February 12, 2016      5:17 PM

Rulemaking exposes limits to Abbott's pre-k grants

“For districts that are struggling to provide a quality program…the cost to implement the standards specified by the proposed rules will be much greater than the grant amount…”

A small pot of money, well spent, could have an impact on pre-kindergarten in Texas but early childhood advocates still have doubts about House Bill 4.

One reason is that the $130 million in Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature education program still doesn’t restore the full funding of pre-kindergarten before the budget cuts of 2011. But, beyond that, advocates also think the transitory nature and limited scope of the funding may not be enough to encourage participation.

The Texas Education Agency has posted rules to implement the grant program, with comments closing on March 7. In a subsequent blog post, Chandra Villaneuva of the Center for Public Policy Priorities talked about the importance of full-day programs, student-teacher ratios and disciplinary policies.

Underneath those points, however, is Villaneuva’s concern that a grant of up to $1,500 per child is simply not enough to expand pre-k access. The grants may free up money for other uses, but it likely will be only existing pre-k program that apply.

By Kimberly Reeves

February 12, 2016      5:11 PM

Trump threatens to sue over Cruz citizenship

Trump says he will challenge the Canada-born senator’s eligibility in court if he doesn’t stop lying about his record and “cheating.”

Todd Gillman with the Dallas Morning News has the latest on the escalating feud.

February 12, 2016      5:10 PM

Press Releases: Standing room only for tax relief, Latinos and the GOP, and more

February 12, 2016      5:06 PM

Report: Texas police shootings injured 70, killed 29 in four months of 2015

Transparency of the information is a “good start” but there’s hope that “more detailed information can be included in the future,"

Texas law enforcement officers were involved in 70 shootings in the last four months of 2015, including 29 shootings in which someone was killed, according to a report recently released by the Texas Attorney General's Office.

Most of the shootings – 60 – involved a person who was reportedly carrying a deadly weapon, while 10 people who were shot were unarmed, the report states. Two reports were filed unnecessarily, the AG's office said – one incident took place before Sept. 1, and another involved a New Mexico agency.

The 2015 annual report is the first of its kind in Texas, required under a state law that went into effect Sept. 1. The law orders law enforcement agencies to submit a form for each officer-involved shooting, and stipulates that the AG's office must compile a report from the forms each year on Feb. 1.

Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, filed the legislation so that information on officer-involved shootings would be readily available to the public for review. Texas Police Chief's Association Executive Director James McLaughlin, a retired police chief and the association's general counsel, said the purpose of the law was "to see where we are and what's going on."

By Eva Ruth Moravec

February 12, 2016      5:04 PM

House committee open to four-year degrees at community colleges as affordable alternative

“Our students get those degrees, they go into the workforce, but they’re looking for the next step.”

Members of the House Higher Education Committee have offered fairly solid support to the idea that community colleges could offer more four-year degrees.

Turf battles can often be acrimonious in higher education, especially when it comes to ceding territory to a competitor. The recent fracas over the University of Texas’ entry into Houston is proof of that. But as community colleges extend their associate’s programs, and the pressure continues to increase on affordability, the issue of adding four-year college programs is growing.

Commissioner Raymund Paredes told the higher education committee he came into the state skeptical that baccalaureate degrees were necessary at community colleges. Today, he’s more open to the idea, especially if it means the state will create more affordable four-year degree plans.

By Kimberly Reeves

February 12, 2016      9:24 AM

Video: Byron Cook TV ad blasts Thomas McNutt over illegal immigration

"Illegal immigrants. That's what Texans call them. Thomas McNutt calls them employees..."

February 11, 2016      4:58 PM

Battle heats up in race for Texas House seat held by Rep. Dan Flynn

Wallace Hall and Sen. Bob Hall seek to undermine the incumbent; questions arise about the challenger’s resume

Texas House Pensions Committee Chairman Dan Flynn, R-Van, isn’t taking anything for granted as he runs for reelection against an upstart challenger who recently moved to the district and has the support of the area’s freshman state senator, Midland oilman Tim Dunn’s political network and UT Regent Wallace Hall, who has sought to inject the controversy over his fight with UT Austin into the race.

GOP primary challenger Bryan Slaton has argued, among other things, that Flynn unjustly went after Hall when he co-chaired a select committee that investigated Hall for his unprecedented demands for university records and for the way he handled confidential student information.

Flynn – the affable and very conservative chairman – enjoys the support of many local leaders, Texas Alliance for Life, Texans for Life, the NRA, former Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, and others. Deuell, it should be noted, actually carried much of Flynn’s district when he lost his reelection bid in 2014 to Sen. Bob Hall, who is backing Slaton.

“Bob Hall is still mad because I endorsed my sitting senator Bob Deuell," Flynn said. "That's what this is all about. They can't attack my record. You know how Ted Cruz says the Constitution never changes? Well, my voting record never changes.”

