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December 17, 2014      4:01 PM

Speaker Straus becomes Vice Chair of national GOP campaign committee

Straus’ elevation to vice chair puts him on track to lead the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee in two years

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, is the next Vice Chair of the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, a group that helps raise money for Republicans in state legislature across America.

“Speaker Joe Straus is a committed leader for the people of Texas and a strong, conservative voice who is leading the charge nationally to protect our individual liberties and preserve our nation’s commitment to the principles that make us strong,” said Republican State Leadership Committee President Matt Walter.  “We are thrilled that Speaker Straus will be at the helm of the RLCC during the pivotal 2016 election cycle, when we will build upon our record gains in state legislatures across the nation.”

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December 17, 2014      3:55 PM

Press Releases: Payday lending practices, amnesty outrage of the day, discrimination of same-sex parents, tackling state debt and more

December 17, 2014      1:17 PM

George P. Bush announces Government Relations Team

Biles to lead team, Forse, Quirk, and King to expand legislative outreach efforts during session

Here is the announcement from George P. Bush in advance of his taking over at the General Land Office.

December 17, 2014      10:27 AM

Liberal groups look for religious allies in battles over faith

“We really need that voice of faith, people who will speak out on how faith isn’t supposed to be used as a weapon.”

WASHINGTON DC – A new alliance of progressive groups is trying to figure out the best ways to minimize the impact of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because, they believe, it is used too often to discriminate. At an inaugural conference this past weekend, those allied organizations traded advice on how to approach the sensitive topic at the state level. 

Congress passed its own Religious Freedom Act with bipartisan support back in 1993. Texas has its own version, which has been used to justify zoning practices, stop students from using RFID trackers and shape various city codes. Supporters call the measure a protection of religious freedom. Opponents typically refer to the measure as “a license to discriminate.”

The breakfast panel at the State Innovation Exchange, known as SiX, was intended to provide pointers to progressive lawmakers on how to contain the act’s impact.

Ilyse Hogue of NARAL said conservatives too often equate junk science with true facts. She also took aim at a system that allows pharmacists to refuse to dispense birth control pills. Too often, the choice is a platform for the pharmacist to shame the girl making the request, Hogue told the audience.

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By Kimberly Reeves

December 16, 2014      7:51 PM

Austin Mayoral race: Steve Adler leads Mike Martinez 70% to 30% in early vote

Martinez has reportedly called Adler to concede

December 16, 2014      5:24 PM

Press Releases: Property taxes, education, fighting cancer and Chanukah

December 16, 2014      3:41 PM

Bearse: Left-wing Ideologues Hiding in Plain Sight

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues that liberals hide their own extremism while flogging conservatives for not being pragmatic

Why do liberals get a pass on the label “dangerous ideologue”? When Senator Ted Cruz implemented his strategy to shut down the federal government over ObamaCare – and more recently his strategy to defund the president’s executive order on immigration – he was vilified in the press, and the subject of disdain in cocktail parties across Washington. His ideology was extremist because he actually carried out the promises he made on the campaign trail.

But what about Elizabeth Warren? Here is a senator from Massachusetts who doesn’t really believe in capitalism. She is the preferred choice of the Obama ideologues, moveon.org operatives, Occupy Wall Street zealots and Seattle anarchists. She is a hard-left ideologue whose efforts to stop the bill to keep government funded was done out of principle, according to the media narrative. Because Cruz’s principles disagree with press sensibilities, he is a dangerous ideologue. Warren’s ideological principles just make her palatable for president.  

One of the tricks liberals like to play is to pretend they don’t have an ideology, but instead are just about solving problems. In fact, they scorn ideologues on the right while denying they even have an ideology. This is the tactic employed at the blog formerly known as Burkablog, where politicians are divided into two camps -- people driven by ideology, and people who want to solve problems. The conservatives are ideologues, the moderates and liberals just want to solve problems. It’s how many on the left claim they are centrists – they deny their solutions have an ideological bent.

The complete column from Eric Bearse is available in the R&D Department.

