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July 25, 2016      5:54 PM

Comptroller: Nation outpaces Texas in job growth for the first time in recent memory

But Hegar said “Our economy is doing much better than what I like to call our sister energy states.”

The Texas economy is growing at a significantly slower pace this year and growth will likely be similar in the next fiscal year, Comptroller Glenn Hegar told the Legislative Budget Board on Monday.

Real GDP growth in Texas in Fiscal Year 2015 was 4.5 percent. Projected growth in GDP for this state in 2016 will be about 1.3 percent and it will pick up slightly to 2.6 percent in 2017, according to the Comptroller.

Despite the much slower growth, Hegar still sounded upbeat about the future of the state’s economy.

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By Scott Braddock

July 25, 2016      5:53 PM

Chair Nelson announces expanded coverage and services under Healthy Texas Women Program

"The funding is there. The provider network is there. Now what we're focusing on is education."

Acknowledging criticism that the Healthy Texas Women Program has been very difficult for women to navigate, Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson on Monday announced expansion of the program aimed at addressing those concerns.

The powerful head of the upper chamber’s budget writing committee was joined by Charles Smith, the newly-installed Executive Commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission and Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown.

“We've heard that loud and clear," Nelson said, referring to complaints that the program hasn’t been as well-coordinated as it should be.

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By Scott Braddock

July 25, 2016      4:51 PM

Press Releases: Wasserman Schultz fallout, birth certificate settlement, and more

Click the Press Releases button above

July 25, 2016      4:50 PM

Ratliff: An education savings account is nothing more than an entitlement

SBOE Vice Chairman Thomas Ratliff argues against the latest school choice proposal: “The Texas Constitution requires the state to provide a ‘system of public free schools’ to its citizens. If a family chooses not to use it, they are not entitled to take their neighbor’s money and spend it as they please.”

When I read about the proposed “education savings account” idea being proposed, I cannot help but think of one word – entitlement.  Is this an idea from President Obama?  Nope.  This is an idea from self-proclaimed limited government conservative types.

Let’s be clear. There aren’t “savings” in these accounts as much as there are “donations” or “entitlements” in them, because the recipient never would have paid enough taxes into the account in the first place. 

Let me explain.

The full column by Thomas Ratliff is in the R&D Department.  

By Thomas Ratliff

July 25, 2016      4:49 PM

O'Donnell: Texas water woes contain one problem that is growing with no easy, cheap solution

QR’s resident curmudgeon says kicking the can down the road on leaking infrastructure “will create a fiscal, and possibly public health disaster in decades to come.”

Our lakes are brimming. Flooding has abated. Rivers are flowing nicely. The next drought seems way off in the distance. State agencies are working at developing new water resources over the coming years to serve Texans. So why am I writing about water now?

The next drought may already be underway and there is a statewide problem that is largely unseen. It is costing taxpayers and utility ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. It can’t be fixed with new water resources. AND the cost to fix this problem will be big and long – which is probably why water system officials are reluctant to talk about it.

Billions of gallons of potable water are lost each year from thousands of miles of leaking water mains and pipes in municipal water systems all over Texas. Any system that has been in service for 50 years or more is dealing with this problem. Aged water mains and pipes constructed with limited life materials fail. Shifting soils cause pipe breaks as the ground swells and contracts with heat and cold, flood and drought.

This not a theory.

The complete column by resident curmudgeon Edd O’Donnell is in the R&D Department.

By Edd O'Donnell

July 22, 2016      5:30 PM

Chairman Cook pressed HHSC to change rules for disposal of fetal remains prior to SCOTUS abortion ruling, documents show

While Gov. Abbott now fundraises from it, documents show Chairman Cook quietly pressed HHSC to end what he calls “an abhorrent practice”

Editor’s note: Chairman Cook’s letters to HHSC are available to our subscribers at the end of this story – SB

Original reports about Texas’ proposed rule to require the cremation or burial of fetal remains suggested the change is being made in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down major provisions of House Bill 2, the sweeping abortion regulations passed in 2013. But newly-surfaced documents show that is not the case and instead a powerful Texas House chairman was working behind the scenes to get this done well before the ruling.