By Scott Braddock

February 11, 2016      4:51 PM

Press Releases: Ken Paxton disbarment?, recognitions, and endorsements

February 11, 2016      4:45 PM

Bass welcomes discussion of new options for transportation funding

It remains unclear how much of the $5 billion requested by TxDOT is specifically linked to highways

The Texas Department of Transportation’s ability to use options other than roadway expansion to address congestion relief may be constrained by the types of funding streams available to the state agency.

Sylvester Turner, fresh off his victory in the Houston mayoral race, addressed the Texas Transportation Commission last month. In his comments, Turner said Houston was growing at a pace that outstripped most regions. Portions of the Katy Freeway, expanded at a cost of $2.8 billion, already are over capacity.

In a column published in today’s Dallas Morning News, Turner said cities no longer could rely on pouring more concrete to address increasing congestion.

“This example, and many others in Houston and around the state, has clearly demonstrated that the traditional strategy of adding capacity, especially single-occupant vehicle capacity on the periphery of our urban areas, exacerbates urban congestion problems,” Turner wrote. “These types of projects are not creating the kind of vibrant, economically strong cities that we all desire.”

Turner suggested the state prioritize projects based on mobility gains; focus highway dollars in urban centers; and incorporate highway solutions that are more sensitive to the capacity of local thoroughfares. On a conference call with reporters today, TxDOT Executive Director James Bass was asked how much of the $5 billion requested by the agency was specifically linked to highway projects.

The answer to that question was not entirely clear, although Bass referred reporters back to the original Texas Transportation Institute report that outlined system needs and funding streams that added up to that projected $5 billion per year.

By Kimberly Reeves

February 11, 2016      4:10 PM

Controversial chair tries to calm fears as he takes the helm at pension review board

“The agency has no authority to make plan changes, cannot force any action by Texas retirement systems,” McGee said

Josh McGee, the governor’s controversial appointee to head the Texas Pension Review Board, certainly knows how to pack a room at the Texas Capitol.

Representatives from every major pension fund, and then some, were on hand this morning to see McGee pick up the gavel at his first meeting. This morning’s agenda would have to be described as routine, at best, even by those who follow the board very closely.

McGee, a vice president at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, is a well-known critic of defined benefit pension plans. His appointment last November sent a chill across the state’s retiree groups. But in his opening remarks, McGee stressed the Pension Review Board’s role as an advisory one to safeguard actuarial soundness.

By Kimberly Reeves

February 10, 2016      6:28 PM

American Phoenix Foundation loses bid to get judge tossed in Bresnen lawsuit

A war of words breaks out between Bresnen and the foundation’s Joe Basel tonight

The American Phoenix Foundation on Wednesday lost in its effort to have a state district court judge removed in the case of a lawsuit against the group filed by lobbyist Steve Bresnen.

Judge Stephen Ables turned down the request by the foundation to remove Judge Tim Sulak and prevent him from issuing an order allowing Bresnen to take the deposition of the foundation's custodian of records aimed at figuring out whether the group has properly kept financial records.

Bresnen has pointed to a portion of Texas law that requires a non-profit corporation with no members to make its books available to the public upon request.

During the last legislative session, Bresnen confronted Joe Basel of the foundation in the Texas House Gallery and gave him a letter asking to see the records.

At the time he was given the letter from Bresnen, Basel did not seem to take it seriously. This evening, he said his group has nothing to hide.

Bresnen is not buying that.

By Scott Braddock

February 10, 2016      6:27 PM

Coppedge: Rick Green's glass house has some skeletons in the closet

Longtime observer of Texas judicial races argues that Rick Green's gay marriage-related attacks on Paul Green open up the challenger to serious scrutiny

Rick Green is again running for the Texas Supreme Court.  He is seeking to exploit the Christian right by attacking his opponent, Justice Paul Green, over a procedural vote in a case concerning a gay divorce.

People are being led to believe that Paul Green and a conservative majority of the Texas Supreme Court are supportive of gay marriage. Of course nothing could be further from the truth.  The case he refers to was decided on a purely procedural point dealing with jurisdiction, firmly based on well-established law and was in full agreement with the Court of Appeals that had previously addressed the issue and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's opinion in Hollingsworth v. Perry.

The court never addressed the issue of gay marriage. 

The full column from John Coppedge can be found in the R&D Department.

By John Coppedge

February 10, 2016      6:11 PM

Press Releases: Endorsements, EPA outrage, and more

Click here to see the latest news in our Press Releases section.

February 10, 2016      10:17 AM

SB: The dust clears in New Hampshire

Roughly 73 percent who voted Republican went for candidates other than Cruz who are likely to stay in the race

HOLLIS, NEW HAMPSHIRE – After national pundits and many veteran observers of state politics here had completely written off his chances in the Granite State, Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday night ended up with what appeared to be a respectable third place finish in the first-in-the-nation primary.

“Your victory tonight has left the Washington Cartel utterly terrified,” Cruz said in a reception hall filled with his supporters near the Massachusetts state line. “We put Washington on the run.”

A Democratic radio talk show host who’s been following the New Hampshire primary for decades, Arnie Arnesen, and others had predicted earlier in the day that Cruz would finish no higher than fifth place. Some voters in the Concord and Manchester areas questioned why Texas journalists were even here covering Cruz.

“Nobody likes that guy,” was a common refrain.

Regardless, Cruz remains a steady alternative to mainstream Republicans who still have two governors in the race to who are viable: John Kasich and Jeb Bush. There is word today that Chris Christie is dropping out.

Donald Trump showed he can win even after losing. Anecdotally, quite a few Trump supporters here told Quorum Report that their second choice was Democrat Bernie Sanders, who soundly beat Hillary Clinton Tuesday. “I haven’t made my mind up between Bernie and Donald,” said one voter in Portsmouth as she headed to her voting location.   

Just as Sen. Marco Rubio sounded victorious when he placed third in Iowa, Sen. Cruz was triumphant during his watch party in New Hampshire.

“History repeated itself,” Cruz said. “A conservative, we were told, could not do well in the state of New Hampshire.”

Whether Cruz is doing particularly well, however, depends on how you look at the numbers.

By Scott Braddock

February 10, 2016      8:54 AM

Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson announces key leadership changes

Rick Haass will be the new COO; Joe Householder takes over communications

Here is the full release from Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson.

February 9, 2016      7:32 PM

Exit polls: Sanders wins both demographics--women and millenials

February 9, 2016      7:20 PM

No surprise-Trump and Sanders win New Hampshire

Surprise Kasich surge into second place at the moment, Bush shows signs of life, Cruz hoping to break 10%

February 9, 2016      4:47 PM

Surprise TRO stops Racing Commission vote on historical racing

Historical racing vote postponed until litigation completed; court may consider turning TRO into injunction

A state district judge in Cameron County has stopped a Texas Racing Commission vote on historical racing this morning in light of pending litigation in Austin.

The temporary restraining order was delivered as the commission was poised, once more, to vote on historical racing. The Texas Greyhound Association filed the  order in the Rio Grande Valley yesterday, claiming the removal of historical racing for the upcoming season would result in a significant loss of time and money to the industry, which has already been hit with declining revenues.

By Kimberly Reeves

February 9, 2016      4:46 PM

Press Releases: Cruz's dirty tricks, a liberal wish list, endorsements, appointments, and more

February 9, 2016      4:00 PM

Advocates say hundreds of people saved from opioid overdose since new state law went into effect

Texas does not usually take the lead on major health issues, particularly drug abuse: "This is to stop the unintended overdose, and it's really an important step."

A drug that prevents opioid overdoses has been administered to more than 315 Texans since a new law went into effect allowing people to get a prescription for the drug for someone else.

The law, Dallas Democratic Sen. Royce West's SB 1462, also enables doctors to write standing prescriptions for patients for naloxone, an opioid antagonist administered through an injection or a nasal spray.

Mark Kinzly, of the Texas Overdose Naloxone Initiative, said data he's gathered from across the state shows that most of the overdoses that were prevented by naloxone since Sept. 1 were in Austin.

Kinzly, 55, said naloxone has saved his life twice. He's been involved in public health for decades and reached out to various groups to pay for naloxone that various community groups across the state administer.

By Eva Ruth Moravec

February 8, 2016      4:06 PM

Hours before the vote, Sen. Cruz barnstorms New Hampshire

As he trails in the polls, radio airwaves are filled with pro-Cruz commercials about a return to the gold standard; voters pepper him with questions about war, immigration, and faith

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Trailing Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and even John Kasich in the polls one day ahead of this state’s first in the nation primary election, Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday rushed from event to event and electrified crowds of his diehard supporters.

Many of those supporters, by the way, rushed in from other states to help him. But Cruz’s organization here is nowhere close to the size and scope it was in Iowa leading up to his victory in the caucuses.

Pro-Cruz advertisements touting a return to the gold standard saturated commercial breaks during conservative talk radio shows – which have less influence here than in the South – and there were reports of a new, controversial mail piece from Cruz promising a “check enclosed.”

When an organizer at a Cruz rally asked how many of those in attendance were actually from New Hampshire, very few hands were raised. That organizer railed against the “establishment,” saying "they don't like him because they can't control him…he's not about the art of the deal. He's the real deal.”

“This is a room of patriots,” Cruz said to about 200 people who braved the beginnings of a winter storm to gather at an American Legion Post in Manchester. “The people of Iowa showed up …and they chose the constitution above the corruption of Washington,” Cruz said. Naturally that won big applause from the conservative crowd as did his anger about Obamacare and the “Washington Cartel.”