By Eric Bearse

December 16, 2014      1:50 PM

Martinez-Fischer campaign has raised $1 million for Senate special election, memo says

“My campaign is built by a team of battle-tested professionals, many of whom have both lived in SD 26 and won competitive races throughout Bexar County, including contests won by Senator Van de Putte.”

You can see Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer’s campaign memo by clicking here.

December 16, 2014      11:01 AM

Kolkhorst to be sworn in as Senator on Monday clearing the way for a special in her House district

One day after a trio of special elections was called for other seats, the timeline for House District 13 becomes clearer

Here is the announcement about Senator-Elect Lois Kolkhorst’s upcoming swearing in ceremony.

December 16, 2014      8:06 AM

Sylvia Romo tosses hat into SD26 special election

Former Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector and two term House member is in the hunt

December 15, 2014      4:49 PM

A trio of special elections announced

Crowded fields forming for special elections for the House

To fill two Texas House seats and one Texas Senate seat, Gov. Perry on Monday set three special elections for Jan. 6. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Rep. Mike Villarreal, both Democrats, are vacating their seats to run against each other for mayor of San Antonio. Meantime, Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington, is quitting the House to accept a position with incoming Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.

Candidates for all three seats must file with the Secretary of State’s Office by close of business next Monday, the 22. Early voting for these races begins the following Monday, the 29.  

Several candidates who are likely unfamiliar to you are already in the running in each of the House races and two well-known quantities have announced for the open Senate seat. As you are likely aware, Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer and Rep. Jose Menendez have both officially kicked off their campaigns to succeed Van de Putte in the upper chamber.

In House District 17Kleinschmidt’s district including Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, Karnes, and Lee Counties, two Republicans and a Democrat are in the race.

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By Scott Braddock

December 15, 2014      4:48 PM

Press Releases: Rainy Day Fund floor, no waiting on school finance, reactions to Australian hostage crisis and more

December 13, 2014      12:06 PM

Stanford: Primary Colors are Fading

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues that the way the 2016 primary is already playing out – on both sides – is bad for America

The 2016 presidential campaign hasn’t even started yet and I’m already bored.

On one hand, everyone’s ready for Hillary, but she doesn’t seem all that eager for everyone. She’s scheduled two paid speeches for early next year, which means she won’t be kicking off her campaign until the spring. This is seen in DC as alternately smart politics and evidence that she’s floundering.

Holding off is undoubtedly good tactics, but while Democrats are waiting for Hillary they’re not talking about America, and that’s a shame. There’s plenty of time for her to lay out a reason to run for president, but when the frontrunner doesn’t enter the race it leaves all the others stretching at the starting line, waiting for the starting gun. And voters learn nothing about how Democrats would lead this county.

On the other hand, approximately 17,000 Republicans are visiting Iowa and pretending that they’re not running for president yet either. And if you thought the clown car primary from 2012 was fun—we’ll always have Uzbekibekibekistanstan—then the 2016 Republican primary should be a rare case when the sequel is better than the original.

The complete column from Jason Stanford is available in the R&D Department.  

By Jason Stanford

December 12, 2014      8:39 PM

For what it's worth: NY Post reports Condi Rice is frontrunner for UT President

"alumni sources" tell the Post that Rice is in the lead to succeed Powers, KBH is also said to be a candidate

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the front-runner to succeed Bill Powers as the next president of the University of Texas, according to a NY Post report tonight:

“Rice is the front-runner to replace embattled William Powers as the next president of the University of Texas, alumni sources say. Rice, who was secretary of state under President George W. Bush, has been a professor at Stanford University since leaving public service.”

Given the sourcing, definitely put that under the heading “For what it’s worth.”  

December 12, 2014      5:29 PM

Taking a page from conservatives, progressives launch what some might see as a counterpart to ALEC

Staffers for the new group called the State Innovation Exchange, or SiX, say it will and won’t be like the American Legislative Exchange Council

WASHINGTON DC – Democrats swear the newly created State Innovation Exchange is not the progressive counterpart to ALEC, but they admit there are some things progressives would be happy to borrow from conservatives.

This new group called SiX is hosting its inaugural meeting this weekend at the Omni Shoreham in Washington DC. The group is the formal merger of three groups: the Progressive States Network; the American Legislative Issues and Campaign Exchange; and Center for State Innovation.  

Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network will speak at a breakfast tomorrow about Sen. Donna Campbell’s religious freedom bill. Democratic stalwart Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, also is expected to be in attendance. But, for the most part, this gathering is about creating the network to win states where winning a Democratic majority is still possible. No one mentions Texas.

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December 12, 2014      4:55 PM

Press Releases: Tuition, school report cards, and a 2nd Amendment sales tax holiday

December 12, 2014      1:44 PM

Under fire, Jack Stick resigns from the Health and Human Services Commission

Resignation comes after Statesman investigation of state contracts

Multiple news outlets are reporting this Friday afternoon that Jack Stick has resigned as Chief Counsel for the HHSC. From the Austin American-Statesman:

“The top lawyer for the state’s sprawling health agency has resigned amid questions raised by an American-Statesman investigation into his relationship with an Austin technology company to which he was steering $110 million in no-bid contracts. Jack Stick, chief counsel for the Health and Human Services Commission, tendered his resignation to Kyle Janek, executive commissioner of the agency, said agency spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman.

Janek has canceled the state’s contract with 21CT, the data analytics firm to which Stick had directed business along with other officials, Goodman said. The state contracted 21CT to overhaul its efforts to use complicated and messy Medicaid data to root out Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse.”

December 11, 2014      4:58 PM

Incoming Texas leadership breaks from national trend on public private partnerships for transportation

Abbott, unlike Perry, opposes the use of private investment to resolve the state’s congestion problems

WASHINGTON DC - Public-private partnerships for transportation may be gaining traction on the national stage, just as Texas’ elected officials have chosen to shun the use of toll roads and managed lanes to defray the cost of transportation.

Gov.-elect Greg Abbott, unlike his predecessor, opposes the use of private investment to resolve the state’s congestion problems. The Republican Party of Texas made it clear in its platform last summer that toll roads should be tightly constrained: Taxpayer money should never be used to subsidize private toll projects. Tolls should come off roads once construction costs are paid, the party believes. Further, the Texas GOP says state should never surrender control of a toll project to foreign interests, a swipe at Spanish company Cintra, which has partnered on a number of projects.

But if there’s a topic on which Republicans and Democrats agree, its private-public partnerships.  The current administration is as gung ho to find outside funding as was the Pres. George W. Bush administration, which introduced the P3 concept.

“It’s important at every level of government to use as many strategies and tools as we can moving forward,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told a gathering of state lawmakers at lunch at the National Conference of State Legislatures 2014 Forum. “The more we can add additional tools the toolbox, the better.”

Eight years ago, the Republican philosophy in Texas was the private sector could do anything the public government could do, and do it more efficiently. Privatization was a key strategy for both reshaping social services and funding transportation.

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By Kimberly Reeves

December 11, 2014      4:30 PM

Press Releases: Sending DC the bill for border security, social justice, treasures of the Texas coast and more

December 11, 2014      3:27 PM

Video: The Economic Legacy of Governor Rick Perry

Video looks like his first presidential ad of the 2016 cycle

Christy Hoppe at the Dallas Morning News observes that Perry trying to attract donors and supporters with the video while “demurring on The Question, saying he won’t make a decision on a second run for the presidency until mid-2015. But the video being shown looks very much like his first campaign ad."

December 11, 2014      2:21 PM

Select Committee sets a $7 billion floor for Rainy Day Fund

Slightly more conservative move than had been expected

Pretty close to expectations, a select committee on Thursday set a floor for the Economic Stabilization Fund, commonly called the Rainy Day Fund, of $7 billion. Quorum Report on Wednesday reported that the floor would likely be set around $6 billion. So, this move is a little more conservative than had been expected.

The floor approved by the committee will apply for the next three fiscal years.

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December 11, 2014      2:16 PM

Adams: Gov. Perry follows in Obama's footsteps with an immigration executive order of his own

Longtime GOP stalwart Norman Adams raises real world concerns of Texas business owners following Perry’s executive order on E-Verify

When President Obama could not get what he wanted from Congress on immigration, he simply issued an executive order that outraged many of my fellow Republicans. It seems Governor Rick Perry is following President Obama’s example.

