May 25, 2016      5:28 PM

HK: School finance decision takes arrows out of school reformers quiver

No “must pass” education bill this session takes pressure off House on issues like vouchers

The recent declaration by the Texas Supreme Court that the system of school finance in Texas met constitutional muster was met with sighs of relief from appropriators and consternation and dismay from the public education community.

Particularly concerning to public school advocates was the thoroughness with which the court seemed to close the door on any future remedies as the system continues its unwieldly spiral.

But as one astute friend recently pointed out, there is always a story underneath the story and this one is no different.

By Harvey Kronberg

May 25, 2016      5:21 PM

Lawmakers still dissatisfied with lengthy delays around utility relocations

Lack of coordination between TxDOT and utilities presents conundrum – only so many resources can be brought to bear on specialized infrastructure

The Texas Department of Transportation has made some effort to address the extensive utility relocation delays that have plagued recent road projects, but not enough to satisfy Chair Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, and the House Transportation Committee.

Utility relocations were front and center during an interim hearing last August, a hearing that noted TxDOT spent almost $30 million due to right-of-way relocation delays. This morning, Randy Hopmann, director of TxDOT Operations, told the committee the agency had issued guidance, encouraged regular utility relocation meetings and urged district engineers to forgo letting construction contracts until right-of-issues are cleared.

“We’ve come to a general understanding with our utilities that the taxpayers of Texas are both our customers,” Hopmann told the committee. “With that common ground in place, I think we can work better together to achieve the overall goal, and we believe we will able to save money on the back end.”

By Kimberly Reeves

May 25, 2016      4:59 PM

Press Releases: Best primary for Parent PAC ever, toilet lawsuit, smart schools, and more

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May 25, 2016      4:54 PM

Empower Texans candidates falter in North Texas

Veterinarian Lynn Stucky defeats Read King while Justin Holland ahead by 99 votes at this point

FORT WORTH – If third time’s a charm, Empower Texans’ coalition may have lucked out – to an extent – in Tuesday’s run-offs across the state.

But in North Texas? 

Not so much.

Incumbent Reps. Wayne Smith of Baytown and Doug Miller of New Braunfels fell to challengers Briscoe Cain of Deer Park and Kyle Biedermann of Fredericksburg.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick likely strengthened his hand by actively working to help Rep. Bryan Hughes defeat Rep. David Simpson. Meantime, Dr. Dawn Buckingham claimed clear victory over Rep. Susan King of Abilene.

Two open Texas House races in deeply conservative areas of the region had markedly different outcomes.

By James Russell

May 25, 2016      3:43 PM

Next-Gen commission grapples with revamping Texas tests, accountability

Specifics aren’t emerging, but group agrees the burden of the accountability system ought to rest more fully on teachers rather than students

Recommendations out of the Next-Generation Assessment and Accountability Commission are due to the legislature in September. Today’s meeting was intended to pin down what content should be evaluated, which standards should be measured, how to make the reports understandable to teachers and parents, and how the outcomes should be used.

Specifics for the group’s recommendations are hard to come by. As the group started its post-lunch discussion session, ideas being discussed included using real-world targets for students, using already established assessments tied to student career goals. The group also supported the use of a portfolio of work, and a system that encouraged all teachers, and not just those in the four tested subject areas, to be committed to improvement.

Superintendent Kim Alexander of Roscoe Independent School District told the group it was his hope the commission would adopt the work of the TASA Visioning Institute, which has met for almost a decade to discuss the future of accountability. A number of school districts across the state, including Clear Creek and Northwest, currently are piloting accountability models.

