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August 1, 2014      5:26 PM

Press Releases: Foster care controversy, Abbott's appeal, Cruz on your internet bill and more

August 1, 2014      4:56 PM

Updated: Van de Putte asks for the LBB to weigh in on funding for National Guard

Lite Gov nominee wants the LBB to weigh in; Straus says the governor’s disaster funds would be appropriate to begin with

Following a Texas House committee hearing on the fiscal impacts of Gov. Perry’s decision to send as many as 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the border, a key Senate Democrat is asking exactly how all this is going to be paid for.

The added forces on the border are projected to cost Texas taxpayers $17 million a month. That money is, of course, not in the current budget. The leadership has yet to figure out what other programs may be cut to pay for this.

In addition to being her party’s nominee for Lt. Governor, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, is also the Chair of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations. In that role, Van de Putte said the vagueness of the source of funding for troops to be "extremely concerning.”

In a letter sent on Thursday to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus, Van de Putte said there is a "lack of clarity" when it comes to Perry’s plan for the troops under Operation Strong Safety.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

August 1, 2014      4:55 PM

Libertarian for Railroad Commission issues debate challenge

Oil, gas regulator viewed increasingly with ‘distrust, even disgust’

The Libertarian candidate for Texas Railroad Commission called Friday for a series of public policy debates that examine the oil and gas regulator’s role in preserving individual liberties, such as the rights of surface landowners, among other things.

A petroleum engineer with 42 years’ experience in the oil and gas, including 18 teaching the subject at the University of Texas at Austin, Mark Miller stressed that the current oil and gas boom has thrust the commission’s increasingly important work into the public spotlight.

And, he says in an open letter, the people of Texas are getting far too little substance from Republican Ryan Sitton, an energy engineer, and Democrat Steve Brown, former Democratic Party Chairman of Fort Bend County.

“Public statements from the major party candidates are, not unexpectedly, long on platitudes and short on specifics. And, the discourse about oil and gas issues outside the commissioner race seems highly polarized between undying support of oil and gas vs. ending fracking at all costs,” Miller writes in his letter.

The complete story can be found in Texas Energy Report.

August 1, 2014      2:27 PM

Stanford: Obama's secret diplomatic victories

From the left-- The most important Obama foreign policy wins you never heard

I get it. When foreigners challenge America, we want our President to scream bloody murder and then send in the Marines to make sure it happens. Forget about talking softly. Go straight for the big stick. By contrast, diplomacy looks weak, like some tin-pot dictator from a nothing-burger country is pushing us around. But in case anyone cares to notice, the world may be falling apart, but Barack Obama has put together a string of surprising diplomatic victories.

The extension of the negotiating window with Iran came and went with little notice. The nuclear freeze in Iran should be a big deal. Thanks to our negotiations and economic sanctions, Iran has diluted its highly enriched uranium, agreed to in-person inspections and video surveillance, and ceased work on its heavy water plutonium reactor. But this progress is less well known than some state secrets, a mystery not just to Americans at large but most political insiders as well.

Another recent—and oddly secret—diplomatic victory took place in Syria. Of course, with Syria in the middle of a civil war, it looks like the country’s main export is bad news. And when Obama leveraged Russia’s relationship with Syria to broker a deal to get rid of the latter’s chemical weapons, Republicans said Vladimir Putin made Obama look weak.

A funny thing happened on the way to the GOP’s deification of Putin: While Syrians were busy shooting each other, the country’s last supplies of chemical weapons—600 metric tons of it—left Syria on a Danish ship under the supervision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. This is probably the best news you’ve never heard.

The rest of Jason Stanford's column can be found in today's R&D Department.

By Jason Stanford

August 1, 2014      8:10 AM

Greenfield: As women's clinics close, state Medicaid costs will increase

"This increased number of births will result in Medicaid expenditures increasing by around $250 million a year after HB 2 is fully implemented."

