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April 25, 2015      2:04 PM

90 House Republicans sign letter in favor of Bonnen tax cut plan

"The House plan is the largest tax cut on the table, providing nearly $4.9 billion in tax relief for Texas, including the first-ever reduction in state sales tax, with a reduction in rate from 6.25 percent to 5.95 percent. By cutting the sales tax, we will provide tax relief to every taxpayer – employers and individual consumers alike."

Here’s the letter from the Texas House GOP Caucus.

April 24, 2015      4:45 PM

KR: The Next Chair: The most popular person on SBOE these days

As members of the SBOE await an interim appointment to replace Chair Barbara Cargill, Quorum Report's longtime education reporter takes a look at what the appointment will mean for Gov. Abbott and the education community at large

Members of the State Board of Education, including Chair Barbara Cargill, have begun to talk quite a bit about “The Next Chair” as the person who will lead the charge when the board takes on its next challenges.

The Next Chair is, obviously, shorthand for whomever will be the next leader of the SOBE. Of all appointments Gov. Greg Abbott can make, the regents of the University of Texas may be the most watched, but the chair of SBOE is considered by many as a litmus test of conservatism.

Cargill’s term expired in January. She cannot run for another term. At one point last Friday, Cargill caught herself as she discussed an item for the July SBOE agenda, acknowledging such a decision could be the decision of “the next chair.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

April 24, 2015      4:44 PM

Press Releases: DSHS sunset reaction, public ed, medical pot, budget conferees and more

April 24, 2015      12:58 PM

Smith: Beware the Kindergarten Communists!

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues it is past time to reject what he terms the 'fantasies and fever dreams' of the extreme Right, like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's Tea Party advisory group's fears that pre-kindergarten is a godless plot to steal our children.

I wish we could dismiss the paranoid fantasies and fever dreams of the extreme Right in Texas. But we can’t because those nightmares, however detached from reality, are driving Texas policy – from education to health care.

This week Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s Tea Party advisory group came to us with warnings that an expanded pre-kindergarten proposal – generally backed by everybody but the extremists – is a godless, socialistic plot to steal our children from us. I am not exaggerating. Here is precisely what they said:

“We are experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our young people from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers' day out programs to a Godless environment with only evidence showing absolutely NO LONG TERM BENEFITS beyond the 1st grade.”

Removes our young people from homes? Do they really believe expanded pre-kindergarten will empower someone to kidnap children from the homes of God-fearing Texans and lock them up with pagan teachers who have magic soul-capturing boxes designed by the Devil?

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

By Glenn W. Smith

April 23, 2015      7:15 PM

Updated: DSHS sunset bill withdrawn after nasty and unnecessary abortion debate

Under threat of a serious point of order by Trey Martinez-Fischer, Four Price pulled down the bill to work on it some more

After hours spent debating quite divisive abortion language that was added through amendments to the Department of State Health Services sunset bill, Texas House leadership late Thursday temporarily withdrew the legislation to continue working on it.

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer, D-San Antonio, had called a point of order that seemed to be on the brink of derailing the entire deal. But, he withdrew that and then the bill was pulled down by Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo.

Rep. Price, the bill’s author, said many issues had been discussed that could be considered on their individual merits, but he tried to stress throughout the debate that the point of the bill is to improve the operations of the DSHS.

Socially conservative lawmakers used the occasion, however, to push anti-abortion language that frustrated even some Republicans.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

April 23, 2015      6:28 PM

DSHS sunset bill is temporarily pulled down after divisive abortion language was added

Under threat of a serious point of order by Trey Martinez-Fischer, Four Price pulled down the bill to work on it some more

April 23, 2015      6:18 PM

Video: Harvey Kronberg on Dan Patrick's challenges, the public integrity unit, and more

Our Publisher Harvey Kronberg sits down with Paul Brown at Time Warner Cable News to visit about the sizzlin' political buzz of the day

April 23, 2015      6:17 PM

Press Releases: Seismicity issues, blue law repeal, windstorm insurance reactions, and more

April 23, 2015      5:38 PM

Higher Education Coordinating Board ready to unveil new long-range plan

Trying to produce over a half-million degrees and certificates in the year 2013

Those who oversee the higher education system in Texas intend to set goals this summer to produce 550,000 degrees and certificates in 2030.

Commissioner Reymund Paredes and Vice Chair Bobby Jenkins of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board announced the 60x30Tx campaign at the recent State Board of Education meeting. The goal is for 60 percent of every Texas resident between 25 and 34 to hold either a certificate or degree in the year 2030, which will be a steep climb from the current completion rate of 38 percent.

