October 24, 2014      5:04 PM

Press releases: Endorsements, castigations and more Cruz

October 24, 2014      12:06 PM

Stanford: We reached Peak Gohmert

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues, among other things, that the Ebola scare has helped produce an epidemic of fear and ignorance

I wasn’t in favor of shutting off travel to Ebola countries until Rwanda and Tanzania started screening travelers from Texas. You never know what kind of crazy viruses could spread. The last thing developing nations need is an epidemic of Yee Haw conservatism from the likes of Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert.

People have gone a little nuts in Texas over Ebola, even though more people have played quarterback for the Washington Redskins this year than have died from Ebola in the United States. Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas refused to admit a Nigerian student over Ebola worries even though there is no Ebola in Nigeria, which is more than Texas could say. If this is an epidemic, it’s one of fear, and it presents as an aggressive strain of stupidity.

And when it comes to dumb in Texas, Louie Gohmert is Patient Zero.

The Texas congressman sounded the alarm that “undocumented Democrats”—AKA, Central American refugees—were bringing Ebola across the border. His reasoning is that President Obama wants all these refugees to come, so a bunch of terrorists are going to sneak in with them, and they had Ebola. Because Obama.

“And, gee, since they’re coming across our border, and you know, they don’t get checked, and most of them don’t get really thoroughly checked, they could be coming in with disease that we simply do not need,” Gohmert said. “It’s silly not to be more careful.”

Well, he’s not completely wrong about it being silly.

Jason Stanford’s complete column can be found by clicking on the R&D Department.

By Jason Stanford

October 23, 2014      5:45 PM

Straus says the business of the House won’t be limited by report cards

In speech to TTARA, Speaker talks about economic incentives and takes a broader view of fiscal discipline

To a standing ovation at the Sheraton near the Texas Capitol, House Speaker Joe Straus spoke briefly on Thursday about the need to take a comprehensive look at reforming the state’s controversial economic incentive programs and he took a not-so-subtle swipe at some of his loudest critics.

Straus told members of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, or TTARA, that they’re one of the groups that’s consistent without being ideological and he appreciates their respect for the process and The Legislature itself. The group is so even-handed, he joked, that it “doesn't really have any place in Texas politics.”

"I've been speaker in good economic times and not-so-good economic times,' Straus said, adding that the unpredictable nature of economic conditions is precisely why lawmakers must take a strategic and conservative approach to how taxpayer dollars are allocated. While Straus remains confident that the private sector here will continue to roar for quite some time, it would naive at best and irresponsible at worst to assume the state’s explosive growth will never slow down. Planning for that requires, among other things, “setting priorities that encourage private sector activity over the long term," Straus said.

Straus said even though the heat of the campaign season may have completely dominated much of the conversation surrounding the Legislature as of late, members of the House have been rolling up their sleeves and getting a lot of work done during the interim. He mentioned the fact that just this month, 21 hearings have already been held by various committees examining everything from the budget to workforce needs of employers and protection of children.

By Scott Braddock

October 23, 2014      4:42 PM

Press Releases Endorsements, appointments, campaign advertisements, medical marijuana and more

October 23, 2014      3:38 PM

TEC Chairman invites conservative Senate nominees to testify about dark money

Seeks to clear up any confusion about the commission’s proposed rule on disclosure

The chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission is inviting conservative Texas Senate nominees to testify before the commission in relation to their assertion that the agency is potentially going to overstep its authority when it comes to disclosure of donors to certain groups that engage in political activity.

A group of Republican nominees for the Texas Senate led by Bob Hall earlier this month said they believe the commission’s proposed rule on dark money groups seeks to overturn Governor Perry’s veto of a dark money bill last session. In a letter signed by Hall, Konni Burton, Paul Bettencourt, and others, the group argued that the “legislative process played itself out” on a bill that would have required nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code to publicly disclose contributors who give more than $1,000 to any dark money group makes more than $25,000 in political expenditures.

Here’s their letter.

In a letter dated Wednesday and obtained by Quorum Report on Thursday, TEC Chairman Jim Clancy said he and other commissioners are in no way trying to overrule the legislative process. "The Commission has limited enforcement and rule making authority,” Clancy wrote and added that the commission can merely enforce the laws “as written and must use common sense.”

