April 1, 2015      6:56 PM

Press Releases: Women's leadership, contracting reform, budget amendments, Wallace hall reactions, and some legislative virgins pass their first bills.

April 1, 2015      4:51 PM

SBOE Vice Chair weighs in on ethics bill that seems to target him and a few others

“This section of the bill runs afoul of the First amendment of the United States Constitution by infringing on a person’s right to free speech and a right to seek redress from the government by discriminating against a person who wishes to run for offices based on what they do for a living.”

Responding to some of the things said about him in a Texas Senate hearing this week on a bill that includes a proposed prohibition on lobbyists seeking office, State Board of Education Vice Chairman Thomas Ratliff said the efforts by Sen. Van Taylor seem misguided.

Taylor, R-Plano, said during this week’s hearing on his Senate Bill 19 that “elected officials in Texas should not be lobbyists.” He called it a “simple idea” that “rolls off the tongue easily.”

By Scott Braddock

April 1, 2015      3:29 PM

Texas House passes supplemental budget on third reading

Very little debate; there were no votes against it

April 1, 2015      10:26 AM

CORRECTION: Looking for outlines on ...House School finance solution story we posted yesterday was incorrect

The runs we posted and the subsequent analysis were not representative of the Aycock plan. We inadvertently received the runs that represent the appropriations in House Bill 1.

We have pulled yesterday's story titled "Looking for outlines on the real shape of House school finance solution". We inadvertently obtained the wrong runs. The story was based on runs representative of HB1 and not the Aycock plan.

April 1, 2015      5:39 AM

Texas House passes HB 1 on second reading on a vote of 141-5

No blood spilled in House budget debate as Tea Party angst was mostly contained

Following a debate that lasted into the early morning hours and produced way more yawns than controversy, the Texas House on Wednesday passed its version of the state budget on a vote of 141-5 on second reading.   

Democrats lost battles during the 17 hour debate to move money from the Texas Department of Public Safety to other programs and one Tea Party lawmaker, Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, was swatted down when he tried to end the state’s feral hog abatement program. Only 7 members joined with him to vote against tabling his amendment.

After midnight, there were arguments ranging from the merits of the horse racing industry to the ethics of embryonic stem cell research. “Ahh, yes, the budget,” sniped one veteran observer.

The debate on the $210 billion House version of the two-year spending plan could have blown up in spectacular fashion after Stickland promised “It’ll be a bloody day on the House floor.”

But, it wasn’t meant to be. Many of the amendments that could have caused the hottest fights – including proposals on women’s health, vouchers, and in-state tuition for undocumented college students – were withdrawn before they could be debated.

March 31, 2015      8:43 PM

New GOP Chairman weighs in with House members on voucher budget vote

Unlike predecessor, Mechler invokes Party platform in advice to members on budget vote

The ink is barely dry on the vote count by the State Republican Executive Committee appointing Tom Mechler as the new Republican Chair.  Nevertheless, in an email to Republican House members today, Mechler is invoking the Party Platform in asking members to vote against an anti-voucher amendment shortly to be proposed by Abel Herrero of Robstown.

The email from Mechler says:

By Harvey Kronberg

March 31, 2015      8:36 PM

Minjarez and Herrera appear headed to a runoff in HD 124 Special Election

With four precincts left to report: Minjarez 43%, Herrera, 28%, Alonzo 23%, Rosa 5%

March 31, 2015      8:16 PM

Special Election in HD 124 update: Minjarez 41%, Herrera 30%, Alonzo 24%, Rosa 5%

That's with 15 of 46 precincts reporting

March 31, 2015      7:46 PM

Darby announces TML and TXOGA have reached agreement on urban drilling legislation

TML and TXOGA agree "to support or be neutral on the committee substitute to House Bill 40 provided no amendments are supported by either party unless mutually agreed to."

Here is the letter signed by TML, TXOGA, and Rep. Drew Darby.

March 31, 2015      7:05 PM

Early vote in HD 124 Special Election: Minjarez 42%, Herrera 30%, Alonzo 22%, Rosa 6%

March 31, 2015      4:45 PM

House swats Democratic amendment to settle school finance case

Chief budget writer is carrying key amendment to possibly end school finance litigation

As the marathon debate on the budget opened Tuesday afternoon, the Texas House put to rest the Democrats’ claim the Attorney General’s Office should go ahead and settle the state’s school finance lawsuit.

Democrat Wendy Davis, who carried the support of most education groups during the governor’s race, said her opponent Attorney General Greg Abbott should have settled the school finance lawsuit after a ruling by District Judge John Dietz. Davis said more than once that Abbott was “defending the indefensible.”

an account

March 31, 2015      2:09 PM

Senate Finance passes Hancock bills to limit spending to population and inflation growth

Eltife joins with Democrats in voting "no."

March 31, 2015      12:03 PM

Grand jury report recommends that Wallace Hall be removed from office

“…it is in the best interest of the State of Texas to remove Regent Hall from office.”

Note: The full report from the grand jury is available at the end of this story – SB

The Travis County grand jury that no-billed University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall on Tuesday took the extra step of issuing recommendations about what could improve the situation following Hall’s “abusive” and actions.

Chief among their suggestions: Remove Hall from office.

“Based on the information we reviewed, we are appalled at the Regent's unaccountable and abusive behavior,” the panel wrote, later saying that "we, as citizens, feel it is in the best interest of the State of Texas to remove Regent Hall from office.”

March 31, 2015      11:32 AM

Flynn and Alvarado say grand jury decision reaffirms why committee investigated Hall

“The grand jury report that came out this morning demonstrates why our committee needed to investigate Regent Hall and his behavior.”

Following the news that a Travis County grand jury declined to indict UT System Regent Wallace Hall but called his actions “abusive,” Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Vam, and Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston – the Co-Chairs of the committee that investigated Hall – issued this statement:

“The grand jury report that came out this morning demonstrates why our committee needed to investigate Regent Hall and his behavior. Taxpayers expect their elected representatives to provide oversight of state agencies and executive appointees.

Such oversight is especially important when appointees abuse their office. With this investigation now complete and with an outstanding new chancellor and strong new regents in place, we are optimistic that the UT System is ready to move forward and focus on the needs of its students and our state.”

March 31, 2015      9:08 AM

Statesman: Wallace Hall is not indicted but grand jury sharply criticizes him

"We are appalled at the Regent’s unaccountable and abusive behavior"

Here is the story from the Austin American Statesman.

March 30, 2015      6:22 PM

21CT fires back after Hamilton report; company says it was ignored by strike force

“It is disturbing the Strike Force interviewed ‘a segment of the vendor community’, yet ignored the vendor whose contract is in question.”

After a special task force appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday said the no-bid contract awarded by the Health and Human Services Commission to an Austin tech firm was “fiasco” that "skirted the limits" of the law, the company at the center of the controversy said it took “great exception” to what was said about it.

The company also contended that it tried to assist in the strike force’s investigation headed up by former Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton but was ignored.  

21CT takes great exception to the report’s unsupported claim that the agency has nothing to show for its investment when in fact our work resulted in identification of hundreds of millions of dollars in suspicious Medicaid payments,” said the firm’s spokesman Mike Rosen. “We believe this conclusion represents a deep misunderstanding of the substance, expectation and purpose of the contract.”

March 30, 2015      5:16 PM

Senate passes school accountability change on a party line vote

Veteran Democrats express skepticism over impact of campus letter grades

Senate Public Education Chairman Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, on Monday mustered a party line vote, 20-10, to replace current campus rating labels with a standard letter grade system.

Supporters see letter grades as a more accurate, and galvanizing, record of campus performance. Opponents, like Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, see the grading system to be one more effort to stigmatize, rather than support, campuses that are burdened with the challenge of children who come from high-poverty backgrounds.