The country could once depend on education to lift all people out of poverty, Paredes told the board. Out of every 100 eighth grade students in the Class of 2003, only 20 have earned a workforce credential or college degree in 11 years.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

April 23, 2015      2:11 PM

Senate appoints budget conferees

Conferees are Nelson, Schwertner, Kolkhorst, Hinojosa, and Huffman

April 23, 2015      10:54 AM

Compromise likely on competing windstorm insurance bills

The final makeup of oversight committee is still to be hammered out

Stakeholders in the debate around the future of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association left the House Insurance Committee this week optimistic that a compromise can be reached between the House and Senate versions.

For one, Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, has softened language in Senate Bill 900 for a potential third-party company to come in and manage TWIA.

The “shall” in SB 900 has been shifted to “may,” providing some room for maintaining the current management structure while still providing room for swinging the axe if TWIA does not maintain its current course of improvement.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

April 22, 2015      6:15 PM

Updated: House appoints budget conferees and seems united on most fronts

The “Big Three Breakfast” blows up while House members cheer the fact that they don’t agree with the Senate on the budget

With tensions growing between the Texas House and Senate – to the point where R.G. Ratcliffe at Texas Monthly tells us the “Big Three Breakfast” blew up Wednesday morning – the lower chamber of The Legislature officially declared it doesn’t agree with the upper chamber’s changes to the spending plan and appointed its budget conferees. House members, by the way, were cheering as the motion was made not to concur with the Senate’s alterations.

The House’s representation on the conference committee will be Reps. John Otto, Sylvester Turner, Trent Ashby, Larry Gonzales, and Sarah Davis. Otto and Turner have negotiated a budget previously. Ashby, Gonzales, and Davis will be doing this for the first time.

Prior to those appointments, some Tea Party House members tried in vain on the floor to “handcuff” the conferees as far as what they can discuss. They did so during the votes on motions to instruct the conferees.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

April 22, 2015      5:15 PM

Press Releases: End-of-life issues, seismicity, concealed carry, election result reactions, and more

April 22, 2015      3:29 PM

House appoints budget conferees

Conferees are John Otto, Sylvester Turner, Trent Ashby, Larry Gonzales, and Sarah Davis

April 22, 2015      1:00 PM

Texas Senate votes 23 to 7 to ban automatic red light cameras

April 22, 2015      12:09 PM

Special prosecutors named in Ken Paxton case in Collin County

Multiple media reports say Houston lawyers Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice have been named to handle the case if it gets that far; further additional appointments are possible.

April 21, 2015      8:44 PM

Minjarez defeats Herrera in HD 124 special election runoff

With 100% reporting, Ina Minjarez defeats Delicia Herrera, 55%-45%

April 21, 2015      7:14 PM

Early vote in HD 124 special runoff: Ina Minjarez leads Delicia Herrera, 58% to 42%

April 21, 2015      5:17 PM

DMN: Collin County DA moves to recuse himself in Paxton case

“Whenever the Rangers complete their investigation, there will be a district attorney on the case that will have no connection to me or my office,” Greg Willis said

Buried in the Monday’s coverage of the Texas House debate over taking the Public Integrity Unit from Travis County prosecutors was this nugget unearthed by Dallas Morning News reporter Bob Garrett: Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis has asked a judge to appoint a prosecutor to take over the matter of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s legal problems. From Garrett's story:

“Reached late Monday, Willis said that earlier in the day, he filed a motion with state District Judge Scott Becker to recuse himself. Becker, the administrative judge in Collin County, could name someone to act in Willis’ place as district attorney in the matter.

‘Whenever the Rangers complete their investigation, there will be a district attorney on the case that will have no connection to me or my office,’ Willis said.

April 21, 2015      4:57 PM

Updated: Patrick's Grassroots Advisory Board blasts Abbott's Pre-K plan

Patrick’s Tea Party advisory board says one of Gov. Abbott’s top priorities would put children in a “godless environment”

Note: As of 4:57pm, this story has been updated throughout including comment from Gov. Abbott’s office – SB

Tea Party leaders who serve on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's "Grassroots Advisory Board" on Tuesday blasted one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priorities by saying his pre-K initiative would put children in a “godless environment” and undermine parental rights. The board also said the governor’s policy goal, which he declared as his first emergency item, is “socialistic” and would contribute to the “breakdown of the American family.”

“These pre-K bills are just the first step towards the implementation of universal pre-K,” the advisory board chaired by Tea Party activist JoAnn Fleming wrote in a letter distributed at the Texas Capitol in the afternoon.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

April 21, 2015      4:44 PM

Press Releases: Disenchantment with exams, watch out for Texas Watch, school choice, and more

April 21, 2015      2:00 PM

Lawmakers race to find some answer to Houston pension woes

Murphy's bill to offer broader options to city leaders gets a thumbs down from union members.

The so-called Denton fracking bill might get the bulk of the media coverage as a local control issue, but the tug-of-war between Houston city leaders and the firefighters’ pension fund has just as much passion, interest and concern as any this session.