By Kimberly Reeves

May 24, 2016      9:53 PM

RRC: Christian leads Gates 51-49

76% of precincts reporting statewide now

May 24, 2016      8:29 PM

Rep. Ron Reynolds lead his challenger 60% to 40%

May 24, 2016      8:28 PM

SBOE District 9: Ellis leads Bruner 55% to 45%

May 24, 2016      8:22 PM

CCA: Keel leads Wheless 51% to 48%; Walker leads Webster 57% to 42%

May 24, 2016      8:03 PM

Kyle Biedermann leads Doug Miller 55% to 45%

May 24, 2016      7:52 PM

RRC: Gary Gates leads Wayne Christian with 55%

May 24, 2016      7:50 PM

Wayne Smith narrowly leads Briscoe Cain with 50.79%

May 24, 2016      7:48 PM

HD 54: Cosper leads with 51%

May 24, 2016      7:41 PM

HD 18: Bailes leads with 65%

May 24, 2016      7:40 PM

Gary Gates leading Wayne Christian in RRC race handily in urban counties

May 24, 2016      7:39 PM

HD 33: Holland leads Keating with 52%

May 24, 2016      7:36 PM

In HD 64, Stucky leads Read King with 68%

May 24, 2016      7:35 PM

SD1: Hughes leads Simpson with 71%

May 24, 2016      7:29 PM

Buckingham leads King in early vote with 65%

May 24, 2016      5:28 PM

HK: Friend heads off to the farm rather than the Farm Bureau

We don’t often note the retirement of lobbyists, even our longtime friends….but this one comes with a story.

Maybe a dozen years ago as Quorum Report was breaking out as THE online real time source for Texas political news, yours truly was always running at least 70 mph, especially as we approached that arbitrary daily target of getting the blast out by 5.

And so it was that I skimmed a press release too quickly.  It was referring to long time KL Gates lobbyist Larry McGinnis working on a project for the Texas Farm Bureau.   Instead, I reported that McGinnis was going to work FOR the Farm Bureau.

By Harvey Kronberg

May 24, 2016      5:27 PM

Press Releases: Gun violence and voter ID

May 23, 2016      5:51 PM

RPT Chair Mechler: Problematic when God is used to slander candidates

“There’s a problem when Scripture becomes a marketing tool”

Via Jay Leeson in Lubbock:

Republican Party of Texas Chairman Tom Mechler isn’t happy about what he had to endure in his recent election– and he’s apparently concerned his recent experience could become more the rule than the exception in Texas politics.

“There’s a problem when Scripture becomes a marketing tool” to get elected, said Mechler, a devout Christian, in an interview on Lubbock’s AM 580 West Texas Drive.

The full audio can be found here on the Make West Texas Great Again website.

May 23, 2016      5:50 PM

Press Releases: Respecting student rights, last-minute endorsements, and a shot of sanctuary cities

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May 20, 2016      5:51 PM

Water board to review five-year water forecasts for energy needs

EDF suggests that evolving energy trends, climate change need consideration

The Texas Water Development Board has sent estimates of water usage for the state’s energy industry in its 5-year plan out for additional review, but environmentalists say the ultimate solution for accuracy in 5-year water plans would be to incorporate climate change.

Three key environmental groups – Environmental Defense Fund, Texas Center for Policy Studies and Sierra Club – called the estimates in the plan for the steam-electric water users group overly dated and possibly up to 40 percent too high. Director Matt Nelson, who presented the plan to the full TWDB yesterday, acknowledged the concerns and said outside consultants would be returning a draft proposal with new estimates in the near future.

The 2017 water plan has its own interactive website that can be broken out by region.

May 19, 2016      6:29 PM

Despite prominent position with TMA, Buckingham uses TMA-backed bill to blast King as pro-Obamacare

The 2013 bill would have allowed the Republican HHSC Commissioner to negotiate with Washington; Buckingham was on TMA’s Council on Legislation at the time

In the particularly nasty GOP Texas Senate runoff for the seat being vacated by Sen. Troy Fraser, one thing seemed to be agreed to by both sides: The powerful Texas Medical Association – and to a large extent health care issues – would not be included in lines of attack.

That’s because one candidate, Rep. Susan King, is married to a past president of the group and the other, Dr. Dawn Buckingham, is a doctor and prominent member. With election day drawing near, it would seem that unspoken agreement is now broken.

Buckingham’s campaign is now blasting Rep. King for supporting a bill in 2013 that would have allowed then-HHSC Commissioner Kyle Janek to negotiate with the feds to try to come up with an alternative to the sweeping health care reform passed under President Obama.

There was no comment about this from the Texas Medical Association on Thursday. The group has endorsed both candidates in this race.

By Scott Braddock

May 19, 2016      4:57 PM

Dedicated fund bills trim $1.1 billion from potential budget expenditures

Chairman Otto tells Appropriations members that it’ll be much tougher in some sessions that others to stay on this path

Efforts to redirect dedicated revenue remains one of the most effect measures to curtail budget growth, budget chair Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, told the House Appropriations Committee this week.

House Bills 6 and 7, passed along with the budget bill in 2013, took $1.1 billion in general revenue out of the equation for calculating budget limits. This was an effort primarily of the House, urged by Speaker Rep. Joe Staus, R-San Antonio, and carried by lawmakers Otto and Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, to make the budget process more transparent.

“This is the best thing the legislature has done, to remove these GR funds funds from being counted as available revenue,” Otto told his colleagues. “I hope the legislature continues on this path. I realize in some sessions it’s going to be tougher than others.”

May 19, 2016      4:34 PM

Press Releases: Last minute endorsements, Zika, faith-based collaboration, and much more

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May 18, 2016      5:52 PM

SB: In video case, Empower Texans hands a weapon to Democrats this fall

Tim Dunn’s organization began flogging GOP incumbents with legislative videos just as time runs out in runoffs; Democrats now have months to find embarrassing videos of Republican incumbents in swing districts

The sound of laughter after Empower Texans’ candidate Briscoe Cain’s court victory this week very well may have been coming from Democratic consultants in Austin. They will no doubt now have their interns combing through hours of legislative videos looking for anything embarrassing they might be able to show to voters about potentially vulnerable Republican incumbents: Appearing to be asleep during long committee meetings, asking questions that can be portrayed as uninformed, etc.

Attorneys for Cain, the Empower Texans’ backed challenger to Rep. Wayne Smith, convinced a judge in Harris County to block the Texas Ethics Commission from enforcing a two decades-old law that says archived video and audio from the livestream of The Legislature cannot be used in political advertising. It carries a $5,000 fine.

A full trial on the merits of the case is slated for December, which of course means the prohibition on using that kind of video in political ads will still be lifted as the general election plays out.

Cue Democratic challengers rubbing their hands together.

By Scott Braddock

May 18, 2016      5:50 PM

Press Releases: Trump's Tweeter Laureate, Zika virus update, and more

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May 18, 2016      5:46 PM

Greenfield: The Texas GOP should send President Obama a Christmas Card

QR’s resident number cruncher says because of the greater than expected decline in state tax collections, we should expect that the ending balance for the state will be markedly less than the $4.1 billion estimated ending certification balance for FY17

We are now 8 months into FY16 and total tax collections have decreased by an amount ($1.9 billion) almost equal to the estimated decline ($2.0 billion) in the Certified Revenue Estimate (CRE) released in October 2015.  Counter to the CRE, total state revenue is increasing at a rate (5.2 percent) substantially greater than the 1.2 percent decline in the CRE.  This result is due to the increase in non-tax revenue ($5.4 billion) being 10 times the estimate in the CRE.

Figure 1 shows that the decline in YTD growth in tax collections (-6.0 percent) is 57.9 percent greater than the estimated rate (-3.8 percent). The YTD growth rate in total state non-tax revenue (14.7 percent), is almost 15 times greater than the Comptroller’s estimated non-tax growth rate of 1.0 percent.  This has resulted in total state revenue increasing by 5.2 percent compared to the 1.8 percent decline in the CRE.

Table 1 shows state tax collections through April, eight months through FY16, have decreased by $1.6 billion or 6.0 percent, a rate of decline last experienced in FY10 when tax collections declined by 6.5 percent. What accounts for this substantial decrease in state tax collections? As shown in Table 1, the growth rate in every tax, except the motor fuels, franchise, insurance, and cigarette taxes, is increasing at a rate less than forecasted in the CRE. 

The complete column by Dr. Stuart Greenfield is in the R&D Department.

By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

May 18, 2016      1:46 PM

Justice Willett included in list of top Supreme Court picks unveiled by Trump

Trump said the list "is representative of the kind of constitutional principles I value"

The story from the Associated Press is here.