But there was an extra sense of urgency in Cruz’s tone on Monday.

By Scott Braddock

February 8, 2016      4:05 PM

Press releases: Cruz mailer violated Texas law?, campaign endorsements galore, new senate committee on Texas ports and more

Check out the Press Release section on the icon bar above

February 5, 2016      5:59 PM

Rick Perry endorses Massengale for Supreme Court over his appointee Lehrmann

"His legal experience and intellect will add strength to our State's highest court," Perry said.

February 5, 2016      5:22 PM

Judge denies American Phoenix Foundation effort to move Bresnen suit out of Austin

"Texas law empowers the public to ensure that the privilege of operating as a non-profit is not abused,” Bresnen said.

A state district court judge has rejected an effort by the American Phoenix Foundation to move a lawsuit against it out of Travis County. Attorney and lobbyist Steve Bresnen has filed suit against the foundation in an attempt to view its financial records.

Many political observers have questions about who is funding the foundation, which has been secretive about its donors. Quorum Report readers will recall that this is the group who clandestinely filmed lawmakers during the 2015 session in the Texas Capitol and other locations as well.

By Scott Braddock

February 5, 2016      4:54 PM

DPS Director tells Congress the Texas Legislature is aggressively pursuing border security

“…these increased efforts would not be possible without additional resources provided by Governor Abbott’s Office and the Texas Legislature," McCraw said.

Amid recent political attacks by self-proclaimed conservative groups aimed at Texas House Republicans over border security, the Director of the Department of Public Safety Steve McCraw emphatically told Congress that the state's leadership is aggressively tackling the issue.

In testimony this week before the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, McCraw sought to make it clear that the governor, the House and the Senate chose to make a critical investment in border security.

“Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature understand that securing our nation’s border with Mexico is the sovereign responsibility of the federal government, however, the federal government has failed to adequately provide the appropriate resources to secure our international border," McCraw told lawmakers in DC. "That failure has forced the State of Texas to spend millions of dollars of state money to fulfill what is a federal responsibility.”

By Scott Braddock

February 5, 2016      4:53 PM

Anti-trust law could open door to medical competition

Texas is one of only two states that has declined to put telemedicine on the books

An obscure but important U.S. Supreme Court decision last year gave telemedicine a chance to make headway in competition with Texas brick-and-mortar doctors.

The case of Teladoc v Texas Medical Board now is headed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Last month, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman agreed Teladoc had the right to sue TMB over its new telemedicine rule, which requires face-to-face interaction before any type of medical diagnosis. 

Teladoc has operated in Texas for a decade without a single complaint, said general counsel Adam Vandervoort. Texas remains one of two states – the other being Arkansas – that have declined to put telemedicine on the books.

“I respect the Texas Medical Board. It’s a very strong board. It keeps the public safe,” Vandervoort said in a phone interview. “But it’s unwilling to listen to this, or even discuss if there is a safe way of doing this.”

By Kimberly Reeves

February 5, 2016      4:38 PM

Smith: On the Right, It’s Not the Rule of Law; It’s the Rule of Pa

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that it’s a hollow defense of the indicted Planned Parenthood attackers to say they couldn’t break the law because they meant well.

Remember the howls from the Right when Rick Perry was indicted for abusing his office? The indictment, he and his supporters said, was an attack on the Constitution and contrary to the “rule of law.”

Now, fast-forward to the recent indictments in Houston against the two activists who used forged IDs to infiltrate and videotape Planned Parenthood. Their lawyers – Jared Woodfill and Terry Yates – are arguing that they couldn’t break the law because their intentions were good.

It’s like that old song by The Animals: “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good/Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”

The complete column from Glenn W. Smith is in the R&D Department.

By Glenn W. Smith

February 5, 2016      4:37 PM

Press Releases: ACA works, endorsements, appointments, and classrooms to careers

February 5, 2016      11:55 AM

Ethics Complaints filed against Joe Basel and others in connection with Ann Kitchen recall effort

Fred Lewis calls out Basel: “If you’re big enough to do it you’re big enough to tell us who’s funding it”; Basel says he’s not worried

The Ethics Commission on Friday received sworn complaints against Joe Basel - yes, the same Joe Basel who runs the American Phoenix Foundation – and two other people alleging Texas law has been broken in an attempt to oust an Austin City Council member.

Via the Austin Monitor:

While the city clerk still has not received a promised petition seeking the recall of Council Member Ann Kitchen, the Texas Ethics Commission has received four complaints filed against the group behind the alleged effort.

Austin attorney Fred Lewis filed the four complaints on Friday morning. They name Austin4All PAC, Rachel Kania, Tori Moreland, and Joe Basel as respective respondents.

By Scott Braddock