The Legislature has on multiple occasions rejected mandatory E-Verify, a federal electronic system used to weed out foreign workers who are in the country without proper documents. Now Perry’s made an end run around them and mandated it on his own through an executive order. On December 3, Perry issued Executive Order RP80 requiring Texas State Agencies and private entities seeking state contracts to use E-verify, not only on new hires, but on current and prospective employees, including subcontractors.

Attorney General Greg Abbott is suing President Obama over his immigration executive order, so you have to wonder whether he will now sue Perry for bypassing the Texas Legislature. 

In 2011, the 82nd Texas Legislature defeated mandatory E-verify. They recognized that immigration reform at the national level must come first. Attempts to pass E-verify legislation in a special session were also unsuccessful. The 83rd Texas Legislature likewise refused to impose mandatory E-verify on Texas businesses.  

Why did Texas lawmakers refuse to adopt mandatory E-verify? Here just are a few reasons.... 

The complete column from Norman Adams can be found in the R&D Department.

By Norman Adams

December 10, 2014      4:56 PM

Panel likely to set a $6 billion floor for what must be in the Rainy Day Fund

Estimates vary, but the Economic Stabilization Fund should exceed $8 billion or more as the 2015 session is gaveled in

A select committee will discuss a floor on the state’s Rainy Day Fund on Thursday morning, solidifying what will likely be a $6 billion balance for the funding.

Senior analyst Dick Lavine of the Center for Public Policy Priorities expressed some initial concern about meeting a deadline set out in the state government. After some discussions with the Comptroller’s staff today, however, Lavine said the Dec. 1 deadline does not apply to the decision this year.

“There is a temporary provision in SJR 1, for this year only, that there should be a minimum balance in the Rainy Day Fund,” said Lavine, who said a failure to set the floor on the economic stabilization fund would nullify the dedication of a transportation funding stream approved by voters in November.

Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Lake Dallas, co-chair the select committee, which will meet tomorrow to hear invited testimony.

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By Kimberly Reeves

December 10, 2014      4:36 PM

Press Releases: Transportation, immigration, campus carry, scoring political points and more

December 10, 2014      3:58 PM

Bush names Aaron Pena Director of Litigation for Texas General Land Office

“Aaron’s experience as a litigator, his solid reputation as a keen legal mind and his service in the Texas Legislature will be key in developing our team’s capacity to successfully manage complex litigation relating to state business.”

Here’s the announcement.

December 10, 2014      1:28 PM

Sunset Advisory Commission signs off on HHSC consolidation

"This reorganization … will better serve our most vulnerable citizens,” Sen. Nelson says.

The Sunset Advisory Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously to recommend that The Legislature reorganize the state's five health and human services agencies into one agency. The idea is that this move will "better coordinate programs" and streamline administrative support.

"This reorganization of Texas health and human services agencies will better serve our most vulnerable citizens and will create one front door for Texans who are seeking services," said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who chairs the advisory commission. "By creating one agency, we will also be able to eliminate duplicative functions and inefficiencies throughout our health and human services."

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December 10, 2014      12:58 PM

Paxton names Cruz staffers to top jobs in Attorney General's Office

Chief of Staff and Solicitor General are both departing Sen. Cruz’s office to take the reins back here

Attorney General-Elect Ken Paxton on Wednesday named the top staffers who will make up his leadership team in the AG’s office. Two of the top jobs are going to staffers who are departing Sen. Ted Cruz’s office, which should shock exactly zero political observers.

Paxton’s Chief of Staff will be Bernard L. McNamee, who has been Senior Domestic Policy Advisor and Counsel to Cruz. The Solicitor General of Texas will be Scott Keller, who until just recently was Cruz's chief counsel.

Cruz congratulated his now former staffers. “Scott Keller and Bernie McNamee are both tremendous legal talents who will serve Texas well,” Cruz said. “They are dedicated, tireless professionals and while they will be missed in my Senate office, I am very pleased the Great State of Texas is recognizing the outstanding work they have performed by offering them key leadership positions in the Attorney General’s office.”

Deputy Attorney General for Administration will be Katherine “Missy” Minter Cary, and Allison Castle will be his Communications Director.

Here's the full announcement from Paxton.