July 1, 2015      8:46 PM

WFAA: Special prosecutors plan to present a first-degree felony case against Paxton to grand jury

Special prosecutor Kent Schaffer told News 8 that the Texas Rangers uncovered new evidence during the investigation that led to the securities fraud allegations against the sitting attorney general.

From WFAA television in Dallas/Fort Worth:

“The criminal investigation against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has taken a more serious turn, with special prosecutors now planning to present a first-degree felony securities fraud case against him to a Collin County grand jury, News 8 has learned.

Special prosecutor Kent Schaffer told News 8 Wednesday afternoon that the Texas Rangers uncovered new evidence during the investigation that led to the securities fraud allegations against the sitting attorney general.

'The Rangers went out to investigate one thing, and they came back with information on something else," Schaffer told News 8. "It's turned into something different than when they started.'

Schaffer, a Houston criminal defense attorney, said the securities fraud allegations involve amounts well in excess of $100,000. He declined to comment specifics of the fraud allegations."

July 1, 2015      5:06 PM

HK: Paxton contortions on gay marriage opinion raises questions about legal reasoning inside AG office

Opinion reads more like a press release than legal opinion

Not since then-Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion declaring that Speaker Tom Craddick was a statewide officeholder and could only be removed by impeachment (essentially requiring a trial and permission of the Senate) have we seen an AG opinion such as the recent one by Ken Paxton so embarrassingly torqued to get to a pre-ordained conclusion.

The law is largely ignored in the Paxton opinion but the politics are clear.  Roughly 40% of the national Republican vote self-identifies as evangelical and probably more than that do so in the Texas primaries.  The culture wars ignite voter intensity and while it is almost a foregone conclusion that Texas will vote Republican in the 2016 presidential election, the path to that election leads through multiple Republican caucuses and primaries including Texas.

As hyperbolic as ever, presidential wannnabe Ted Cruz called the gay marriage ruling the darkest day in American history. Some Americans might be surprised that it surpassed Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination and September 11 but then again Cruz has scored more, if not the most, False and “Pants on Fire Rankings” from Politifact than any other contender.

The actors using language about a reckless and “lawless” Supreme Court are the coordinated messaging of the Cruz team. And like the former Texas Solicitor General and current junior Senator in absentia, the actors know better.  But Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, and Attorney General Paxton are engineering a Madison Avenue style marketing campaign selling soap, building a brand and a vocabulary of manufactured outrage targeted almost exclusively to motivate culture warriors in the next GOP caucuses and primaries.

By Harvey Kronberg

July 1, 2015      5:04 PM

Texas small business opposes proposed changes to overtime rule

Small business says “Nobody has a pot of gold sitting there to absorb these costs.”

Don’t expect Texas small businesses to be among the crowd applauding Pres. Barack Obama’s announcement of new proposed overtime rules on Thursday.

The Department of Labor, under its administrative rulemaking authority, has proposed lifting the cap on those entitled to overtime pay. Salaried employers making up to $50,440 would be entitled to overtime pay beyond the 40-hour week. Right now, the cap to defer overtime pay for salaried employees is $23,660.

That doubles the threshold for overtime pay for what is typically referred to as the “white-collar exemption.” The rule also provides for automatic annual increases pegged to the consumer price index. Ronnie Volkening of the Texas Retailers Association is not a fan.

“It’s just ham-handed, citing profitable companies as the justification for doing this,” Volkening said. “Small Main Street retailers have to be told, ‘Now you’re going to have to pay these additional people overtime.’ Nobody has a pot of gold sitting there to absorb these costs.”

By Kimberly Reeves

July 1, 2015      4:44 PM

Press Releases: Toll roads, veterans, endangered species, announcements, and more

July 1, 2015      4:38 PM

AG Paxton is asked to give clear guidance to state employees on same-sex marriage

Rep. Joe Moody, a former prosecutor, says Paxton’s opinion invites “Texans to engage in illegal, unconstitutional discrimination for which they have no excuse and to put taxpayer money at risk through avoidable, meritless, but very costly litigation.”

Saying the opinion offered by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton creates more confusion than clarity about the United State Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, this week asked Paxton to give better guidance to government employees. “State employees deserve better, which is a position I hope you and I share,” Moody wrote in a letter to Paxton dated Tuesday.