“This is a solution in search of a problem,” West said.

Taylor disagreed.

A letter grade system informs parents of both existing problems and potential improvement, Taylor told his colleagues on the floor. A rating of “C” or a “B+” tells a parent the school is doing okay, but it could be doing better.

Under Senate Bill 6, Taylor’s letter grades would correspond to the long-time labels of Exemplary (A), Recognized (B), Acceptable (C) and Academically Unacceptable (D and F). In tandem with Senate Bill 1200, Taylor would shift control from the governor-appointed commissioner to a committee constituted by lawmakers.

March 30, 2015      4:39 PM

Watson asks Patrick not to bring up bill to move the PIU while Sen. Lucio is absent

“I am requesting that you not recognize SB 10 or any other bills that you know or believe would not be subject to the suspension if Senator Lucio were here.” At least two Republicans are not on board with the proposal, Watson says.

The leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus on Monday asked that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick not take advantage of the planned absence of a Democratic senator as Republicans try to move the state’s corruption watchdog out of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.

In a letter to Patrick, Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said there are not 19 votes in the Senate to bring up the bill by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, that would put the Public Integrity Unit in the Office of the Attorney General then send cases back to the home counties of public officials who are accused of crimes.

The bill, SB 10, has come under fire from Democrats and others who argue it would set up a separate system of justice for elected officials when they are accused of abuse of office. It passed out of committee along party lines.

Of course, the Senate’s rules say that three-fifths of senators who are present must agree to suspend the regular order of business.

March 30, 2015      4:38 PM

More than 350 amendments filed prior to House budget debate

Amendments cover everything from border security training to the House’s attempt to fix school finance in the regular session

Lawmakers in the Texas House have filed more than 350 amendments to the lower chamber's version of the budget ahead of Tuesday's marathon debate on HB 1. The amendments were required to be turned in over the weekend.

They range from the nuts and bolts of the House’s plan to try to fix school finance to red meat Tea Party proposals like denying funding for undocumented immigrants who attend public universities. Democrats will try to do things like beef up the Ethics Commission’s resources and prevent school vouchers.

The full packet of amendments can be found at the end of this story. Here are some of the highlights:

By Scott Braddock

March 30, 2015      4:10 PM

House Energy Resources passes urban drilling bill

Compromise with TML moves forward

The House Energy Resources Committee just passed HB 40, as expected, with a provision recognizing existing city ordinances in place five years or longer as "commercially reasonable" if oil and gas activities have continued under the local rules.

The substitute bill, the result of negotiations with the Texas Municipal League, also now states that municipal ordinances can determine reasonable setbacks, wording that was left out of the original version of the bill by the committee chairman, Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo.

The bill passed with 10 ayes, one nay from Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and one present not voting from Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston.

Full coverage of this story is available in Texas Energy Report.

By Polly Ross Hughes

March 30, 2015      2:10 PM

Janek says he is examining strike force report on HHSC; gives no indication he's thinking of resigning

In a letter to Abbott and Patrick, Janek says "My goal is to make HHSC a model for good government and ethical leadership."

Here is the letter from HHSC Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

March 30, 2015      12:19 PM

Updated: Health and Human Services should not be consolidated; Janek’s future remains unclear

Report from “strike force” says Janek was often insulated from important issues and “not well-served” by immediate staff; Abbott calls the report "deeply troubling"

Note: This story has been updated throughout, including a link to the full report – SB

Saying that the multiple Health and Human Services agencies in Texas will be better able to recruit needed leadership as separate agencies, a “strike force” appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday recommended that those agencies not be consolidated.

The strike force was led by Billy Hamilton, a former deputy comptroller and now the executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer of the Texas A&M University System, to look into HHSC management after it came to light that a $20 million contract for an Austin tech company was going to balloon to more than $100 million and wasn't awarded through a competitive bidding process.

That firm, 21CT, also had no experience doing the job for which it was hired: Rooting out Medicaid fraud.