The change in the rules was initiated earlier this year. Correspondence obtained by Quorum Report reveals that – without fanfare of any kind – House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, was pleading with the Health and Human Services Commission to expedite the change in how fetal remains are to be legally disposed of in this state.

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By Scott Braddock

July 22, 2016      5:26 PM

Smith: How the GOP can stop fraud – quit talking

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that if Texas GOP officials really want to stop fraud, they should just stop talking. Federal courts twice called them out for misleading the public and the courts – on anti-abortion and Voter ID bills.

What are Texas Republicans to do? First, a federal appeals court ruled that the state’s Voter ID law discriminated against minorities. Then, their favorite son, Sen. Ted Cruz, got in an embarrassing playground slap fest with Donald Trump, who they were busy unifying behind as their presidential candidate. The world is so unfair.

To make matters worse, Trump’s daughter Ivanka said Trump supported both government-backed childcare and mandatory equal pay for women. Who knew Trump was a Secret Socialist?

These contradictions can and probably will be tossed into the GOP’s muddy waters of denial and the forgotten. The loss of the state’s Voter ID law, the nation’s most severe restriction on voting, is another matter. That was their Great Wall against change in Texas.

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

By Glenn W. Smith

July 22, 2016      5:25 PM

Press Releases: Appointments, endorsements, charter schools, and more

Click the Press Release button above for the latest

July 22, 2016      2:40 PM

Coordinating Board approves qualified expansion of vet schools in Texas

“We certain hope A&M and Texas Tech can work together to come up with a partnership,” Commissioner Paredes said. “It makes a lot of sense that these two great institutions work together.”

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has urged the Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University systems to work together on a non-traditional option for an additional veterinary school in Texas.

A traditional veterinary school can cost anywhere between $200 and 500 million, largely due to barn and hospital facilities. Texas has capacity for additional vets – and especially large animal votes in rural areas – but the rest of the country is producing an excess of veterinary graduates.

Chancellor Robert Duncan said Texas may have had enough vets, both those vets are in “maldistribution” across the state, especially in meat-producing areas. During a presentation at yesterday’s Coordinating Board meeting, Duncan said Tech was looking at a disseminated model of education.

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By Kimberly Reeves

July 22, 2016      1:10 PM

Water panel moves out another $700 million in state projects

El Paso, Austin, and North Harris County are awarded hundreds of millions for infrastructure improvements

The Texas Water Development Board’s SWIFT fund continues to be on course and within budget with the distribution of another $700 million in water projects.

Three entities will pull the bulk of the affordable funding options out of the 2016 round of funds: The El Paso Water Utilities Public Service Board, with a multi-year low-interest loan commitment of $150 million; a low-interest multi-year $167 million loan to the City of Austin to complete advanced metering infrastructure; and an additional $225 million in financial assistance to North Harris County Regional Water Authority to aid in the expansion of transmission lines.

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By Kimberly Reeves

July 21, 2016      6:45 PM

KR: Texas appears more ready than ever to dismantle STAAR

Our education reporter writes that Texas appears to be closer than ever to demolishing its ailing assessment system, a strategy strongly supported by a community survey released yesterday.

The results of a State Board of Education-commissioned survey are grim: Better than 60 percent of the 27,200 respondents were in favor of scrapping the STAAR and replacing it with the SAT, ACT or Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Four out of five supported moving students to the next grade, even if they failed STAAR.

Chair Donna Bahorich, who discussed the results at yesterday’s State Board of Education committee session, stopped short of endorsing the results. Instead, Bahorich called the findings “a temperature gauge on the degree of comfort business leaders, teachers, parents and students have on these topics.”