A recent study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TPEP) at the University of Texas reported that passage of House Bill 2 (HB2) by the Texas Legislature in 2013 resulted in reducing abortions by 9,200.  While some women may find out-of-state sites to have an abortion, we should expect additional births in Texas.  These additional births will have an impact on state finances.

As shown in Chart #1, more than 55 percent of the births in the state in 2010 were paid for by Medicaid.  In fiscal year 2010, the Medicaid program spent $2.6 billion to cover the delivery of 221,000 babies, at an average cost of $11,600, each.

By projecting the proportion of births that will be covered by Medicaid and the increase in delivery costs, one can derive an estimate of the impact HB 2 has and will have on state finances.  Should the current trend continue, the proportion of births in the state covered by Medicaid will be around 60 percent in 2014.  Average cost per Medicaid beneficiary increased by 5.4 percent per year between 2004 and 2010.  Had this rate of increase continued, the average cost per Medicaid covered birth in 2014 would be around $14,000 per beneficiary.

The rest of column can be found in today's R&D Department

By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

July 31, 2014      11:53 AM

DHS grilled about border security technology

Homeland Security has no idea how much it spent on research and development, how its money should be spent and what was most effective.

WASHINGTON DC – A trio of US House committees held a rapid-fire Capitol Hill hearing Thursday morning on technology use along the border as lawmakers rushed to beat the deadline for the impending August recess.

The use of technology on the border is a classic case of multiple overlapping departments handling similar issues with no clear long-term plan to embed technology into existing border security efforts. A recent GAO report called research and development efforts of the Department of Homeland Security “fragmented and overlapping,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who chairs the Science, Space and Technology committee and has strong interests in immigration policy.

“Frankly, no one knows who’s in charge of research and development or what the goal is,” said Smith in his opening statement. “The GAO reports that the Science and Technology Directorate lost touch with its end-users about what technologies and R&D should be a priority.”

The idea that technology could make securing the border easier and cheaper is alluring for policymakers. Witnesses agreed the progress to create an integrated border security strategy has been woefully neglected, even as the Department of Homeland Security has been launched and funded. They also graded the use of technology along the border as “incomplete” for a variety of reasons.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 30, 2014      5:15 PM

In Texas Energy Report: Texas paves way in oilfield water recycling, spreads the word

In D.C., Tintera shares which energy /water policies can help

WASHINGTON DC – More than 60 people attended an off-the-record briefing on sustainable water management in the oil & gas industry at the Atlantic Council on Monday, signaling the high level of interest around the best practices of managing and recycling water in the red-hot sector of hydraulic fracturing operations.

Geologist John Tintera, former executive director of the Texas Railroad Commission and a current principal of Sebree & Tintera, presented the Atlantic Council white paper, which he called the result of state and federal stakeholder input to provide a summary of potential best practices in water recycling that can apply both in the national and international arenas. Tintera is also the president of the recently formed Texas Water Recycling Association.

Few topics are more volatile in Texas than water rights, even when it comes to the profitable oil & gas boom. Texas has talked rights of capture and groundwater districts, regional planning efforts and junior water rights, not to mention a $2 billion state-wide water plan approved by voters that still hangs in the balance.

Now the energy industry has added a new level of complexity: a desire to use brackish water in that layer below the groundwater table. Tintera also argues that recycling and re-using produced water during hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations will take pressure off freshwater suppliers, be more ecologically sensible and reduce the use of controversial wastewater disposal wells. The latter have stirred public fears that they might have prompted a series of earthquakes in the northern Texas town of Azle and elsewhere.

The rest of the story can be found in our sister publication, Texas Energy Report.

By Kimberly Reeves

July 30, 2014      5:05 PM

Press release section:Paxton voted for law he violated, McRaven reax, Perry PSA and more

July 29, 2014      5:21 PM

Home School Coalition sues Texas Ethics Commission to block dark money regulation

"Texas has no legitimate interest, much less a compelling interest, in regulating issue advocacy."

Attorneys for the Texas Home School Coalition filed a lawsuit against the Texas Ethics Commission this past week in federal court in Lubbock, arguing that it’s unconstitutional for the commission to try to regulate political spending by groups classified as 501(c)(4)’s under the tax code. That, of course, would include the political activities of Midland oilman Tim Dunn’s spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan, the president of Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.

Sullivan, as QR readers who have followed this are aware, has been found guilty of lobbying without registering by the commission but the agency has yet to address the complaint that he’s operating a political action committee without making legally required disclosures. Attorneys for Sullivan plan to appeal the ruling on the lobbying issue in court.

The Home School Coalition’s lawyers say that "while Texas may be able to condition political candidates' and political action committees' political activities on compliance with burdensome requirements, it may not so condition the exercise of First Amendment rights by organizations whose major purpose is not campaign advocacy, but who occasionally make independent expenditures on behalf of candidates.'" 

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

July 29, 2014      4:58 PM

Press Releases: More outrage over the border, dentists for Medicaid reform and the changing Texas electorate

July 29, 2014      4:27 PM

TEA finalizing system for rating schools and districts under sweeping reforms

“This year’s accountability system will be a different ball game…”

The Texas Education Agency has dropped the final piece of data into the upcoming accountability matrix, a matrix that will differ significantly from last year.

State accountability ratings will be out on August 8, followed shortly by federal accountability ratings. On Monday, TEA staff added scores for campus and district targets on student progress and closing achievement gaps. This gives most school districts some understanding today of what labels their campuses and districts might meet: either met standards or needs improvement.

If all this sounds confusing or vague, don’t worry. The labels will change again. Under last session’s House Bill 5, the labels for campuses again will revert to Exemplary, Recognized, Satisfactory and Academically Unacceptable. Texas also will move to a yet-to-be-defined system of an A-F rating system for school districts, a system touted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education as being simpler and more understandable to parents.

With guidance from Maria Whitsett of Moak Casey & Associates, here are some of the changes that will occur under the four indices: student achievement; student progress; closing performance gaps; and post-secondary readiness.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 29, 2014      2:19 PM

Abbott submits argument on same-sex marriage to Fifth Circuit

“The case is not about whether Texas should recognize same-sex marriage. It is about the question of who decides

Attorney General Greg Abbott’s brief on same-sex marriage before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals invokes state rights with a strong dash of social conservatism that traditional marriage is the best way to raise children.

Abbott opens his brief with a description of the 2005 vote that amended the Texas Constitution to describe marriage as the union of one man and one woman. He goes on to say that marriage is “rooted in the basic reality of human life: procreation requires a male and a female.” Opposite-sex marriages increase the likelihood of children being born into healthy, stable relationships, Abbott argues.

Still, Abbott’s more frequent argument is that the right to define marriage belongs to Texas and that the denial of same-sex marriage does not violate due process rights. To allow the courts to reverse a state decision only reinforces the idea that the courts can take away the constitutional rights of the legislative process.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 29, 2014      2:10 PM

Bearse: Conventional Wisdom and Henri, Le Chat Noir

From the Right: QR’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues the best name the Democrats have on this year’s ballot is Jim Hogan because he’s the un-candidate: “If Hogan pulls this off, his campaign will be studied for decades. And Wendy Davis’ campaign will be studied for ten minutes.”

The definition of conventional wisdom is that which has yet to be proven wrong. For instance, conventional wisdom says a lot of Republicans will vote for Senator Leticia Van De Putte for lieutenant governor because they dislike Dan Patrick. It is said to be conventional wisdom in Austin, which means it was promulgated in a bar and made it to a blog. From there, it took a life of its own; a meme that rings true until proven false. In other words, until November.

Look, I know some insiders will vote for Van De Putte. Some may even call themselves Republicans. Or scoundrels. Or lobbyists. And this protest vote will change the overall total by 0.0001 percent. In other words, she will win Travis County even bigger. The problem is the other 253 counties.

And the sad irony for Democrats is they have long assumed Hispanics will vote in large numbers for Hispanic Democrats. Because that is just what Hispanics do. It’s conventional wisdom. But what if her name is Belgian? Or Dutch? Or Flemish?

My name is English. But I am most closely aligned with the Finns in terms of bloodlines. Well, and Germans and the crazy Dutch too. But if I ever ran for office, I would not win the Finnish colonies with a name like Bearse. Too many vowels for the Finns. The Finns would stay home. I would lose.

The best Democratic name on the ballot is not Davis, Van De Putte or even Sam Houston (that sounds too much like one of those crackpots who actually changed his name to be famous instead of making his name famous.) The best name is Hogan. He is the ultimate un-candidate. He is better than Cola. He is Un-Cola.

The complete column from Eric Bearse is in today's R&D Department.

By Eric Bearse

July 29, 2014      1:13 PM

New numbers bring cautious optimism on solvency of Medicare

Government has no conclusive idea why costs are down

WASHINGTON DC – Projections the solvency of the Medicare trust fund has been extended an additional four years elicited reactions from experts that ranged from “cautious optimism to enthusiastic pessimism,” according to the panel moderator of a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday.

The 2014 Medicare Trustees Report pushed the solvency of the Medicare trust fund from 2024 to 2030 in a single year, a fact that chief actuary Paul Spitalnic attributed to slower growth in claims and spending. Even a fractional decrease in ratios between collections and spending, and the ability to build additional modest assets, has significant impact on the fund’s 75-year horizon.

“This has changed the completion of the fund from 2026 to 2030, but it’s hard to look at this chart as wonderful news,” Spitalnic told an audience at AEI. “It’s clearly better news than we had last year, but there’s still clearly a problem with (Hospital Insurance Trust Fund) financing.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 29, 2014      12:51 PM

People on the move: Dudensing new CEO of TAHP as Gonzales moves on

Former Dewhurst health care policy expert to take reins of Texas Association of Health Plans

The Texas Association of Health Plans on Tuesday announced that longtime health care advisor Jamie Dudensing is taking the reins as the group's new CEO.

“We are elated to recruit a leader with Jamie’s experience and integrity," said Holly Munin, President of the TAHP’s board. Dudensing was most recently as deputy chief of staff and director of policy for Lt. Governor David Dewhurst.

Munin also thanked the outgoing CEO, David Gonzales. "David has been a vital part of our success and he has gone the extra mile to ensure a smooth leadership transition,” she said. “We're grateful for his time here and wish him the best.”

Here is the full announcement from the TAHP.

July 29, 2014      12:50 PM

Rep. Charles Perry will withdraw from the race for his House seat

Tells a crowd in Lubbock that leaving the HD 83 race is the best thing for his district as he sets his sights on the Texas Senate

July 28, 2014      5:38 PM

High powered education initiative implodes over student privacy concerns

Fall out from Gates-Carnegie project could lead to enhanced privacy protections ad ed goes higher tech

WASHINGTON DC - Billionaire Bill Gates launched the great $100 million ed tech startup experiment known as inBloom with massive pomp and circumstance at SXSWedu in Austin 2013, touting it as a new tool to accelerate student achievement across the country.

The Gates and Carnegie foundations pledged a nine-figure commitment to scale up what once was known as the Shared Learning Collaborative. In its new non-profit incarnation, InBloom proposed to warehouse data from school districts across the country in a massive cloud repository, pushing massive information back to teachers in a uniform dashboard.

Just over a year later, CEO Iwan Streichenberger was pulling the plug on inBloom after massive missteps in states like Louisiana and New York, where parents were outraged that hundreds of pieces of information, including Social Security numbers, were being stored and used by a third-party vendor.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 28, 2014      4:40 PM

SB: A terrible, no good week for MQ Sullivan

Recent developments suggest a pattern of deception

It would be difficult enough to cover something as complex as a matter before the Texas Ethics Commission if all sides were honest brokers about the proceedings. The fact that they are not makes cutting through the noise that much more of a challenge. Thankfully for those who tell the truth for a living, sorting out fact from fiction becomes easier as more evidence becomes part of the public record.

Steve Bresnen, a longtime lobbyist and former aide to Lt Gov. Bob Bullock, on Monday sent to lawmakers a detailed update on the case of Midland oilman Tim Dunn’s spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan and his organization Empower Texans.

“My greatest fear—as a citizen and professional advocate—is that lying threatens to replace honesty as the currency of public discourse,” Bresnen said of the way Sullivan has conducted himself throughout the proceedings before the TEC. “That’s why it’s been a good week for Texas,” Bresnen said, pointing to the commission’s ruling last week that Sullivan is indeed a professional lobbyist who has failed to register. The commission fined Sullivan the maximum amount they were able to in the case: $10,000.

Sullivan denies the charge and an appeal in court has been promised by his legal team, which includes an impressive number of attorneys for a citizen activist.

Among other things in his update to lawmakers, Bresnen notes that when Sullivan appeared on NBC 5’s Lone Star Politics in Dallas/Fort Worth on July 20, he said he was not asked by the TEC about whether he had destroyed email evidence. When asked specifically if he had trashed emails that showed his alleged lobbying, he told Dallas Morning News reporter Gromer Jeffers "No."

One might safely assume that if Jeffers had lawful subpoena power – the way the Texas Ethics Commission does – Sullivan’s response would have been "On the advice of counsel, I'm not going to be testifying today.” You can see his appearance on TV here. The questions about the case start at about 8:50 in the video.

Sullivan said the commission “never actually asked us about the emails. They never asked us about policies. If they had, they would have found that we, like most businesses, have an email retention program." Sullivan added that in a “real court,” the emails would have been the subject of a line of questioning. Turns out, however, that attorneys for the TEC did directly ask Sullivan about emails to lawmakers during the formal hearing weeks before his television appearance.

Simply put: What Sullivan said on TV does not comport with reality.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

July 28, 2014      4:39 PM

Press Releases: Appointments, endorsements, Sen. Cruz engages in bipartisanship and more

July 28, 2014      3:11 PM

Van de Putte proposes five debates with Patrick in race for Lite Guv

Aggressive schedule would include dates in major markets and The Valley

Note: This story has been updated with a response from the Sen. Patrick campaign – SB

The race to preside over the Texas Senate come 2015 would include five debates across the state if the Democratic nominee got her way. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio on Monday proposed debates in major markets as well as the Rio Grande Valley.

In a letter to the Dan Patrick campaign obtained by QR, Van de Putte’s campaign manager Scott Remley asks that all of the debates be simulcast in English and Spanish, social media be incorporated in each of them, and that organizers "strive for a variety of venues and formats that increase accessibility for all Texans."

The debates would be scheduled as follows:      

The rest of the story, subscribers only

July 28, 2014      11:00 AM

Former Rep. Delwin Jones is in the Senate race to succeed Duncan

The possibility of a runoff grows in the Sept 9 special election

The race to succeed former Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock now includes four candidates with the addition of former Rep. Delwin Jones. He announced his candidacy on Monday morning. Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock is of course also in the running and as QR has reported, Perry is undecided about whether to withdraw from his House race in addition to seeking the Texas Senate seat vacated by Duncan for the job of Texas Tech System Chancellor.

Lubbock Online reports:

"Jones joins Perry, former Tech (Vice) Chancellor Jodey Arrington, former Sweetwater mayor Greg Wortham and Wolfforth resident Epifano Garza in the race to replace Duncan. The race got more interesting last week when Gov. Rick Perry set the special election date for Sept. 9 instead of Nov. 4, as most politicos assumed would be the case, giving contenders less than two months to campaign. Thus far Arrington leads the fundraising race, bringing in more than $200,000 in the first reporting period; Perry reported raising $130,000 in the first six months of the year and having $195,000 in the bank."

July 26, 2014      11:40 AM

Former State Senator "Bob" McFarland passed last Wednesday

Fourteen years in House and Senate; McFarland was a gentleman in every sense of the word

The obituary with details of the arrangements can be found here.

July 26, 2014      9:54 AM

AgendaWise and Greer lose appeal in libel case brought by Salem Abraham

Trial court had agreed story referencing Abraham was false but dismissed the case on other issues, now back to trial court

Daniel Greer and the AgendaWise crew lost an important legal defense when the Seventh District Court of Appeals remanded the defamation case brought against them by Salem Abraham back to district Court.  The history of the case can be found below.  Abraham is seeking damages.

Agendawise is another one of the operations operated by Midland oil man Tim Dunn and his spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan both of whom sit on the board.  This is the second adverse ruling  against the pair.  The Texas Ethics Commission ruled last week that Sullivan had in fact acted as a lobbyist and failed to register as required by law.  Sullivan will appeal

Meanwhile,  Abraham told QR., “"For people who like to talk a lot about the importance of truth, it is clear to me that Daniel Greer and his puppet masters Tim Dunn and Michael Sullivan are hypocrites and cowards who run and hide when the lies of the organization they control are exposed.  With this ruling, I am hopeful we can discover the full extent of their lies and have them pay for the damage they have done."

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Harvey Kronberg

July 25, 2014      5:20 PM

Optimism over continuation of NCLB waiver on teacher accountability system

Most of the Texas delegation supportive

The state’s largest teacher group has backed up a request for an additional year to test the waters on the state’s new teacher accountability system, a key provision of the federal government’s agreement to waive No Child Left Behind for Texas.

Jennifer Canaday, ATPE Government Relations Manager, said the Association for Texas Professional Educators began meeting with the Texas delegation in June to discuss the one-year extension of the teacher evaluation pilot. Twenty-two members of the Texas delegation signed the

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 25, 2014      4:15 PM

Senate GOP Caucus says Racing Commission should defer to lege and stand down on "historical racing" rule making

Joins with Dan Flynn claiming legislative purview over gaming policy in state

The Texas Racing Commission has stirred up a firestorm by considering new rules that would permit betting on “historical racing” in which folks use electronic terminals to wager on historical races in which identifying information has been removed.  Many consider this a possible loophole to expand gaming in Texas.

Rep. Dan Flynn (Van) first focused public attention on the agency’s actions when he sent a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott seeking an opinion on whether the Texas Racing Commission has the authority to even consider such rules.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Harvey Kronberg

July 25, 2014      10:46 AM

Texans for Public Justice file criminal complaint against Ken Paxton

Civil agency settlement did not resolve criminal allegations

In what should be a surprise to no one, Texans for Public Justice announced today that they filed a criminal felony complaint against Republican Attorney General nominee Ken Paxton for admittedly failing to register as an investment advisor.

In addition, the complaint says, "The Texas Securities Act prohibits a person from acting as an investment adviser representative for an investment firm in Texas unless the person is registered as a representative for that particular firm. The Texas Securities Act provides that any person who renders services as an investment advisor representative without being registered as required by the Act is guilty of a felony of the third degree."

The full complaint can be found here.

Both sides of the partisan divide have been concerned that Paxton faces criminal liability and would not be replacable on the ballot should he be indicted.

By Harvey Kronberg

July 25, 2014      9:29 AM

DMN: John Wiley Price arrested by FBI this morning

"The indictment alleges that from 2001-11, Nealy provided "concealed financial benefits" to Price totaling $950,231. The indictment refers to the funds as "a continuous stream of bribe payments."

The full Dallas Morning News story can be found here.

July 25, 2014      7:37 AM

Alamo Draft House and Greg Abbott vid were preceded by ADF and Ann Richards

See the ad below