Of HHSC Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek, the report said he was "not always well-served" by his immediate staff and in fact was "insulated from many issues.”

March 30, 2015      11:42 AM

Reports: Health and Human Services should not be consolidated, Hamilton task force says

Report from “strike force” says Janek was often insulated from important issues and “not well-served” by immediate staff

Saying that the multiple Health and Human Services agencies in Texas will be better able to recruit needed leadership as separate agencies, a “Strike Force” appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday recommended that those agencies not be consolidated.

That’s according to reports in the Statesman and the Texas Tribune this morning.

The strike force was led by Billy Hamilton, a former deputy comptroller and now the executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer of the Texas A&M University System, to look into HHSC management after it came to light that a $20 million contract for an Austin tech company was going to balloon to more than $100 million and wasn't awarded through a competitive bidding process.

That firm, 21CT, also had no experience doing the job for which it was hired: Rooting out Medicaid fraud.

Of HHSC Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek, the report said he was "not always well-served" by his immediate staff and in fact was "insulated from many issues.”
Gov. Abbott has said he would not make a decision about Janek’s future until this report was released. Abbott is expected to make a statement today.

"This report is very thorough, and I respect its findings,” said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. “These are exactly the reasons why we decided to slow down the re-organization. The problems identified in this report are symptomatic of a broken system that needs to be re-structured. We cannot keep the enterprise as it is today, and I look forward to working with the governor and others to address these issues on a manageable timeline."

March 27, 2015      4:58 PM

Press Releases: UT Austin President finalist, state employee pay, honorary pages, and more

March 27, 2015      4:53 PM

TMF camp responds to Strother R&D piece about the Menendez vs Martinez Fischer race

“…there is only one real way to settle this dispute and that may take a little time.”

Editor’s note: Following Thursday’s publication of an R&D Department piece written by Colin Strother, a strategist from the Jose Menendez Campaign, the campaign of Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer wished to respond. Below is the response, in full, submitted by strategist Roger GarzaSB

"This is the exact sort of thing I would expect a consultant to write when they are trying to hide the fact that TLR and Republican operatives delivered the SD-26 election for Jose Menendez. The truth is, there's no response to fiction especially desperate and defensive fiction— Strother doesn’t rely on any scientific data and not even simple math.

Nor does he use any real numbers like the nearly $700,000 spent by TLR or 6,307 Hard Rs who voted for Jose.  I guess there is only one real way to settle this dispute and that may take a little time. 

But until then don't take my word for it, just look at the tweets of Republican political consultants like Jordan Berry. While Team TMF has no love for Jordan, we respect that he owns up to his work unlike Strother who once again takes credit for the hard work of others. He’s shameless.”

March 27, 2015      4:34 PM

Smith: There Are Consequences

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that it's hard to take the promises of voucher backers seriously when they are willing to condemn these children to unnecessary sickness and death by refusing Medicaid expansion.

How is it that the GOP, the party of so-called personal responsibility, can so completely ignore the moral, economic and environmental consequences of its policies? Hidebound ideology is the answer, of course. When you believe in a righteous path, the belief sticks even as it leads you to the cliff’s edge. “That’s not a cliff. It’s the border of the Promised Land.” Right.

The GOP’s denial of consequences is so profound that South Florida is talking about seceding from Florida because Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration refuses to acknowledge global warming and rising seawaters that are already threatening Miami and environs. Scott’s administration even prohibited use of the terms “global warming” and “climate crisis” by anyone at any level in his administration.

Or take Medicaid expansion. As millions go uninsured, sicken and die unnecessarily, the GOP conveniently avoids talk of these consequences. Instead we hear a lot of ideological baloney about how everything will be peaches and cream once we eliminate government at all levels and leave the future to Tim Dunn, Michael Quinn Sullivan and the Koch Brothers, who of course only have our best interests at heart.

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

By Glenn W. Smith

March 26, 2015      7:09 PM

Voucher debate gets underway in Senate Education

Bills were left pending; some fiery exchanges and head-scratching moments ensued

The Senate Education Committee on Thursday took up a trio of school voucher bills in a marathon committee hearing that lasted nearly 10 hours, included some fiery exchanges and produced some head-scratching moments as well. None of the bills up for debate were voted on in committee.

The bills, which appeared to be headed toward some single vehicle for $100 million in tuition tax credits for business contributions would be modeled after an existing program in Florida: The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, created in 2010, is approaching $450 million for the 2015-16 school year.

Perhaps the political genius of such a proposal is that it can claim to use no public tax dollars while giving low and moderate-income families a $6,000 per child tax credit to be potentially supplemented by scholarships. The state can claim a credit because that leaves $2,000 a child behind for the state or school district.

Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, was by far the Republican who offered the most criticism of any of the bills. Seliger asked Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, if she was okay with the fact that, under her bill, it would be legal for a parent to use the money to send their children to "madrasas" where they might learn to hate America. “I am willing to allow the dollars to follow the child,” Campbell said.

No one who spoke to the panel was more direct than retired US Senator Phil Gramm, whose wife Wendy has served as chair of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Gramm spoke nostalgically of his mother scraping together the dollars to send his brother to Catholic school and then on to a college education. He also said he’s no expert on these issues but cares deeply about them.

By Kimberly Reeves

March 26, 2015      5:54 PM

Ethics Commission dismisses Texas Right to Life complaint against Deuell

Right to Life is “just trying to harass me at this point," the former senator tells Quorum Report

The Texas Ethics Commission has swiftly dismissed a sworn complaint filed by Texas Right to Life against former Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville. This comes as the group pursues a lawsuit against Deuell in Houston stemming from last year’s bitter GOP primary runoff in which he narrowly lost to Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood.

Deuell told Quorum Report that the ethics complaint has no merit, neither does the lawsuit, and “they’re just trying to harass me at this point.”

“We did everything by the book,” Deuell said.

The complaint filed by Jim Graham, executive director of one of the state’s three major pro-life organizations, says Deuell "failed to properly report political contributions from a specific-purpose political action committee (Friends of Bob Deuell) that were made on his behalf for legal bills incurred in defending Deuell in civil action filed against him in his individual capacity."

The civil lawsuit to which Graham was referring was filed against Deuell by Texas Right to Life after Deuell’s attorneys successfully convinced radio stations in Dallas/Fort Worth to pull down “slanderous” attack ads that aired during the GOP primary runoff.

By Scott Braddock

March 26, 2015      5:53 PM

Springer proposes making Texas vodka and grapefruit juice the mixed drink of the session

The QR team suggests adding a slice of grapefruit from The Valley – we hope that amendment is acceptable to the author

Here is the resolution.

March 26, 2015      5:26 PM

Press Releases: Banning texting-while-driving, tax cut praise, school funding, and much more

March 26, 2015      4:36 PM

Strother: The San Antonio Civil War of 2015

Colin Strother, a strategist on the Jose Menendez for Senate campaign, pulls the curtain back on how they were able to pull off what many in the Capitol community saw as a huge upset over Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer.

Editor’s note: Quorum Report has previously reported on the analysis offered by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer about the tough race in which he was defeated by Sen. Jose Menendez. We now offer the other side of the argument for your consideration – SB

I've been on more than a few underdog campaigns.

In 2004 I engineered the defeat of then-Congressman Ciro Rodriguez in the Democratic Primary and defended the seat two years later. To say we beat the establishment is an understatement. Trial lawyers, environmentalists, labor, and party officials (including the state party chair) marshaled all of their resources against us to no avail.

The special election and runoff to replace former Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in 2015 looked the same on paper: A largely ineffective yet beloved partisan in Trey Martinez Fischer challenged by Jose Menendez, a commonsense problem solver with relationships across the aisle and an unparalleled work ethic.

The San Antonio Civil War of 2015, as I’ll call it, wasn't exactly brother against brother (although media consultant James Aldrete was with Trey while his brother Eddie Aldrete was with Jose), but it pitted neighbor against neighbor and friend against friend. Although I was Jose's first Chief of Staff I am also friends with Trey.

Since the 19-point win we laid on the favorite I haven't had many questions about why or how we did it. Instead, it’s mainly been met with astonishment. After all, Trey was supposed to be the roughest, toughest, rootinist, tootinist, guy West of the Brazos.

Wrong.

The complete column from Colin Strother can be found in the R&D Department.

By Colin Strother

March 26, 2015      12:13 PM

All amendments to HB 1 are due by this Saturday at noon, Otto says

Amendments to supplemental budget, HB 2, are due by Sunday at 10am

March 26, 2015      9:48 AM

In Texas Energy Report: Keffer predicts ‘good product soon’ for HB 40, urban drilling bill

Natural Resources Chair also lists ‘waterless fracking’ as goal

Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, said Thursday morning he sees a “very good opportunity” that agreement will be reached between the oil and gas industry, cities and mineral owners on how to regulate urban drilling.

“I think we have a very good opportunity. It’s a delicate balance between industry, mineral owners and cities. It is something that is in progress. It is something that I have seen in cooperation between all sides of this issue,” said Keffer, a co-author of HB 40 by House Energy Resources Committee Chairman Drew Darby, R-San Angelo.

“We’ll have a very good product here soon to show how we can continue to work together to address our economy. The Railroad Commission will have a good tool, a good arrow in their quiver,” Keffer added, while speaking on a panel of a Railroad Commission Texas Natural Gas Workshop hosted by Railroad Commissioner David Porter.  

The full story is in Texas Energy Report.

By Polly Ross Hughes

March 25, 2015      5:37 PM

House proposal could end school finance lawsuit with large revenue infusion

New plan shifts funds, adds $3 billion in new revenue, updates transportation

Leaders in the House intend to deconstruct the state’s school finance system in order to flow $6.4 billion or more in new revenue through per-pupil funding.

Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, who chairs the House Education Committee, did most of the talking to unveil the plan today. Aycock announced the House had intended to wait out the school finance case but reversed course, finding another $800 million to add to $2.2 billion in new funding committed in the House budget.

Aycock spoke broadly about addressing the Cost-of-Education Index and the transportation allotment, both of which are seriously outdated. Beyond that, Aycock would only say he intended to smooth the end of funding intended to hold districts harmless in light of the 2006 tax compression, known as Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction, or ASATR, and ease the pain of increasing recapture of local funds under the current school finance system.

Aycock was more forthcoming with school district leaders at the TASA/TASB legislative conference today. Aycock told school leaders, as he told reporters this morning, the proposed solution did create some winners and losers, with a whole lot to love and something for some districts to hate.

By Kimberly Reeves

March 25, 2015      5:10 PM

Press Releases: School finance reactions, tax cuts reactions, renewable energy and gay marriage temper tantrums

March 25, 2015      5:07 PM

House again passes texting-while-driving ban

102 Ayes and 40 Nays on second reading

March 25, 2015      4:57 PM

Greenfield: Where is All the Money Going?

Our number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield lays out the facts on how state dollars are being spent now

Now that we’ve taken a look at the increase in Texas state tax collections, I thought it would be helpful to follow up with an in-depth look at just how those funds are being allocated.

To briefly recap the tax collection numbers: The fiscal year-to-date (YTD, September - February) growth in total net state revenue is 7.2 percent, a rate substantially greater than the 4.6 percent increase forecasted in the most recent revenue estimate, published in January.  Total state expenditures have increased at a somewhat greater rate (7.8 percent).   

As shown in Table 1, two items, Public Assistance Payments (39.9 percent), and Public Education Payments (25.6 percent) accounted for almost 2/3rds of state expenditures.  However, while the increase in Public Assistance Payments (PAP) was 13.6 percent, the increase in Public Education Payments was only 3.8 percent.

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

By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

March 25, 2015      4:47 PM

Enriquez and Visco: The local control debate is part of a larger, 21st Century challenge

Glasshouse Policy Founders offer an update on their first attempt at crowdsourcing a public policy solution

While the 84th Texas Legislature engages in the necessary but sometimes dizzying challenge of distinguishing good local control from bad local control, Glasshouse Policy – Texas’ first crowdsourced think tank – is injecting into the discussion a report related to local control of fire codes.

And, the implications of Glasshouse Policy’s new report are broader than they first appear.

Using the power of 21st Century communication technology, 53 of the Texas House of Representatives’ 150 districts were represented during online discussions related to fire prevention. And, an equally diverse group of stakeholders participated in our in-person roundtable process, where the fire prevention ideas and policy solutions made by our online participants were translated in actionable public policy. 

The complete column from Francisco Enriquez and Thomas Visco is in the R&D Department.

By Francisco Enriquez and Thomas Visco

March 25, 2015      3:37 PM

Texas Senate gives final passage to $4.6 billion tax cut package

Sen. Huffines gets rolled in his attempt to phase out the franchise tax

Following a bit of drama in which a small group of senators who some are calling the “Liberty Caucus” made an unsuccessful attempt to phase out the franchise tax, the Texas Senate on Wednesday gave final passage to legislation to cut property and business taxes.

SB 1 and SJR 1 – the property tax cuts – and SB 7 and SB 8 – the franchise tax proposals – were all passed pretty painlessly except for the first big defeat of a freshman Republican senator who tried to make a play to phase out the franchise tax completely.  

When debating SB 7, which would reduce franchise taxes 15 percent across the board, Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, got rolled when he tried to offer an amendment to Finance Committee Chair Sen. Jane Nelson’s bill that would have phased out the tax. Nelson had already made it clear earlier in the day that she was going to resist all attempts to amend her tax-cutting proposals.

By Scott Braddock

March 25, 2015      12:51 PM

Senate passes SJR 1, including constitutional ban on taxing real estate sales, to engrossment

March 25, 2015      12:36 PM

Senate passes SB 1 on a vote of 26 - 5

The no votes were Ellis, Eltife, Whitmire, Zaffirini and Rodriguez.

March 25, 2015      12:22 PM

Finance Chair Nelson says she does not plan to accept any amendments on SB 1

As tax cut debate gets underway on the floor, Sen. Jane Nelson was asked if she would accept amendments to cap local property taxes; she said she will resist all amendments.

March 25, 2015      11:46 AM

Updated: Public Ed Chairman says House will likely tackle school finance during regular session

Chairman Aycock said House lawmakers won’t wait for the courts on school finance: "Do you try to do what's right for children in the state of Texas or do you try to outguess the lawyers?”

Saying that funding of public schools is "foundational" and a "core responsibility" of state government, Texas House Public Education Committee Chairman Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, on Wednesday said lawmakers in the lower chamber are making a significant course correction: They will probably work to fix the school finance system during this regular session.

Aycock and Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, said they’re ready to add $800 million to the $2.2 billion that House budget writers have already added to public education funding, bringing the total to $3 billion.

"To change the system that is pretty badly flawed will require some great courage,” Aycock said during a press conference in which he was flanked by Republicans and Democrats alike. He noted the complexity of the school finance system and the great pressure to work out a solution that treats all school districts as fairly as possible. “It won't be possible to fix it all," Aycock said, but “we'll get as close as we can get."

The announcement of this goal is a development that might have been unheard of last week or even the day before it was made.

By Scott Braddock

March 25, 2015      10:17 AM

Aycock: The Texas House will likely attempt to fix school finance during the regular session

"To change the system that is pretty badly flawed will require some great courage." He says the House likely won't wait for the courts. Public Education Chairman is laying out big picture ideas at this hour ...more details coming soon.