This week’s hearing in the House Pension Committee, mostly with an angle toward fixing Houston’s broken pension system, was done in just over four hours. But that’s only because more than 100 opponents to Rep. Jim Murphy’s bill agreed to register their opposition but not speak to the committee directly.

For Murphy, a Houston Republican, this is the third attempt to put the power behind the pension decisions back in the hands of city leaders, led by Mayor Annise Parker. On the other side is long-time Rep. Sylvester Turner, the lawmaker who engineered the Employee Retirement System fix this session and managed to squeeze out a bill to bring the city and firefighters to table to put forth a short-term fix.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

April 21, 2015      1:17 PM

Greenfield: Holding take-home pay constant for state government employment

Quorum Report’s resident number Dr. Stuart Greenfield cruncher goes in depth on how to best create a sustainable state government workforce

As we enter the critical stage of the 84thLegislature, the state faces a favorable fiscal situation.  The budget situation this session is excellent with an ending balance of $7.5 billion and a minimum in available total state revenue in excess of $220.9 billion for the FY16-17 biennium.

While additional funding for public education, transportation and Medicaid are required, another issue will be maintaining a well-qualified and professional workforce.

Since the beginning of the 21st Century, Texas has witnessed both a substantial growth in population (22.9 percent) and an above average growth in real Gross State Product (GSP) per capita (7.5 percent). The population growth rate was over twice the U.S. rate, while growth in GSP per capita was 30 percent greater than the U.S. growth. State GSP per capita continues to be greater than GSP per capita for the United States.

Growth in population and an increase in real median household income results in an increased demand for public services; citizens require new roads, improved public and higher education, those in need qualify for social services, and protecting both its citizens and environment are critical for a growing state.

The complete column from Dr. Stuart Greenfield can be found in the R&D Department.

By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

April 21, 2015      1:00 PM

Texas Senate gives final passage to school choice bill on a vote of 18 to 12

When moving final passage, Senate Education Chairman Sen. Larry Taylor called it a bill about "a voucher program" for kids across Texas

April 21, 2015      12:37 PM

Bearse: Uber Alles

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative Republican columnist argues that too many issues are being couched as “local control” issues; on ridesharing, he says it should be about personal choice and free markets

In America, we believe in free markets – that is, unless you provide an efficient, technologically-savvy alternative to taxi service, and then you have to fight the taxi cab oligarchy to enter the marketplace.

Uber is now in more than 300 cities. Apparently it meets a certain demand. During South by Southwest in Austin, it provided a quarter million rides over ten short days. The local cab oligarchs – three companies operate all the cabs in Austin – have a different business model than Uber, Lyft and other rideshare companies.

Those cab companies get paid a few hundred bucks a week by a driver to operate a car. It’s up to the driver to make enough stops to pay that fee and make a living. There’s nothing wrong with this business model per se, but it’s not exactly a supply and demand model. The ability to respond to a surge of consumer demand is limited by the cap on licensed cabs – 755, to be exact, in Austin. For five years Austin has maintained this limit on cabs despite a growing population.

If cabs were meeting the full demand, why would a quarter million people grab a lift from Uber in a ten-day period? If you need a sober ride, think of the simplicity of the rideshare alternative: you don’t have to stand on the street to track down a cab, you just click the app and a driver comes and gets you.

The full column by Eric Bearse can be found in the R&D Department.

By Eric Bearse

April 21, 2015      11:57 AM

Raise Your Hand Texas Video: Same ol' Mr. Voucher

In video, education group argues the tax credit scholarships passed by the Senate are vouchers under another name

April 21, 2015      8:35 AM

House Public Education passes school finance bill out of committee 7 to 0

April 20, 2015      5:44 PM

Updated: Texas Senate passes the tax credit scholarship bill, which critics call vouchers

Without Sen. Seliger on the floor, the vote on second reading was 17 to 13

The Texas Senate on Monday closed on details of Sen. Larry Taylor’s, R-Friendswood, school choice bill without accepting amendments, incensing traditional public school advocates.

In a move that has become more common this session, Taylor’s bill left the chamber without amendments as Republicans take no chances on key legislation. Senate Bill 4, which creates something called tax credit scholarships, passed on a vote of 17-13.  

“Neighborhood public schools and the millions of Texas kids who attend them just got mugged on the floor of the Texas Senate,” said Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, a long-time opponent of vouchers or anything like them. “The Senate should have fully restored the billions of dollars this Legislature cut from our neighborhood schools just four years ago. But instead, they gave preliminary approval to a reckless and unaccountable voucher scheme that provides tax breaks for wealthy interests that take funds from public education in order to subsidize private and religious schools.”

Supporters of SB 4 adamantly say their proposal does not create school vouchers and they strongly objected to any reference to vouchers in the debate. 

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

April 20, 2015      5:43 PM

Texas Senate passes its border security bill, SB 3

Vote was 26 - 4

April 20, 2015      5:09 PM

Press Releases: New UT President, open carry reactions, tax credit scholarships vs vouchers rhetoric and more

April 20, 2015      4:49 PM

Sen. Seliger is said to be recuperating comfortably after motorcycle accident

The other driver was cited, Seliger’s office says. “He is eager to get back to work.”

Here is the full statement from Seliger’s office:

“At around 5:00 P.M. yesterday afternoon, Senator Kel Seliger was in a motorcycle accident involving a vehicle whose driver was cited at the scene. While the senator sustained several injuries and underwent surgery this morning, he is recuperating comfortably.

Senator Seliger would like to extend his heartfelt appreciation to the talented and caring medical staff at University Medical Center Brackenridge in Austin as well as the emergency medical personnel and first responders at the scene of the accident.

He would also like to thank his family, friends, and colleagues in the Texas Legislature for their well wishes and kind words. He is eager to get back to work.”

April 20, 2015      4:41 PM

House gives final approval to open carry bill on a vote of 101 to 42

April 20, 2015      3:57 PM

Texas House approves heavily amended bill to take PIU from Travis County prosecutors

Over a dozen amendments accepted, most of them offered by Democrats. Vote to engrossment was 94 to 51

After a somewhat subdued debate on a bill to remove the Public Integrity Unit from the Travis County District Attorney's Office, the Texas House on Monday afternoon approved the measure on a vote of 94 to 51.

The debate was almost nothing like the argument had in the Senate over removing the PIU from Travis County. In that exchange, the Democrats were rolled on every point they made.

In the House, a collaborative process played out. In fact, the bill’s author, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, accepted more than a dozen amendments – most of them offered by Democrats.

Despite the changes, many in the minority party continued to say the “fox will be guarding the henhouse” under the proposal to give the Texas Rangers the first move in investigations of elected officeholders. For instance, Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, said he would still be voting against the bill. "As one of the few former prosecutors in the Legislature, I believe HB1690 will create worse conflicts than we have today,” Moody said.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

April 20, 2015      2:36 PM

House Investigating Committee launches inquiry into state contracting

"We cannot sit here and just hope that HHSC is the only agency with contracting problems"

The Texas House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics on Monday launched a probe into contracting practices at 11 state agencies.

"The House is going to find out how pervasive these irregularities are," said the chairman of the committee, Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

April 20, 2015      1:25 PM

Sen. Seliger injured in motorcycle accident but injuries are not life threatening

Seliger is expected to be back in the Senate no later than next week

Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, was injured in a motorcycle accident Sunday evening and was taken to Brackenridge with injuries to his ankles and elbows.

Fortunately, the injuries were not life threatening.  He is in a private room rather than ICU.

We are told that doctors plan to discharge Sen. Seliger in the next day or two. He’s expected to move fairly slowly for the rest of the week and be back at full Senate duties no later than next week.

April 20, 2015      12:27 PM

House committee tees up bill that could turn municipal funds on their head

Time has come to shift from defined benefit to defined contribution plan, says Bettencourt

A proposal from Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, to shift control of municipal pension plans from the state to local boards that can end the traditional public pension is headed to a House committee for a hearing Monday afternoon after a show of support from both the Tea Party and business interests.

This is Murphy’s third swing at pension reform, a key initiative of Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who considered the city hamstrung by pension terms that would have forced her to lay off city employees to cover liability costs. The Texas Municipal League is silent on the bill, saying it is up to the individual city, even though this bill will apply to 13 municipal and almost 100 fire pension funds, according to the bill analysis.  

Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, pointed out the liability of the Bayou City’s plans, both pension and benefits, is now in the range of $5 billion.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

April 20, 2015      11:46 AM

Gregg Cox to McCraw: Perry vetoing PIU funds prevents re-opening DPS investigation as you request

Cox: "“It is very timely that you should choose now to write me a letter pointing out that there is no other agency in state government that is equipped to investigate allegations concerning your department."

Today Public Integrity Unit director Gregg Cox rejected DPS director Steve McCraw’s request for the investigation of alleged the agency’s “No bid contract” to be resumed.

As Cox noted at the time, Governor Rick Perry’s veto of the funding for the Public Integrity Unit effectively killed the investigation into an agency run by a Perry appointee and long time ally.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Harvey Kronberg

April 19, 2015      12:25 PM

Kronberg's Wednesday (April 15) interview on Time Warner Cable News with Paul Brown

Hegar's view of the economy; The Senate passes a budget; lines in the sand on property tax exemptions; a possible special session and a few thoughts on the status of the Tea Party in Texas