October 22, 2014      5:45 PM

Republican Rep. Sheets faces tough reelection bid in blue Dallas County

Sheets isn’t taking anything for granted; Democrats see an opening in marginally GOP district

In our effort at Buzz Central to give you some perspective on the very few truly competitive Texas House races, we thought now would be a good time to take you to Dallas County. Voters in one of the areas of Texas now difficult for Republicans have, of course, the potential to come out big for Sen. Wendy Davis in her bid for governor, complicating things for Republicans running in down ballot races like Rep. Kenneth Sheets.

His district, HD 107, takes in parts of Dallas – the upscale “M Streets” part of town – along with parts of Garland and Mesquite. It was carried by Mitt Romney in 2012 with 52 percent and Democrats think they see an opening to pick off that seat with attorney Carol Donovan. She was endorsed by the Dallas Morning News over Sheets and has a number of grassroots groups working on her behalf. Battleground Texas is among them.

In their endorsement, the DMN Editorial Board said they believe Donovan "would advocate more assertively on education funding than her Republican opponent, Rep. Kenneth Sheets. She would be a more consistent supporter of local control for municipal gas drilling and payday-loan operations.” The endorsement reads like it was a close call for the paper. They also gave credit to Sheets, saying he’s become “less ideology-focused in his two terms in office and displayed more effective lawmaking.”

There are some in Dallas who told us that the district is “Republican enough” that the DMN endorsement of his opponent actually helps Sheets, who has had some trouble shoring up support in the base of his party.

And that’s where things get really interesting.

By Scott Braddock

October 22, 2014      3:13 PM

Next hearing for Gov. Perry pushed back and will not be on Halloween

Scheduling conflicts postponed the hearing; Judge Bert Richardson is now slated to hear arguments on dismissing Perry's felony indictment on Nov 6.

October 22, 2014      9:42 AM

New Davis TV ad: Our Kids

Again slams Abbott for defending more than $5 billion in cuts to public education; "How much learning will your child do in a classroom crammed with 36 kids?"

October 22, 2014      9:34 AM

Faircloth hits back at Criss in new TV ad: Criss Crisis

After Democratic Galveston House candidate Susan Criss said in an ad that Republican Wayne Faircloth profited from Hurricane Ike, Faircloth says the same about her

October 21, 2014      5:23 PM

Barfield pleads guilty to embezzling nearly $2 million from Dewhurst campaign

Former trusted aide to Lite Guv could face three decades in prison

Appearing before a federal judge who will later sentence him, former David Dewhurst adviser Kenneth "Buddy" Barfield on Tuesday pleaded guilty to embezzling about $1.8 million from Dewhurst's 2012 campaign for United States Senate.

Barfield could be sentenced to as many as 28 years in prison and forced to pay millions in fines and restitution. He declined to comment after Tuesday’s court hearing. He is free on bond for now. The sentencing date has not been set.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said Barfield admitted to knowingly engaging in a scheme to steal campaign funds and use it for his own personal expenses including his home mortgage, school tuition for his children, personal investments and other living expenses.  Among other ways he was making off with cash, Barfield submitted inflated invoices to himself so that he could authorize payments to his companies.

October 21, 2014      5:22 PM

Press Releases: Early voting, endorsements, campaign attacks aplenty, and more

October 21, 2014      4:17 PM

Bearse: Trick-or-Treat

From the right--Last minute campaign antics and shenanigans sometime amuse and infuriate

It’s trick or treat season for campaign politics. Lots of tricks, few treats. I am reminded of this every time I drive by a campaign sign. In my first campaign in 1994, over-zealous supporters of our opponent didn’t steal our signs or lay them on the ground, they just cut a big hole in them with a box-cutter. They just stood there as a shameless monument to misdemeanor shenanigans.

I don’t blame Martin Frost or Matt Angle for this high crime. Sixteen years later, our campaign had nothing to do with black-toothing one of our opponent’s teeth on her sign. Stuff happens. Her teeth were too perfect anyway.

Psychological ops are in full force. By now, more than one campaign has dropped a racy flier at four or five houses that happen to be in their opponent’s neighborhood. They want the candidate to think it went district wide.

The rest of Eric Bearse's column can be found in today's R&D Column.

By Eric Bearse

October 21, 2014      3:54 PM

Juvenile justice system faces a new host of challenges following merger of agencies

Some numbers are down but needs are up to ensure long-term success

The new head of the state’s merged juvenile justice agency gave a weak grade to last session’s merger of the Texas Juvenile Probation System and the Texas Youth Commission into the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.  

Referrals to the state’s youth facilities are down by 47 percent since 2009. Of the 69,000 juveniles who entered the state’s criminal justice system last year, only 844 ended up in the state’s various permanent facilities. At the same time, TJJD now has oversight of 167 county-run criminal justice programs.

Executive Director David Reilly, appointed to the permanent job as agency head in late summer, said on Monday that he could give the merger no more than a “C.” Some merger elements, like sharing resources between parole and probation, were pluses. But challenges lingered, such as cutting employee turnover and improving the continuum of services to youngsters who enter the criminal justice system.

“It’s passing. It’s passing for sure, I’d say,” Reilly told Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee with oversight of criminal justice. “It’s average. We’ve done some things well. Some other things we haven’t. We continue identifying those things we need to integrate, but that’s going to take a little more time.”

By Kimberly Reeves

October 21, 2014      10:16 AM

Houston GOP House campaign worker accused of swinging box cutter at Democratic staffer

Accusation of Republican Texas House candidate being a “communist sympathizer” leads to a melee in Alief

Here at Buzz Central in Austin, we’ve been hearing rumblings out of Southeast Texas for a few weeks that race for the Texas House seat held by Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston, is getting nasty. The challenge from Republican Al Hoang, a former Houston councilman, is the first time people in the district have a choice between two Vietnamese candidates.  

Now, we get this news via KTRK Television:  

“A fight over a campaign display outside an early voting location led to one arrest. Representatives from both Hubert Vo and Al Hoang's campaign were at the Alief Library early voting location off 7979 S Kirkwood Road. Police say someone in Vo's camp then put up a banner accusing Hoang of being a communist sympathizer.

Police say someone in Hoang's campaign then pulled out a box cutter and started cutting up the banner. That man, identified as Peter Vo, 58, is accused of then swinging the box cutter at a Vo representative who tried to stop him. Peter Vo now faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.”

October 21, 2014      10:07 AM

New Patrick ad focuses on education

"Liberal Leticia" supported Common Core

October 21, 2014      9:46 AM

New Van de Putte TV ad: A Matter of Trust

Paints Republican nominee Dan Patrick as two-faced; "Even Republicans describe him as untrustworthy."

October 20, 2014      6:21 PM

Some Arlington Republican leaders support Democratic Texas House candidate Cole Ballweg

Longtime Republicans say their party’s nominee Tony Tinderholt is “an extremist”

Note: This story has been updated with response from the Tinderholt campaign – SB

After weeks of this kind of talk simmering in North Texas, some local Republican leaders in Arlington came out publicly and said they now support the Democrat running to replace Rep. Diane Patrick. One of those leaders includes Patrick’s husband, Ned Patrick.

He and Republican Arlington City Councilmen Charlie Parker and Jimmy Bennett signed a letter of support for Democrat Cole Ballweg over Tea Party Republican Tony Tinderholt. Also signing the letter was former Arlington ISD Superintendent Mac Bernd. The letter surfaced over the weekend.

“We are supporting Cole Ballweg for Texas House District 94.  Although we are all longtime Republicans, we don’t care about his party affiliation,” the group wrote.  “He is a good man and a successful local business owner who cares about Arlington and is not driven by radical ideology.”

But they did not stop at their support for the Democrat. They also slammed their party's nominee.

October 20, 2014      6:21 PM

Press Releases: Endorsements, campaign attacks, GOTV efforts, and more

October 20, 2014      5:58 PM

SBOE grills publishers over social studies textbooks

Three firms emerge in fight for assessment contract

The State Board of Education on Monday raised questions about the content of a controversial round of social studies textbooks.  

Secondary math, too, is on the list for Proclamation 2015, but it’s the specifics of history textbooks, and often US History, that took center stage. At the same time, the agency scheduled an initial bidders conference across the hall for a four-year assessment contract, which could top $400 million.  

Initial letters of interest in the assessment contract were due to the Texas Education Agency on Friday. The agency would not disclose who had filed the documentation, calling it part of the bid process, but the initial bidders meeting held some clues. The agency would offer no confirmation, but consortia appear to have emerged led by three major testing companies:  McGraw Hill, the non-profit Educational Testing Service and Pearson.

Only a handful of testing companies are large enough to handle the Texas testing contract, which Pearson has held since standardized testing was implemented in the mid-90s. The amount of the assessment contract, half of what is spent on textbooks each biennium, will be one of the few competitive contracts remaining for bid once the majority of states move to Common Core and its common assessments.

By Kimberly Reeves

October 20, 2014      5:18 PM

Notes from the campaign trail – Interracial marriage edition

Controversy erupts once again when Abbott is in a setting where follow-up questions are allowed

The campaign of Sen. Wendy Davis stayed on the attack Monday, making a new argument against Attorney General Greg Abbott and once again generating some national and even international headlines. Davis’ campaign seized on the fact that when the Republican AG met with the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board, he refused to answer a question about whether he would defend a law banning interracial marriage.

Here’s what Peggy Fikac of the Express-News wrote in her column about it:

“Right now, if there was a ban on interracial marriage, that’s already been ruled unconstitutional,” Abbott pointed out. “And all I can do is deal with the issues that are before me … The job of an attorney general is to represent and defend in court the laws of their client, which is the state Legislature, unless and until a court strikes it down.”

When I said I wasn’t clear if he was saying he would have defended a ban on interracial marriage, he said, “Actually, the reason why you’re uncertain about it is because I didn’t answer the question. And I can’t go back and answer some hypothetical question like that.”

By Scott Braddock

October 20, 2014      5:08 PM

Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy PAC runs ad against fracking ban measure

"Drilling has brought millions in natural gas revenue to Denton..."

October 20, 2014      2:56 PM

New Libby Willis TV ad hits Burton on "extreme agenda"

The Democrat takes aim at Republican Konni Burton on equal pay, abortion, and gun restrictions; Willis camp says ad is on network and cable TV now

October 20, 2014      9:49 AM

Poll shows Susan Criss with commanding lead in Galveston Texas House race

Previous polls had shown the race was either candidate’s to win; many observers still believe the race to be a tossup with early voting getting underway

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the lead enjoyed by Criss reflected in the poll – SB

The Democrat running to succeed State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, has a double-digit lead over her Republican opponent, according to a new poll obtained by Quorum Report.

Former State District Judge Susan Criss leads Republican businessman Wayne Faircloth 51 to 39 percent with 9 percent undecided in the poll of 400 likely voters that was conducted over two days starting October 6.

"Criss currently leads Republican Wayne Faircloth by 12 points. Further, Criss has increased her 'strong' support with 44% of voters saying they support her strongly, in May this number was 31%," the pollsters wrote. "That is compared to just 32% who say they now support Faircloth strongly. In other words, Criss has broader and more intense support than Faircloth and it will take a great deal of effort to dislodge her from this lead."

October 20, 2014      9:24 AM

Susan Criss TV ad: Faircloth Out for Himself

Democrat running for Texas House in Gavleston says her Republican opponent Wayne Faircloth got rich on the backs of Hurricane Ike victims

October 18, 2014      4:33 AM

The AP reports the SCOTUS will allow Texas to enforce Voter ID for this election

"The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax..."

Per the AP story:

“WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is allowing Texas to use its controversial new voter identification law for the November election. A majority of the nation's highest court on Saturday rejected an emergency request from the Justice Department and civil rights groups to prohibit the state from requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast ballots.

The Supreme Court's order was unsigned, but three justices dissented.

The law was struck down by a federal judge last week, but a federal appeals court had put that ruling on hold. Early voting in Texas begins Monday. The judge found that roughly 600,000 voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away at the polls because they lack acceptable identification.”

Here is the dissenting opinion, in which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes "the greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters."