romo tosses hat into SD26 special election

Former Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector and two term House member is in the hunt

December 15, 2014      4:49 PM

A trio of special elections announced

Crowded fields forming for special elections for the House

To fill two Texas House seats and one Texas Senate seat, Gov. Perry on Monday set three special elections for Jan. 6. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Rep. Mike Villarreal, both Democrats, are vacating their seats to run against each other for mayor of San Antonio. Meantime, Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington, is quitting the House to accept a position with incoming Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.

Candidates for all three seats must file with the Secretary of State’s Office by close of business next Monday, the 22. Early voting for these races begins the following Monday, the 29.  

Several candidates who are likely unfamiliar to you are already in the running in each of the House races and two well-known quantities have announced for the open Senate seat. As you are likely aware, Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer and Rep. Jose Menendez have both officially kicked off their campaigns to succeed Van de Putte in the upper chamber.

In House District 17Kleinschmidt’s district including Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, Karnes, and Lee Counties, two Republicans and a Democrat are in the race.

By Scott Braddock

December 15, 2014      4:48 PM

Press Releases: Rainy Day Fund floor, no waiting on school finance, reactions to Australian hostage crisis and more

December 13, 2014      12:06 PM

Stanford: Primary Colors are Fading

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues that the way the 2016 primary is already playing out – on both sides – is bad for America

The 2016 presidential campaign hasn’t even started yet and I’m already bored.

On one hand, everyone’s ready for Hillary, but she doesn’t seem all that eager for everyone. She’s scheduled two paid speeches for early next year, which means she won’t be kicking off her campaign until the spring. This is seen in DC as alternately smart politics and evidence that she’s floundering.

Holding off is undoubtedly good tactics, but while Democrats are waiting for Hillary they’re not talking about America, and that’s a shame. There’s plenty of time for her to lay out a reason to run for president, but when the frontrunner doesn’t enter the race it leaves all the others stretching at the starting line, waiting for the starting gun. And voters learn nothing about how Democrats would lead this county.

On the other hand, approximately 17,000 Republicans are visiting Iowa and pretending that they’re not running for president yet either. And if you thought the clown car primary from 2012 was fun—we’ll always have Uzbekibekibekistanstan—then the 2016 Republican primary should be a rare case when the sequel is better than the original.

The complete column from Jason Stanford is available in the R&D Department.  

By Jason Stanford