Moody pointed out that the opinion from Paxton "vaguely suggests that there may be a conflict between an employee's sworn duty and religious liberty."

"However, no specific scenarios are explored, even hypothetically, and the opinion falls back on any claim hinging on the 'specific facts' at hand," Moody wrote. "I ask you to provide concrete examples of actions you believe would be legally legitimate so that government employees have real guidance about what they can and cannot do."

By Scott Braddock

June 30, 2015      6:06 PM

Senator stresses that county clerks who deny same-sex marriage licenses could lose their jobs

It’s not just a matter of civil suits against county clerks; there is a mechanism for removing them from office if they don’t comply with SCOTUS ruling

There has been much media coverage about county clerks facing the potential of civil litigation if they deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, on Tuesday sought to make it clear that they are risking the loss of their jobs if they don’t comply with the United State Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.

“You have a duty to fulfill your oath of office in issuing a marriage license to people who meet the eligibility requirements,” Rodriguez said in an interview with the Quorum Report. “You don’t have an opinion. You do that or you resign.”

Sen. Rodriguez was the El Paso County Attorney for 17 years. He notes that state law lets citizens request the removal of elected county officials – including county clerks – who are found guilty of incompetence or misconduct. Under Texas law, the definition of misconduct includes “intentional or corrupt failure, refusal, or neglect of an officer to perform a duty imposed on the officer by law.”

Because issuing marriage licenses is a mandatory part of a county clerk’s duties, refusing to do so could result in removal from office. Sen. Rodriguez says that fact was overlooked in the non-binding opinion issued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Sunday. Paxton told county clerks they may be protected by the First Amendment if they deny a gay couple a marriage license on religious grounds, providing another clerk can fill in. But state law makes no distinction between reasons for refusal to perform mandatory duties.

By Emily DePrang

June 30, 2015      5:11 PM

Two Harris County Texas House candidates announce healthy fundraising

Early on, both Oliverson and Roberts appear to be prohibitive via their fundraising prowess

Two Republicans running for the Texas House seats being vacated by Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, and Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, said on Tuesday that they’ve raised some serious cash.

Dr. Tom Oliverson, who’s running for Fletcher’s seat, said he’s brought in $120,000 ahead of the campaign finance report filing deadline with $215,000 cash on hand.

June 30, 2015      4:59 PM

Press Releases: Appointments, fundraising, and an agency gone rogue (by complying with a court order)

June 30, 2015      4:52 PM

Patrick makes his choices for panel to oversee deteriorating government facilities

"I am appointing each one of these hard working Senators to keep a watchful eye on our efforts to reverse this trend…”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Tuesday appointed the Texas Senate's members to the Joint Oversight Committee on Government Facilities – two Republicans and a Democrat.

Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, will be the Senate chair on the issue that he made one of his top priorities during his last regular session of The Legislature.

Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, and Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, will also serve on the committee.

By Scott Braddock

June 30, 2015      4:42 PM

Senators are chosen for Select Committee on Transportation Planning

Nichols, Hall, Hinojosa, Huffman, and Perry

June 30, 2015      2:15 PM

Supremes EPA decision: For a deeper dive into the decision, check Texas Energy Report

Polly Ross Hughes looks at impact of decision in context of proposed EPA Clean Power Plan

June 29, 2015      4:52 PM

Supremes send EPA back to the drawing board on clean coal regulations

Challenge to Waters of the US rule appears to be bobbing on the horizon

Gov. Greg Abbott must feel a certain satisfaction in the U.S. Supreme Court dressing down the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to perform a cost-benefit analysis on its proposed regulation of coal-powered plant emissions.

Of all the Obama Administration agencies Abbott targeted in his time as attorney general, the EPA was his favorite. He has sued the agency multiple times in his 12 years as attorney general over what he called regulation overreach. He emerged as a skeptic of climate change during his campaign, although he admitted the state should protect the environment. And, for good measure, Abbott as governor met went to Capitol Hill in May to express his unhappiness over the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Abbott’s response today on the opinion, however, was measured, saying that the Supreme Court had rightly upheld the argument that the EPA had violated the law when it imposed a multi-billion-dollar regulation on power plants without considering cost.

By Kimberly Reeves

June 29, 2015      4:51 PM

Press Releases: More SCOTUS reactions, more on marriage licenses, and Nelson Mandela's birthday

June 29, 2015      4:19 PM

Comptroller Glenn Hegar endorses Rep. Bryan Hughes for Texas Senate

Hughes leads in endorsements of statewide officeholders in the race for the seat being vacated by Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler.

June 29, 2015      3:16 PM

Department of Justice is asked to monitor Texas implementation of gay marriage ruling

Meantime, a lesbian couple in East Texas is already suing the Smith County Clerk for denial of a marriage license

Calling for intervention “if necessary,” Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, on Monday asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch for the Department of Justice to monitor Texas’s implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.

Sen. Ellis’ request comes one day after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding opinion telling county clerks that they can refuse to issue marriage licenses to couples if that issuance conflicts with their religious beliefs and another clerk is available to do it for them.

In his letter to Lynch, Sen. Ellis writes that he has “serious concerns about the far-reaching implications of this blanket protection” for state officials who defy the law. He asks if judges could use Paxton’s argument to refuse to grant or recognize divorce “if it offends their religious sensibilities,” or refuse to issue a death penalty “under his or her belief that ‘thou shalt not kill’ means just that. Where does it end?”

By Emily DePrang

June 29, 2015      3:01 PM

Supreme Court temporarily blocks regulations that would have shuttered Texas abortion clinics

This suggests the high court will for sure take up abortion next term

The latest from NBC News.   

June 29, 2015      2:16 PM

New Rick Perry Animation: Economic Freedom

Perry campaign pushes his record on jobs in animated short

June 29, 2015      1:23 PM

Rep. Anchia renews push for gender neutral birth certificates in adoptions

Legislation on this failed in the session, but gay marriage ruling provides a new context

Citing the fact that the State Registrar of Vital Statistics moved without hesitation last week to make applications for marriage licenses in Texas gender neutral, Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, on Monday asked that office to similarly change the supplemental birth certificates for children adopted by same-gender parents.

It’s been a long-running cause for Anchia, who has filed legislation to change those supplemental birth certificates for the past four sessions. His arguments have mainly fallen on deaf ears in the Texas House.

“It is important to these children, as well as their parents, that their birth certificates accurately reflect their families,” Anchia said. “This change is both pro-adoption and pro-family."

By Scott Braddock

June 28, 2015      5:33 PM

Paxton tells county clerks and judges they can flout Supreme Court decision on gay marriage

The AG warns, however, that those who deny marriage licenses to same sex couples will likely face litigation.

Here is the opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton.

June 26, 2015      5:25 PM

Stakeholders await a move beyond the anti-Obamacare rhetoric in Texas

Lawmakers have met more than once to discuss the expansion of health insurance coverage. So, why isn’t the state, in the wake of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings on Obamacare, closer to its own solution?

As Republicans on Capitol Hill and elsewhere pledge to continue to fight to repeal the Affordable Care Act, doctors here in Texas are asking when state leaders intend to tackle the idea of the Texas solution to affordable health care.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation unveiled a Texas solution to the state’s Medicaid program, known as TexHealth, as early as 2011. Lawmakers have met more than once to discuss the expansion of health insurance coverage in what was known as the Texas solution.

So why isn’t the state, in the wake of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings on Obamacare, closer to its own solution?  

That’s the question the Texas Medical Association is still asking. Cardiologist Tomas Garcia, the president of TMA, said doctors stand ready to support a solution – any solution – to address medical care in Texas.

By Kimberly Reeves

June 26, 2015      5:10 PM

Gay marriage in Texas not mainstream, but closer than ever

Polls say 57 percent of Americans support gay marriage; 48 percent of Texans do

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state gay marriage bans like the one we had in Texas, it created a smorgasbord of interesting legal questions for Attorney General Ken Paxton. What current Texas laws are also threatened or invalidated? Will state benefits extend to gay spouses? How will adoption, custody issues, and the issuance of birth certificates change? Can a religious hospital deny visitation to a legal spouse for being gay? Will state employees who refuse to recognize gay spouses in the course of their duties be punished?

But instead of focusing on legal and logistical state issues, Paxton used the long and passionate statement issued by his office this morning to assure everyday Texans that he would protect them from the coming pro-gay—or anti-anti-gay—siege.

Paxton said progressives and the media have used gay rights issues to “publicly mock, deride, and intimidate devout individuals for daring to believe differently than they do.” But whatever the law, “Nothing will change our collective resolve that all Americans should be able to exercise their faith in their daily lives without infringement and harassment,” Paxton said.

Governor Greg Abbott also stressed in his statement this morning that a Texan could not be compelled by the Supreme Court ruling “to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage,” which sounded more than a little bit like some Texans are afraid they’ll be forced into gay marriages.  

By Emily DePrang

June 26, 2015      5:06 PM

Press Releases: SCOTUS reactions, annoucements, celebrating CPAs and more

June 26, 2015      4:27 PM

Keffer on retirement: It was just time and not because of any electoral threat

"I think hot seats in hell are reserved for people who knowingly mislead people for their own gain," Keffer said of groups like Empower Texans

Retiring Texas House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, pulled no punches this week during a live radio interview when he was asked about the just-released Empower Texans rankings of legislators funded by Midland oilman Tim Dunn. Keffer also said his planned exit from politics is not because of any fear that he might not be able to win reelection if that’s the path he had chosen to pursue.

“It’s all a sham,” Keffer said of the Empower Texans rankings while he was on West Texas Drive radio show in Lubbock.

“There’s no way to get around it,” Keffer said, adding that the group directed by Dunn’s spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan favors those who opposed Speaker Joe Straus, plain and simple. "Everybody else is obviously going to be down in failing grades and poor grades," he said.

By Scott Braddock

June 26, 2015      4:05 PM

Rep. Doug Miller announces for reelection

"This was truly a banner session for conservatives," said Miller.

Here is the announcement from Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels.

June 26, 2015      3:48 PM

Smith: Here is Days of "Miracle and Wonder"?

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that recent progressive victories on health care reform, marriage equality and the Confederate flag should not fool us into thinking that Injustice doesn't remain at large in America

The Rev. William Barber, president of North Carolina’s NAACP and organizer of the Moral Mondays movement, had this to say about the tragedy in South Carolina and the removal of Confederate flags from Southern government buildings: “The perpetrator has been arrested but the killer is still at large.”  

Barber was referring to the deeply ingrained institutional racism, private bigotry and government-enforced economic inequality that remain across the land. While we applaud the recognition that racist symbols such as the Confederate flag have no place in America, much remains to be done to erase the root injustices.  

A day after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, the Court held bans on gay marriage to be unconstitutional. Like Paul Simon sang in different circumstances, “these are the days of miracles and wonder.” 

The complete column by Glenn W. Smith can be found in the R&D Department.

By Glenn W. Smith

June 26, 2015      3:31 PM

On gay marriage, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick "would rather be on the wrong side of history"

"I would rather be on the wrong side of history than on the wrong side of my faith and my beliefs. I believe I am not alone in that view in this country."

Here is the full statement from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s office on today's gay marriage ruling.

June 26, 2015      12:40 PM

Texas Republican leaders react angrily to same-sex marriage ruling while counties take varied approaches to implementation

Abbott attacks the court itself: “The Supreme Court has abandoned its role as an impartial judicial arbiter and has become an unelected nine-member legislature.”

On the 12th anniversary of the Lawrence v. Texas decision striking down state laws against sodomy, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday morning that marriage is a right and that extending it only to heterosexual couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. The ruling was immediately met with predictable partisan division while many county officials across Texas started to figure out how they will proceed.

The decision came down 5-4 with the four dissenting justices – Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia – each writing their own dissents.

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, said same-sex marriage is a fundamental right based on “four principles and traditions,” those being able to choose one’s spouse is an inherent part of individual liberty; a two-person union is unlike any other; marriage protects children and families; and that it’s the cornerstone of the social order. It is worth noting that three of those four tenets were components of the state’s defense of its ban on gay marriage.

One popular argument, however, got no traction: biology. Because no state has made procreation or the ability to procreate a requirement to get married, Kennedy wrote, the court rejected the biological argument for restricting marriage to heterosexual couples.

By Emily DePrang

June 26, 2015      12:20 PM

After gay marriage ruling, Gov. Abbott instructs state agencies to prioritize religious liberty

"This order applies to any agency decision, including but not limited to granting or denying benefits, managing agency employees, entering or enforcing agency contracts, licensing and permitting decisions, or enforcing state laws and regulations."

Soon after the United States Supreme Court ruled Friday morning that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a memo to the heads of all state agencies saying that they need to prioritize Texans' religious liberty and First Amendment rights.

"Texans of all faiths must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that their religious freedom is beyond the reach of government,” he said, adding that “Renewing and reinforcing that promise is all the more important in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.”

"The government must never pressure a person to abandon or violate his or her sincerely held religious beliefs regarding a topic such as marriage,” Abbott said. "That sort of religious coercion will never be a 'compelling governmental interest,' and it will never be 'the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.'"

By Scott Braddock

June 26, 2015      10:56 AM

Full text of Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage

"They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

Here is the conclusion of the majority opinion of the United States Supreme Court:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.  As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.  It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.  Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered.”

The full document can be found here.

June 26, 2015      9:51 AM

KUT reports that Travis County will start issuing same sex marriage licenses within the hour

June 26, 2015      9:04 AM

Supremes affirm same sex marriage under equal protection doctrine

More to follow

June 25, 2015      5:26 PM

High Court strikes down state objections to disparate-impact housing claims

Indirectly rebuked the practice of Texas House members to veto the placement of subsidized housing in their local neighborhoods

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Fair Housing Act and indirectly rebuked a practice that’s given Texas House members the right to veto the placement of subsidized housing in their local neighborhoods.

Then-Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a bold appeal of a disparate-impact claims case to the nation’s top court after losing at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal was bold because circuit decisions have generally favored the idea that discrimination can be proven indirectly by outcomes.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in a 5-4 opinion, wrote that the court had upheld disparate-impact claims in other areas of the law, such as employment practices. Texas had argued that discrimination must be outright or explicit.

“Together, Griggs holds and the plurality in Smith instructs that antidiscrimination laws must be construed to encompass disparate-impact claims when their text refers to the consequences of actions and not just to the mindset of actors, and where that interpretation is consistent with statutory purpose,” Kennedy wrote. “These cases also teach that disparate-impact liability must be limited so employers and other regulated entities are able to make the practical business choices and profit-related that sustain a vibrant and dynamic-free enterprise system.”

By Kimberly Reeves

June 25, 2015      4:43 PM

Press Releases: Reactions to SCOTUS, Hutchison on Wallace Hall, changes at the RRC, and more

June 25, 2015      3:06 PM

Rep. Scott Turner tells Quorum Report he is not running for Congress

Amid rumors to the contrary, Rep. Turner says it is not true that he's running for the seat currently held by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano.

June 25, 2015      1:24 PM

Former speaker candidate Rep. Scott Turner will not seek re-election

"As the Word says, there is a time and a season for everything. Today, I am announcing my plans not to seek reelection to the Texas House. In this new season for my family and me, I look forward to impacting our community, state, and nation through exciting opportunities in business, community service, ministry, and whatever path the Lord directs."

June 25, 2015      9:19 AM

In a 6 to 3 decision, Supreme Court upholds nationwide health insurance subsidies under Obamacare

More than 832,000 Texans will be able to keep receiving tax credits to purchase health insurance through the federal exchange

Here is the news flash from the New York Times.

June 24, 2015      5:00 PM

After 20 years working together, Blakemore and Hotze split up

All on good terms, it seems; Hotze and Blakemore wish each other the best; Jeff Yates to direct the Conservative Republicans of Texas

The political action committee funded by firebrand social conservative and top gay marriage foe Dr. Steve Hotze will no longer be run by veteran Houston GOP strategist Allen Blakemore, it was announced on Wednesday.

The Conservative Republicans of Texas PAC will now be under the direction of Jeff Yates, who served as Executive Director of the Harris County Republican Party for about six years. More recently, Yates has been the president of his own political consulting firm, The Yates Company.

“For the past 19 years, Allen Blakemore has directed the growth and the rise in influence of CRT as the pre-eminent Republican PAC in Texas,” Hotze said. “The impact of what he has helped CRT achieve will continue to be felt for years to come. Allen Blakemore has been a trusted friend and ally.  My prayer is for his continued success in all his future endeavors.”

By Scott Braddock

June 24, 2015      4:59 PM

Press Releases: The Lt. Guv slams a magazine article (seriously), endorsements, announcements, and more

June 24, 2015      3:44 PM

Rep. Dan Huberty to seek reelection in 2016

"As a small business owner, I know the needs of this community and my constituents and I am hopeful they will vote to send me back to Austin to continue fighting for them," Huberty said.

Here’s the full announcement from Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Humble.