The current degree of comfort with STAAR clearly is “very little.” Almost 90 percent of survey respondents, with the majority being teachers, preferred to reduce the weight of STAAR in teacher evaluations, which is currently 20 percent. And the survey had almost universal support of better ways to test students with disabilities, immediate release of test results and elimination of perceived trick questions.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 21, 2016      4:28 PM

Press Releases: More Voter ID reactions, water conservation dollars, prepaid tuition, and more

Click the Press Releases button above

July 20, 2016      6:05 PM

What is next in dealing with 5th circuit decision on voter ID

Does not void voter ID concept but Texas loomed perilously close to intentional discrimination

The Texas Voter ID law appears to be cast today into something akin to the Catholic Church’s version of purgatory – bound for neither heaven nor Hell, but somewhere in between in an act of absolution to satisfy the Voting Rights Act.

This afternoon, the Fifth Circuit of Appeals, in an en banc opinion, vacated much of the opinion of Texas’ 2011 Voter ID law. The opinion, more than 200 pages long, instructs the state to craft a remedy before the November general election. As election lawyer Rick Hasen notes in his blog this afternoon, that remedy is something less than what Texas has right now, while still preserving the state’s right to put some form of voter identification in place to avoid voter fraud.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 20, 2016      6:02 PM

Rep. Helen Giddings Named Chair of Texas Legislative Black Caucus

“We face difficult issues and a tough political climate,” Giddings said. “Working together with our constituents will make Texas a better place for African Americans and every Texas resident.”

The announcement from the Texas Legislative Black Caucus can be found here.

July 20, 2016      5:57 PM

Press Releases: Voter ID reactions, Fort Worth restrooms, haze plan, and more

Click the Press Releases button above

July 20, 2016      2:09 PM

Fifth Circuit rules Texas Voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act

Case will be sent back down to district court to determine relief for the November Election.

Here’s the news flash from Reuters. Read along with us as we go through the opinion, which you can see here.

July 19, 2016      4:09 PM

Updated: Formal search for a replacement for Paul Hobby on TEC has yet to start

Rumors that anyone in particular has already secured the position are demonstrably false

Editor’s note: Late in the day, the Texas House GOP Caucus issued a statement on the situation and this story is updated to reflect that – SB

The resignation of Democratic Texas Ethics Commission member Paul Hobby will mean Texas House members of the minority party will have a chance to suggest possible replacements as Speaker Joe Straus mulls who to nominate for the panel that oversees campaign finance laws.

But that process has yet to begin, a source close to the Speaker told Quorum Report on Tuesday.

That source said Speaker Straus has not formally asked members for their input on who should succeed Hobby on the commission. That doesn’t mean, however, that some members do not already have ideas about who they would like to see in the job.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

July 19, 2016      4:07 PM

Press Releases: High speed rail opposition and not-back-to-school day

Click the Press Release button above for the latest

July 19, 2016      4:03 PM

Trauma community proposes greater coordination for major disaster events

Questions are as fundamental as “How do we communicate to the paramedics how to take the patient to the right hospital at the right time for the right outcome?”

The recent horrific ambush of Dallas police hung heavily in the air as Rep. Four Price’s appropriations subcommittee took up the issue of trauma funding across Texas.

Surgeon Kenneth Mattax, who literally wrote the book on trauma care, told Price’s panel on Article II that the shootings in Dallas had Houston leaders conferring almost immediately about how the region would respond to a similar event. That only occurs because of the state’s regional collaborative network.

“As the tragedy in Dallas happened…at the two trauma centers in Houston, the leadership came together and said, what do we do when we’re overwhelmed? What do we do together?” said Mattax, chief of staff at Ben Taub Hospital. “And let’s prepare and be ready. Although, we’d just gone through drills in recent times.”

That regional response was not always the default plan of attack. Mattax admitted the hospital systems were known for their big egos before the regional advisory councils were created in 1989.

In her own testimony before the committee, Associate Commissioner Kathy Perkins – who spearheaded the creation of the regional network – said the state still faces challenges to create a seamless system, especially with the current pressure put on regional hospitals.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves