April 25, 2017      5:48 PM

Title insurance companies and commercial real estate interests clash in House committee

TLTA argues there may be a cost shift from commercial real estate to homeowners; Doug Deason, who’s supported by Omni hotel owner Bob Rowling on this, argues “When companies can’t compete in the open market, consumers end up paying too much.”

Texas House Insurance Vice Chairman Sergio Munoz’s title insurance bill took up most of the morning in the committee, pitting members of the business community against each other on whether his proposal would help or hurt the industry. 

House Bill 4239 permits title insurance companies to file within a “flexible rate band” set by the Commissioner of Insurance, differing from the current system.

“In other words, unlike today where the title insurers must charge the same rate, they will be able to compete for business by charging less or if they are inclined and can provide justification, charge more than the state set rate,” Munoz said while laying out his bill.

By Eleanor Dearman

April 25, 2017      5:46 PM

Press Releases: FGM, RRC transparency, school lunch shaming, annexation reform, and more

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April 25, 2017      5:37 PM

Doctors descend on the Capitol to oppose making vaccination opt-outs easier

Bill opposed by medical groups; supported by parental rights, “anti-vaxx” groups

To the dismay of the medical community and the delight of Alex Jones fans, the House Public Health Committee held a hearing today on a bill aimed at making it a whole lot easier for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children.

House Bill 1124 by Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, would strip the current requirement that parents file an affidavit to obtain a vaccine exemption.

Parents would simply be able to print a blank vaccine exemption form on school district or the Department of State Health Services websites and fill it out.

By James Russell

April 25, 2017      11:17 AM

After moving Buffett bill, Senate B&C votes to approve another automotive fix

Chairman Hancock says, “We need to be consistent”; adds that these bills are “clarifications” of the law governing the tiered system in a changing marketplace

After moving with lightning speed to vote out the so-called "Buffett bill" – a carve out for billionaire investor Warren Buffett's automotive interests in Texas – the Senate Business and Commerce Committee on Tuesday also voted to approve a fix for a smaller company that did not have its CEO ushered directly into the offices of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

“My argument is we need to be consistent,” said Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, Chairman of the powerful committee.

By Scott Braddock

April 24, 2017      6:31 PM

Budget conferees are upbeat at their first meeting, now they get down to work

Despite talk that “We’re Team Texas!” the two chambers remain bitterly at odds over the method of finance

Chair Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, put an upbeat note on conference committee negotiations as the two chambers met for the first time on Senate Bill 1.

“We’re not Team House or Team Senate,” Nelson said, paraphrasing earlier comments of her co-chair Rep. John Zerwas, Richmond. “We’re Team Texas.”

Nelson, who opened the meeting, was intentionally conciliatory in her assessment of the chances of a conference committee agreement.

By Kimberly Reeves

April 24, 2017      6:26 PM

Title insurance showdown set for Tuesday in House and Senate committees

Commercial real estate magnate Bob Rowling pushes changes; TLTA argues “The system is simply not broken, but I think it will be if this bill passes”

Changes to the way title insurance is regulated are up in Senate and House committees Tuesday, where lawmakers will hear bills related to reforms that have business interests at odds.

The bills at hand are House Bill 4239 by Vice-Chairman Sergio Munoz, which is being heard in the Insurance Committee, and Senate Bill 2203 by Chairman Kelly Hancock in the Business and Commerce Committee.

By Eleanor Dearman

April 24, 2017      6:24 PM

Former Rep. Gary Thompson passed away

Died after a brief illness; he was 80

More in the Abilene Reporter-News can be found here.

April 24, 2017      6:22 PM

Press Releases: Nursing home crisis, people on the move, sanctuary cities, and more

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April 24, 2017      2:51 PM

Updated: Texas House fails to adopt calendar rule for SB 4

2/3rds were needed to adopt the rule for pre-filed amendments; vote was 90 to 52.

April 21, 2017      6:08 PM

Updated: Judge says Basel will spend weekends in jail unless American Phoenix founder releases financials

Judge says Basel has showed “no good faith effort” to comply with court order to release financials; Basel’s wife, Hannah Giles, asks Bresnen “Do you just want the donor?”

An increasingly frustrated state district court judge in Austin on Friday told the American Phoenix Foundation’s founder Joe Basel that he will soon begin spending every weekend in jail until he produces the group’s financial information. The foundation, QR readers will recall, is the group that clandestinely filmed lawmakers and others at the Texas Capitol and other locations around Austin during the 2015 session.  

“I don’t want you to go to jail. I want you to comply with the court’s order,” Judge Karin Crump told Basel, pretty much repeating exactly what she had told him three weeks ago.

Basel is in violation of a court order to release the financials of the foundation after he was sued by attorney and veteran lobbyist Steve Bresnen, who has argued that under longstanding Texas law, a nonprofit with no members is required to release its financials if asked by a member of the public.

A judge agreed and ordered Basel to release the information, but he continues to argue that his donors will be harassed if he complies.

During a break in the court action, Basel’s wife Hannah Giles asked Bresnen whether he would drop the suit.

By Scott Braddock

April 21, 2017      6:07 PM

Travis County DA opens investigation into fraudulent pro-school voucher letters

Rep. Gina Hinojosa has received confirmation from DA's office that they have opened the case

April 21, 2017      6:06 PM

No surprise: Paxton sides with Texas Senate in budget standoff

Speaker’s office says “None of this changes the fact the Senate is attempting to spend the same dollars twice.”

You can read Paxton’s version of the events here.

April 21, 2017      6:03 PM

Press Releases: More school finance reaction, redistricting, and more

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April 21, 2017      5:39 PM

Everyone claims victory in the culture war around evolution

Face saving all around in a new version of science standards

The State Board of Education offered up a last-minute revision to a controversial science standard that appeared to give both sides in the evolution debate the ability to save face.

Today was third reading in streamlining the science standards. For much of the discussion earlier in the week, the debate was whether to replace the word “evaluate” in a standard related to the study of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. This the closest the high school biology curriculum comes to the discussion of evolution the validity of evolution.

By Kimberly Reeves

April 21, 2017      2:29 PM

Pivotal partisan gerrymander case heads to Supreme Court

Lower court -- Wisconsin Dems win popular vote, but won a third few legislative seats

From the New York Times story: "A bipartisan group of voting rights advocates says the lower house of the Wisconsin Legislature, the State Assembly, was gerrymandered by its Republican majority before the 2012 election — so artfully, in fact, that Democrats won a third fewer Assembly seats than Republicans despite prevailing in the popular vote. In November, in a 2-to-1 ruling, a panel of federal judges agreed."

April 21, 2017      2:28 PM

Smith: Donner Party or City Upon a Hill?

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the vision of America of today’s dominant GOP leadership has more in common with the doomed Donner Party than with a “Shining City Upon a Hill.”

In 1984, then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo gave the keynote address at the Democratic Convention. Cuomo spoke of Americans’ shared vision of the nation as “a shining city upon a hill.” It’s a favorite metaphor of our politicians, from John Winthrop in the 1600s to John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan in the 20th Century.

Cuomo, however, used the reference to point out that in America, there is a part of the city that does not shine, places where the elderly huddle in unheated basements, where the young can’t afford college, where people can’t get health care. The New York governor received a lot of attention for his “Tale of Two Cities” talk.

But there’s another part of that speech that’s even more powerful. In it, Cuomo uses the great U.S. Western migration of the 1840s to paint a vivid picture of Democratic moral values and hopes for America:

The full column by Glenn W. Smith is in the R&D Department.

By Glenn W. Smith

April 21, 2017      10:27 AM

Judge gives Basel until 10:45 to make progress on producing American Phoenix finances or go to jail

"you’ve got to do what the court has ordered you three times to do.”

April 21, 2017      10:10 AM

Cruz reports $5.2 million cash on hand

April 20, 2017      9:25 PM

Court names names on VRA violations on Texas House map

Six times in a row to be found in violation would seem to be a pattern, some argue

Texas lawmakers took specific steps six years ago to avoid drawing potential minority districts in the Texas House map, according to an order from a trio of District Court judges today.

The order, on a 2-1 vote, concluded Texas lawmakers drew Texas House maps with the intent to dilute minority voter strength. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez and Chief Judge Oscar Garcia wrote for the majority. Circuit Judge Jerry Smith filed a minority opinion.

This mirrors a similar conclusion last month on Congressional seats. Broadly, and in specific areas of the state, the 2011 Texas House map diluted minority voting power under multiple sections of law, according to today’s order. What complicates today’s decision is that the redrawn 2013 House map, now in effect, still contains many of the problem House districts.

By Kimberly Reeves

April 20, 2017      8:51 PM

Travis County DA is asked to investigate fraudulent pro-school voucher letters

"There is more than ample evidence to warrant an immediate investigation by you and your office into this troubling matter.”

Following a criminal complaint by a GOP former lawmaker, an Austin representative has asked the Travis County District Attorney’s Office to look a letter-writing campaign that has deeply troubled rural Republicans in the Texas House who are opposed to school vouchers.

In a letter obtained by Quorum Report this evening, Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, told prosecutors that she’s heard from many of her Republican colleagues who cannot believe the way in which many of their constituents’ names were used.

By Scott Braddock

April 20, 2017      6:26 PM

After visit with Abbott and Patrick, Warren Buffett's bill moves at lightning speed in Senate

Different carve outs with different support; TADA supports Buffett’s proposed exemption but not one for Cummins in a different bill

Following a surprise Texas Capitol visit by billionaire investor Warren Buffett this week, the Senate Business and Commerce Committee on Thursday moved quickly to shepherd a bill designed to help his automotive interests to the floor of the upper chamber.

The bill, Senate Bill 2279, was voted out of committee unanimously even though the language is a work in progress and the bill itself was just introduced the day after Buffett’s visit to the offices of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

By Eleanor Dearman

April 20, 2017      6:23 PM

Former Rep. Anna Mowery passed away this morning

Fort Worth Republican served from 1988 to 2007; details of service are pending

April 20, 2017      6:13 PM

Press Releases: School finance, school finance, school finance, and more

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April 20, 2017      4:25 PM

House budget conferees appointed: Zerwas, Longoria, Sarah Davis, Ashby and Larry Gonzales

April 20, 2017      4:01 PM

Sanctuary cities bill, SB 4, scheduled for House debate next Wednesday

April 20, 2017      3:53 PM

Court finds Texas House map intentionally diluted minority voting strength

The order is here.

April 20, 2017      10:18 AM

Senate votes out SB 2279

Carve out bill for Buffet auto operations clears committee

Senate Business and Commerce voted Senate Bill 2279 out of committee unanimously Thursday morning. The bill is related to "the ownership, control, or operation of a franchised or nonfranchised dealer or dealership by certain manufacturers."

By Eleanor Dearman

April 20, 2017      1:25 AM

Updated: Overnight hearing on Simmons bathroom bill underway in House State Affairs

Bill was laid out around 11:30pm; Chairman Cook expresses dismay that businesses are not present to speak out

An overnight hearing in House State Affairs got underway around 11:30pm on a contentious bill focused on restrooms by Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, as more than 100 people lined up to speak on the issue that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick continues to push despite Washington standing down and business interests arguing such regulations will put the Texas economic powerhouse at risk of losing its edge.  

In its current form, House Bill 2899 would preempt any local ordinances allowing transgender individuals to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity.

The pushback from business groups and advocates for transgender Texans remained steadfast.

By James Russell

April 19, 2017      7:54 PM

House gives tentative approval to school finance bill 134 to 16

April 19, 2017      6:54 PM

Criminal complaint is filed over fraudulent pro-school voucher letters

Former Rep. Hardcastle tells his local DA: “At a minimum, names have been improperly used. I believe it is more likely that laws have been broken."

As Texas House members continue to ask questions about the legalities surrounding those “fraudulent” pro-school voucher letters sent to their offices and after an investigation by WFAA TV in DFW, a GOP former lawmaker whose name was used on one of them has taken his concerns to prosecutors.

Former Rep. Rick Hardcastle, R-Vernon, first raised concerns about the letters last month when his name was among thousands used on pro-voucher letters sent to current rural Republican members of The Legislature.  “I'm not a voucher guy and everybody knows I'm not a voucher guy," Hardcastle said at the time.

Now, in a letter obtained by Quorum Report, Hardcastle has written to Wilbarger County District Attorney Staley Heatly requesting a criminal investigation.

By Scott Braddock

April 19, 2017      6:52 PM

Press Releases: Ending special ed target, freestanding ERs, Cruz in Texas, and more

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April 19, 2017      6:42 PM

House tentatively passes ride hailing regulations 110 to 37

Non-discrimination debate breaks out, amendment is added to allow paying cash for ride hailing, and data sharing with cities is added

With the school finance debate looming and an overnight State Affairs hearing slated on the House’s alternative version of a privacy bill, the full House spent the bulk of the midday debating ride hailing companies and how best to regulate them.

The House tentatively passed a bill creating a statewide framework for ride hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. The bill by Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, was approved with a 110 to 37 vote, surviving attempted points of order by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, and Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston.

The bill is one of several proposals for ride hailing regulations this session. The issue of ride hailing regulations gained more traction at the Capitol after Uber and Lyft opted to leave Austin following a citywide vote on a local ordinance.

By Eleanor Dearman

April 19, 2017      6:19 PM

Study gives rural lawmakers reasons to be concerned about potential economic losses from SB 6

Disrupting conference and events bookings in major metro area over time could cost rural Texas between $26.1 million and $52.5 million annually

Yet another study confirms the state’s economy will suffer if the Texas Legislature passes Senate Bill 6, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s bathroom bill.

The study conducted by Angelos Angelou of AngelouEconomics on behalf of the Texas Association of Business, which of course opposes SB 6 and similar legislation, suggests the state could lose up to $5.6 billion through 2026. And much of that damage could be felt in rural parts of the state.

By James Russell

April 19, 2017      11:58 AM

KR: What is at stake as school finance debate unfolds

If the Senate was willing to cede school finance funding, will the House be willing to agree to Patrick’s slimmed-down no-fiscal-note voucher proposal?

We know just about everything we need to know about what the House and Senate would do to fix school finance this session – and a resolution still appears to be far from guaranteed.

In the House, Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty’s House Bill 21 goes to the floor today with 46 potential amendments. Most of those amendments, with the exception of a fix to the small district allotment, will likely be rejected on the floor for either making changes to general law or carrying a steep price tag, such as credit for full-day pre-kindergarten.

Last night in the Senate, Education Committee Chair Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, rolled out his series of school finance bills, including Senate Bill 2145, that could provide a more substantive, albeit incomplete, fix to the quirks in the school finance system. SB 2145 also gets extra credit for coming in with no fiscal note, using current revenues to smooth out inequities.

So why is House Bill 21 likely to die a slow death in the Senate?

By Kimberly Reeves

April 19, 2017      11:57 AM

Lyceum Poll: Cruz and O'Rourke tied at 30, Castro slightly ahead of Cruz 35 - 31

April 18, 2017      5:13 PM

Following Buffett Capitol visit, bill on automotive industry ownership moves in Texas Senate

Asked if Warren Buffett’s visit was the catalyst, bill author Sen. Hancock says “Nah, I heard that” he was here

One day after billionaire investor Warren Buffett visited Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's office amid questions about Buffett’s holdings in the automotive industry, the Senate's presiding officer referred a bill related to "the ownership, control, or operation of a franchised or nonfranchised dealer or dealership by certain manufacturers."

The bill, SB 2279, is authored by Business and Commerce Chairman Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills.

It’s a bill that Sen. Hancock was quick to call a “placeholder.”

By Eleanor Dearman and Scott Braddock

April 18, 2017      5:12 PM

Senate appoints budget conferees Nelson, Hinojosa, Huffman, Kolkhorst, and Schwertner

April 18, 2017      5:10 PM

Press Releases: A campaign announcement, yep, endorsements, tax reform, insider trading, and more

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April 18, 2017      4:43 PM

Slew of ethics bills pass Texas House including online posting of personal financial statements

Democratic Leader Chris Turner attaches amendment to make statements available on TEC website

The House on Tuesday tentatively passed five ethics reform measures by Rep. Sarah Davis, contributing to Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency item goal of ethics reform.  

These bills are different from the package of proposals in the Senate by Sen. Van Taylor and their House companions, which were previously heard in committee.

By Eleanor Dearman

April 18, 2017      11:38 AM

Lyceum Poll: 62% of Texans say immigration helps more than hurts the US

On border security funding, 45 percent support funding at current levels, 28 percent support increased funding and 21 percent want it decreased

Most Texans think immigration helps more than it hurts, according to the latest Texas Lyceum poll. On the flipside, the poll released Tuesday also found that twenty-seven percent said it hurts more than it helps.

For comparison, the poll conducted by the same folks in 2016 found 54 percent felt that immigration helps the United States more than it hurts. Thirty-three percent said at that time that it hurts more than it helps.

This was just one conclusion related to immigration that the poll found – at a time when immigration is on the forefront of both state and national politics.

By Eleanor Dearman