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September 30, 2014      12:31 PM

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION NAMES 28 TEXAS SCHOOLS TO NATIONAL BLUE RIBBON LIST

List includes charters, early college high schools and three private Catholic schools.

Here's the Education Department's press release on this year's announcement of 337 Blue Ribbon schools:

Here is the full list of schools, by state:

By Kimberly Reeves

September 30, 2014      12:10 PM

New Davis TV ad: Priorities

Sen. Davis speaks about Abbott's education record versus her own

September 30, 2014      10:43 AM

Lyceum Poll finds Texans are worried about economy, immigration, and national security

Texans’ impression of the economy seems to be improving; “Even in a red state, ambivalent attitudes show context matters.”

Billed as “Texas’ only independent poll” the newly released Texas Lyceum Poll showed that – as has been the case in the past – people who live here have differing concerns based on whether you ask them about the state or the nation a whole. The numbers unveiled Tuesday are about fiscal and social issues while the second part of the poll, slated for release on Wednesday, will deal with head-to-head political contests including the races for governor and lite guv.   

The economy, immigration and political corruption top the worries of Texans about the nation. The mood about the economy seems to be getting better, however. In 2013, “35 percent of respondents cited the economy or jobs/unemployment as the country’s most pressing problem.” Now, that number is down considerably at 20 percent.

Naturally, there is partisan structure when you ask Texans to list what issues are top of mind. From the pollsters:

“Both Democrats and Republicans still perceive the economy to be the most important problem facing the country, with 14 percent and 17 percent choosing it respectively, but differ in their secondary and tertiary selections. The second most chosen issue among Democrats was immigration (10 percent) followed by war (9 percent). For Republicans, the second most selected issue was national security/terrorism (12 percent) followed by political corruption/leadership (10 percent).”

But when asking what problems are most important for Texas, the picture changes:

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

September 30, 2014      9:15 AM

New Abbott TV ad: Education

Focuses on strengthening the education system for the long haul

September 30, 2014      9:06 AM

HK: Wow! A real debate; Patrick and Van de Putte really mix it up.

Abbott’s previous refusal for follow up questions reduced last gubernatorial debate to farce

For people who actually watch the process, last night’s debate between Senators Dan Patrick and Leticia Van de Putte was far more satisfying than what was passed off as a gubernatorial debate last week.

The major take away? 

Whether you agree with him or not, Patrick can talk policy. Despite being in a candidate protection program for the last month, Patrick’s experience on talk radio and on the Senate floor made him a far more engaging debater than the top of the Republican ticket, AG Greg Abbott.  Abbott is the chief executive of the state’s largest law firm and like Rick Perry two years ago, is surprisingly unprepared to talk policy. As an apparent CEO surrounded by yes men, Abbott’s performance in his debate was full of misdirection and misleading statements.  In stark contrast, Patrick is battle-tested and hardened after six years in the state’s leading debate society.  Fact checkers will have a field day, but that is beside the point.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Harvey Kronberg

September 29, 2014      9:36 PM

Patrick and Van de Putte face off in only debate of the campaign

Assertive performances by both Lite Guv candidates; now here come the pundits and the fact-checkers

Both candidates for Texas Lt. Governor gave measured but assertive performances in the only debate they’ll have before voters decide which one of them should preside over the Texas Senate come 2015. The hour-long exchange held at the studios of KLRU Public Television in Austin on Monday night revealed no new positions by either candidate. They both, however, demonstrated an ability to talk clearly on matters of policy while delivering some subtle and not-so-subtle jabs at one another.

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, stressed his oft-heard message about border security. The Democrat, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio sought to introduce herself to voters and highlight what she sees as Patrick’s extremism. Despite their complete disagreements on a variety of issues both fiscal and social, Patrick repeatedly said he likes Sen. Van de Putte – a sentiment she did not return.  

The debate’s format, which was similar to what was seen when Sen. Wendy Davis and Attorney General Greg Abbott met in McAllen, served to allow each candidate to stick to their talking points while only taking glancing blows at each other’s positions. These highly structured debates, by the way, seem to have become part of the Republican structural advantage in Texas. After all, the less news is made during an exchange, the less chance of moving the polls.

Appropriately, the first question was about the growing scandal involving Gov. Perry’s business-luring Texas Enterprise Fund. Sen. Van de Putte said she was “appalled” to learn about the way Perry has been administering it. “This has been very distressing," she said and added that the program should be halted immediately while an investigation is done.

Van de Putte said government, and those who serve in it, need to be transparent. She then pivoted to the question of why Sen. Patrick has not released his taxes. All the other Republicans Patrick defeated for the GOP nomination released their taxes, Van de Putte said.

To that, Patrick answered that his financial disclosure forms include all the information anyone would ever need to know about his finances, even his taxes.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

September 29, 2014      6:07 PM

Where to watch the Lite Guv debate tonight

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, face off tonight at 7pm in their only scheduled debate of the campaign to preside over the Texas Senate.  

Since some of our readers were asking, we thought we'd make sure you knew that you can either watch the live stream below or tune into your local TV station. In Austin, the debate will be on KLRU PBS and Time Warner Cable News.

The campaign of Sen. Van de Putte has posted this list of stations carrying the broadcast around Texas.

September 29, 2014      5:15 PM

Property tax value increases kicked back to state will cover student enrollment growth this budget cycle

Temporary largesse conceals structural issues; looks perilously close to unconstitutional statewide property tax

The state wouldn’t have to raise a dime this budget cycle and could still manage to fund school finance, all on the back of incremental growth in local property taxes

It seems almost impossible to concede such a reality, only weeks after District Judge John Dietz predicted the dire consequences of a school finance system that funded itself on a margins tax that continues to dwindle. But a deal struck eight years ago with local school districts is going to fill that hole handsomely, according to a recent presentation to the Senate Finance Committee by the Legislative Budget Board.

Such a reality seems hard to imagine. Four years ago, lawmakers were slashing school finance along with the rest of the budget, carving $5.4 billion out of both school payments and grant programs at the Texas Education Agency.

But the finances for school funding have recovered, and recovered big, due to something referred to as “target revenue.” When the Texas Supreme Court ruled in the last round of school finance that school districts did not have “meaningful discretion” with property taxes, the solution was to freeze property values, compress property taxes by a third and create room for tax growth through voter tax ratification elections, referred to as TREs.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

September 29, 2014      5:08 PM

Press releases: Abbott in hot water, political endosements, pre-debate set-ups

September 29, 2014      2:32 PM

Updated: Davis calls for independent investigation of Abbott's role in Enterprise Fund scandal

Senator says AG should return campaign cash that came to him from TEF recipients; AG's office says this is "political posturing—or just ignoring the facts."

Following revelations that Attorney General Greg Abbott received more than $1 million in campaign donations from companies that benefitted from lax oversight of the Texas Enterprise Fund, Sen. Wendy Davis on Monday called for his office to be investigated. Abbott should give that money back to those donors while such an investigation is completed, Davis said.

An independent audit of the $500 million business-luring fund released late last week showed that $222 million was awarded to companies and universities that never even applied for the money meant to create jobs across the state. Because of that, those dollars did not come with the requirement that the money be used for job creation, which is the why The Legislature approved the program administered by Gov. Perry’s office in the first place.

The blistering audit was the result of legislation passed at Sen. Davis’ behest last year.

The Dallas Morning News reported over the weekend that Abbott got more than $1 million in campaign cash from some of those firms and that he kept applications from companies secret by ruling that “the applications for money from the $500 million job-creation fund might contain confidential corporate information.”

Davis on Monday said that an independent state or federal investigation of the AG’s office should be immediately started and that Abbott should surrender any campaign cash gained from those companies – at least until such an investigation is complete. She also said Abbott’s office should immediately make public any documentation related to what she called his role in this “cover-up.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

September 29, 2014      12:44 PM

Householder: Lawyers for both sides proving Perry prosecution is not political

Veteran strategist Joe Householder argues neither side would behave as they are if the prosecution of the governor was a political witch hunt

I’m not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on television, but if what we’ve seen over the last few weeks in the matter of The State of Texas v James Richard Rick Perry is any indication, we’re in for both some potentially legendary Texas-style theatrics over the life of this case as well as some truly commendable lawyering – from both sides.

Make no mistake: the matter is serious. Even if you think the indictment is bogus the case raises fascinating questions about the parameters of proper behavior for Texas Governors, all of whom have struggled mightily to overcome the limits put on them by the state’s reactionary post-reconstruction constitution.

Nonetheless, it appears we’re in for a show of some tremendous courtroom skill, coupled with no small amount of political irony. Witness the first real skirmish, in which special prosecutor Michael McCrum condemned the governor for seeking a “special favor” in his request that he be permitted to skip many of the inevitable pre-trial procedural hearings.

What raised McCrum’s ire was a motion by Perry attorney Tony Buzbee that the governor be permitted to skip one upcoming hearing because of a pre-planned trip to Europe and – for that matter – all forthcoming “non-evidentiary” hearings. Buzbee says Perry fully intends to show up for all hearings in which evidence is discussed, but he shouldn’t have to attend many other procedural ones given his need to continue doing his day job.  

McCrum threw the flag, saying that every defendant, no matter their station in life, is expected to show up for hearings. He says giving Perry a break from common Travis County practice will lead to other defendants demanding the same special treatment.

Joe Householder, a long time Texas public affairs consultant, works for Purple Strategies, LLC, a bipartisan firm based in Washington, D.C. His complete column can be found in today’s R&D Department.

By Joe Householder

September 29, 2014      8:44 AM

New Abbott web ad: The Obama-Davis Agenda

Seizes on Sen. Davis' support for President Obama

September 28, 2014      12:00 PM

Burton and Willis clash in TV debate as they battle to succeed Wendy Davis in the Senate

Democrat Willis portrays herself as independent alternative to conservative Burton in the GOP-leaning swing district; Republican Burton says Willis doesn’t speak for her.

In their only televised debate so far prior to the November election, the two women vying to succeed Sen. Wendy Davis in the Texas Senate on Sunday clashed on topics ranging from abortion to how to lure business to Texas. Though it was a short exchange, about 10 minutes or so, the debate broadcast on WFAA Television in Dallas/Fort Worth highlighted “clear differences” between civic leader Libby Willis, the Democrat, and conservative activist Konni Burton, the Republican.

Neither has held public office previously and they both have reasons to believe voters in the district, anchored in Cowtown, will send them to Austin. As noted by one of the debate moderators Bud Kennedy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Senate District 10 has sent both Republicans and Democrats to the upper chamber of The Legislature in recent decades.

Sen. Davis, of course, was able to win thanks in large part to her ability to convince enough Republicans that it was ok for them to vote for Mitt Romney then cross over and vote for her down ballot. Voters there chose Romney for president 53 to 45 percent in 2012 while simultaneously choosing Davis 51 to 48 over Republican Mark Shelton.

"People are so tired of the same old same old," Burton said. "I'm listening to the concerns of the voters."  

Willis said she chose to run specifically because of the differences between Burton and herself. "My opponent really does answer to Tea Party headquarters,” Willis said and added that as a senator she will not “take orders from” Wendy Davis, President Obama or either political party. "I am going to be somebody who is independent,” she said.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

September 26, 2014      5:38 PM

AG's Office says it has worked to recover TEF money from companies that failed to create jobs

AG has worked to recover a large amount of state money overall, but the amount Abbott has tried to recover in TEF funds is small. His office is reviewing the audit of the Enterprise Fund.

After a day of attacks from Democrats who say the Republican Attorney General running for governor is duty-bound to try to recover taxpayer money that “went out the window” thanks to lax oversight of Gov. Perry’s business-luring Texas Enterprise Fund, the AG’s Office said Friday it was already working to recover some of those dollars before a scathing audit was released.

That audit performed by the State Auditor – the first independent audit of that fund – showed $222 million went to companies and other entities that never even submitted formal applications. Many of those millions did not come with the important strings attached dictating that new jobs actually be created, the audit found.

After asking for comment from both the campaign of AG Greg Abbott and the Office of the Attorney General, we heard back from Jerry Strickland in the AG’s office. He pointed out that the responsibility of overseeing state funds and auditing them has fallen primarily to the State Auditor since that position was created in 1929.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

September 26, 2014      5:36 PM

Ft Worth Senate Candidate Libby Willis TV Ad: Brake Shop

Democratic SD 10 candidate highlights her ability to champion business owners in Cowtown

September 26, 2014      5:07 PM

Abbott appeals school finance decision

As expected, AG's office bypasses appeals court and goes straight to the Supremes

You can see a copy of the filing from the Office of the Attorney General by clicking here.

September 26, 2014      4:32 PM

Internal poll shows Arlington House race could be one to watch

Democratic underdog releases poll that shows a competitive race for outgoing Rep. Diane Patrick's seat

A reliably Republican Texas House district in North Texas could be up for grabs if there’s validity to a new internal poll released to the Quorum Report by the Democrat in the race. It’s one of those classic situations where we hear that the contest could be quite competitive if, and that’s a big if, the Democrat is able to get his message out to voters.

Incumbent Rep. Diane Patrick lost her GOP primary to Tea Party challenger Tony Tinderholt, who has given pause to some local Republican leaders. Tinderholt faces Democratic businessman Cole Ballweg in November.  

The poll released by Ballweg’s campaign showed that when voters were told positive things about both candidates, Tinderholt’s structural lead as the Republican shrank to a statistical dead heat.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

September 26, 2014      3:33 PM

TEA posts RFP on major public school assessment contract once exclusively held by Pearson

First time contract components broken out to all multiple vendors; contract drops from five to four years

Multiple sections in this contract mean multiple components. That opens up one of the state's largest contracts to be shared by multiple vendors rather than one exclusively. The Length of the contract is reduced from five to four years. Bids are due in December.

Pearson has held the state's contract since 2000, with two extensions. The last five-year contract cost just under $500 million. Vendors, or a consortium of vendors, must indicate a preference to bid by Oct. 17, according to the RFP.

The Student Assessment RFP has been posted to the Electronic State Business Daily which can be found here.

By Kimberly Reeves

September 26, 2014      3:22 PM

Stanford: Bomb Mexico

From the left--Foreign policy pronouncements for two GOP candidates are just jokes....except they are not

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a politician is crazy or just joking. The problem is usually that no one is laughing. Such was the case recently when two candidates offered a radical solution to the humanitarian crisis on the Texas border: Bomb Mexico. Serious or not, it shows how far the anti-immigrant tide has carried some politicians from realistically addressing border security and immigration reform.

The first example of this idea to turn South Texas into a war zone happened in June at a Republican candidate forum in North Carolina. Typically, these affairs encourage candidates to try to get to the right of each other in front of audiences of Republican activists, but even in this environment what Mark Walker said was so out there that Dick Cheney would have gasped in admiration.

In response to a question about drug cartels sneaking over our southern border, Walker, a Baptist preacher, preached war: “If we gotta go laser or blitz somebody with a couple of fighter jets for a little while to make our point, I don’t have a problem with that, either.”

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

By Jason Stanford

September 25, 2014      7:05 PM

Updated: Audit says millions from Texas Enterprise Fund went to entities that were not required to create new direct jobs

Some companies did not submit formal applications; audit comes as some lawmakers talk about taking oversight of economic incentive programs out of the governor’s office

This story has been updated throughout as of 4:57pm, including comment from Sen. Wendy Davis, who authored the legislation that required the audit – SB

Just as Governor Perry’s economic incentive programs come under increased scrutiny at the Texas Capitol, a new report from the State Auditor’s Office said millions have been awarded to companies and universities from the Texas Enterprise Fund without formal applications ever being submitted. $222 million was doled out that way. What’s perhaps worse is that the audit also specifically said many of those millions did not come with the requirement that companies actually create jobs, which was the whole idea when the fund was established a decade ago.

In fairness, the fund is credited with creating nearly 50,000 jobs in the last ten years at a cost of about $505 million that went to 115 companies or other entities. The governor’s office did, the audit said, recover about $14.5 million “when it became aware of recipients’ noncompliance with requirements in award agreements.”

But this report, released on Thursday morning, said that many millions were awarded with no corresponding job creation.

Projects that did not submit an application and were not required to create new, direct jobs received more than $105 million. Those include the Board of Regents of the UT System (for the benefit of the University of Texas at Dallas), Sematech, Lonestar Education and Research Network, Texas Energy Center and Baylor College of Medicine.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

September 25, 2014      7:04 PM

Texas Energy Report: Smitherman chafes at comptroller’s CREZ line criticisms

Ex-PUC chair calls Combs’ new energy report a ‘disservice’

Barry Smitherman, a longtime Texas energy regulator, is a tad ticked off over a report issued this week by Comptroller Susan Combs.

It was the second time in four years that Combs had picked on the state’s investment in Competitive Renewable Energy Zones, he said.  Known as CREZ, for short, the ambitious, nine-year project first involved construction of three high voltage transmission lines to carry trapped wind power generation from remote West Texas to high-demand electricity consumers in the state’s populous eastern side.

But to Smitherman, now an elected Texas Railroad Commissioner over oil and gas production and formerly chair of the Texas Public Utility Commission, the CREZ project was so much more than that. It was not, as Combs’ report asserts, an overly expensive and vastly underutilized state subsidy to the wind power industry, he insists.

I think that it does a disservice because it doesn’t talk about the advantages. It only talks about the cost. It conflates the federal tax credit for wind with the CREZ lines. It’s important for people to understand that the CREZ lines are just lines. They are long life assets,” he said.

“This latest report treats CREZ lines as if they are some alternative species of transmission. They’re not. They’re transmission lines. They are just like all the other transmission lines that we have built in ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas),” he said.  

“They are paid for in the same way,” Smitherman added. “To somehow suggest that these are different, that they’re just for wind, is really misleading.”

Smitherman, in an interview with Texas Energy Report, stressed that he is the only currently serving energy regulator with an institutional memory about why the PUC built the CREZ lines, the complexity in doing so and the benefits (including unexpected ones) the lines brought to the state’s electric power grid.  

The complete story from Polly Ross Hughes can be found in Texas Energy Report.  

By Polly Ross Hughes

September 25, 2014      5:14 PM

BREAKING: Cong Kevin Brady to challenge Paul Ryan for chair of Ways and Means

Says with presidential aspirations, Ryan committment to committee work in question

The story from the Washington Post can be found here.

September 25, 2014      5:12 PM

Greenfield: State Revenue Continues to Befuddle Comptroller

Comptroller unrevised revenue estimate undershoots bny $5B

Even though the state’s fiscal year (FY14) ended August 31, there’s not much news from the Comptroller on the state’s better-than-expected revenue collections. 

But why wouldn’t the Comptroller and Texans be happy that both state tax collections and total state revenue were greater than expected?   Wouldn’t additional revenue assist in improving public education, building new roads, addressing water issues, and providing health coverage to the 6 million Texans without health insurance?

A closer look at the Comptroller’s tax collections provides some insight to the state’s favorable fiscal condition.

Table I shows both state tax collections and total state revenue exceeded the Comptroller’s revenue estimate (CRE) released in December 2013.  Total tax revenues were $2.1 billion more than inthe CRE, while total state revenue exceeded the estimate by $2.4 billion.  Except for the cigarette tax, every tax exceeded the Comptroller’s estimate for FY14.  One should also note that, except for cigarette tax collections, the amount collected for each tax in FY14 exceeds the Comptroller’s current estimate for tax collections in FY15.

Dr. Stuart Greenfield holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas. He worked for three Comptrollers of Public Accounts and since retiring from the state in 2000, Greenfield has taught economics at ACC and UMUC. Stuart maintains Texas Fiscal Info, which provides fiscal analysis.  His complete column can be found in today’s R&D Department.

By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

September 25, 2014      5:02 PM

Press Releases: Reactions to Enterprise Fund audit, Cruz on Holder's resignation, Rosh Hashanah and more

September 25, 2014      3:20 PM

The next AG unlikely to let up on Texas in Voting Rights fight

A new US Attorney General may have subtle differences in style but probably few differences in priorities

The resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder is imminent, and his replacement is in the wings, but that turn of events is unlikely to unhinge the Department of Justice’s tenacious teeth from dragging Texas back under the Voting Rights Act.

At the recent National Conference of State Legislatures conference in Minneapolis, Lisa Soronen of the DC-based State and Local Legal Center said Texas, Georgia and South Carolina were in the DOJ’s crosshairs to bring back under pre-clearance conditions. Contacted this morning, Soronen had not changed her opinion.

“My gut says no,” Soronen said. “His successor might have a slightly different focus, but the voting rights commitment is not going to change.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

September 25, 2014      1:10 PM

HK: No surprise that Paxton investigation postponed until after election

Roots of story goes back to Ann Richards and Clayton Williams

The Houston Chronicle today reported that the criminal complaints filed against Republican Attorney General candidate Ken Paxton would not even be considered until after the election.  Clearly many Republicans are perturbed by the potentially criminal cloud hanging over Paxton’s head, Democrats are furious. 

Yet, the Public Integrity Unit choosing not to pursue the matter until after the election (if at all) has roots going all the way back to the 1990 contest between Ann Richards and Clayton Williams.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Harvey Kronberg

September 25, 2014      10:50 AM

Governor instructs all higher ed institutions to conduct audits into payroll-related expenditures

Auditor's Office report reveals UNT manipulated expenditures over last decade to the tune of $83 million

A copy of the report from the State Auditor’s Office can be found here.

September 24, 2014      6:00 PM

Anti-Pojman site apparently created by company linked to Empower Texans

The client list of the company that established the website attacking longtime pro-life advocate includes Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Texas Right to Life, Scott Turner for Speaker, and others

The conservative website recently launched with the express purpose of attacking a longtime pro-life advocate has apparent links to Empower Texans and many of the candidates the group endorses. The site takes aim at Texas Alliance for Life Executive Director Joe Pojman with the claim that he is “being used by establishment powers to cover the tracks of politicians who are weak on life.”

Republican politicians who have been in the crosshairs of Empower Texans like Rep. Bennett Ratliff and Rep. J.D. Sheffield are attacked on the site as being “pro-choice.”

JoePojman.org first came to our attention at Buzz Central this week. It has now been pointed out that the Austin-based new media company that created it, Vici Media, has a client list that includes Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, which of course is an arm of Empower Texans.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

September 24, 2014      5:14 PM

Visco and Enriquez: Online engagement changing the landscape of Texas politics

Redefining the ways in which we communicate about public policy development, Glasshouse Policy introduces ‘Texan-sourced’ public policy think tank

The grassroots forces that unseated Republican incumbents during this year’s primary elections didn’t start at kitchen tables - they started online.

Communicating online is inexpensive, there are few barriers to entry, and the tools that help us identify and speak to our preferred audiences are startlingly precise.  Texans get it, and they are using online engagement tools to dramatically impact Texas politics.  

We already know the immense value of online engagement for electoral politics, but are there opportunities to harness the intellectual capital of Texans communicating online for the public policy making process?

We know there are.

Glasshouse Policy is Texas’ first, fully collaborative and crowd-sourced think tank. Our not-for-profit online platform invites Texans to post policy-related ideas and comments. Those ideas and comments will then be ranked by other Texans through an “up-vote” system.

For example, Glasshouse Policy is currently hosting a discussion on fire prevention and fire control at glasshousepolicy.org.  If a fire expert from Texas A&M is stationed at a remote facility in Big Bend, it might not be convenient for her to travel 10 hours to attend a committee hearing to share her expertise.  At Glasshouse Policy, that fire expert can go online, share her ideas, and help us rank other Texans’ fire-related policy ideas.  

Francisco Enriquez and Thomas Visco are the co-founders of Glasshouse Policy. Their complete column can be found in today’s R&D Department.

By Thomas Visco and Francisco Enriquez

September 24, 2014      5:05 PM

Appeals court sides against critic of Rep. Gohmert who called him a fear monger

University employee criticized Gohmert and declined an invitation from him to participate in event; strained relationship with the congressman

You might not like East Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert or his politics, but if you’re acting in your capacity as a staff member of Stephen F Austin State University, your job is to keep your opinion to yourself, on your own time.

An opinion out of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals today tells a little known story of university art curator Christian Cutler, who was fired by the university after he told one of Gohmert’s staff that he considered Gohmert to be a “fear monger.”  

Back in 2010, Gohmert’s asked Cutler to jury a high school art competition. After some thought and with a few choice comments, Cutler refused. Unhappy with the response, Gohmert then sent a letter to Cutler, carbon copied to the university president, that he “would not bother (Cutler) in any way in the future” nor offer the university future invitations.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

September 24, 2014      12:46 PM

The Democrat in the race to replace Davis in the Senate gets the backing of doctors

“Fort Worth-area doctors and TEXPAC put our support behind Libby Willis for Texas Senate.”

The Democrat in the race to succeed Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Ft. Worth, in the Texas Senate got the backing of Texas doctors on Wednesday.

TEXPAC, the political advocacy arm of the Texas Medical Association, said it was endorsing neighborhood leader Libby Willis over the Republican in the race, Konni Burton – a conservative activist who first came to prominence in her work to help Sen. Ted Cruz get elected.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

September 24, 2014      12:43 PM

Battleground Texas features Dallas Texas House candidate Leigh Bailey in new video

"I'm running because I love where I live." Bailey faces Republican Morgan Meyer in November.

September 24, 2014      12:39 PM

Abbott web ad: Pop Quiz for Wendy Davis

Keeps up the attack on accusations of ethical problems

September 24, 2014      12:36 PM

Davis airs new Spanish TV ad about schools

Targeting the Latino vote with education message: "How many of our kids will lose a chance at their dreams because of Greg Abbott? He fought against our schools, defending reductions in funds that resulted in 11 thousand teachers being fired."

September 23, 2014      6:18 PM

"Pro-life hero" draws fire from the right after calling out MQ Sullivan for failing to register as a lobbyist

"If there's such a thing as dark money maybe this is dark information”

After publicly taking a stand against Midland oilman Tim Dunn’s spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan for failing to register as a lobbyist, pro-life activist Joe Pojman finds himself under attack by what he described on Tuesday as “dark information.”

A new website accuses Pojman of “being used by establishment powers to cover the tracks of politicians who are weak on life. Even worse, Joe has empowered the healthcare lobby and hospitals to end the life of a patient without family permission.” The site, JoePojman.org, does not indicate who’s behind the message against him. A tip of the hat to Bud Kennedy at the Star-Telegram, by the way, for bringing the site to our attention.

The site does look quite similar to websites that were paid for by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility to attack Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, and Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo. As of late Tuesday, the site attacking Carona had been taken down but the one attacking Seliger was still online.

Sullivan, who of course runs TFR and Empower Texans, denies having anything to do with the anti-Pojman site.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

September 23, 2014      6:08 PM

Press Releases: Endorsements, voter registration efforts, and much more

September 23, 2014      6:03 PM

Becky Moeller to retire as Texas AFL-CIO President

Will not seek reelection; Moeller oversaw a "legislative advocacy operation that one state agency leader described as 'the best lobbying that money can't buy.'"

September 23, 2014      5:57 PM

So-called "improvement districts" come under scrutiny at the Texas Capitol

GOP Chairman hits Comptroller’s Office for ignoring these districts while trying to push more transparency with other entities like school districts

A little-understood but apparently flourishing cottage industry that’s been created under what are known as “improvement districts” has gotten the attention of a powerful Texas House chairman. Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, doesn’t have a problem with all special purpose districts right now, just these improvement districts.

Tuesday morning’s House interim hearing was on special purpose districts broadly, but Bonnen made it clear early on he had no bone to pick with municipal utility districts or even larger management districts, both categories of localized ‘self-taxing’ quasi-jurisdictions created to provide revitalization and infrastructure. No, it’s these ever-more-nebulous creations called improvement districts, which are not to be confused with broader management districts.

During the hearing of the Committee on Special Purpose Districts, Bonnen first chided the Comptroller’s staff for failing to add actual transparency to the plethora of special purpose districts, which some consider to be operating under the radar of most taxpayers. Unless a taxpayer lives under a rock, Bonnen said, people know when a school district bond election is going out, Bonnen told the head of the Comptroller’s digital transparency efforts.  

“What I’m finding is that there isn’t a lack of awareness about the school bond or a maybe a city or somebody is doing other things,” Bonnen said. “Where the transparency is greatly lacking, and where the information is lacking, is with the special purpose district and improvement district. I think it’s great what you’re doing on this, but frankly you’re already telling people what they know about it.”

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By Kimberly Reeves

September 23, 2014      2:55 PM

Bearse: Energy as a Force for Good

From the right: Our conservative columnist argues that President Obama is playing small ball with energy policy when he could be using it to lead America and the world forward.

If you have driven the back roads to Corpus Christi through the Eagle Ford Shale, you know the energy business is booming. It’s like driving in Honduras, where potholes serve as an obstacle course and windshields get changed as often as your oil.

Outside of the perils of driving, the shale boom is making life better in parts of South Texas, North Texas and West Texas. It’s transforming family incomes, and transforming American energy.

Led by Texas, the United States has now surpassed Russia as the largest producer of natural gas. This is truly a national phenomenon. As one expert put it, the Marcellus Shale is bigger to Pennsylvania than the invention of the blast furnace. North Dakota has more trailer towns than Mobile-homa, and everything that goes with it (knife-fights and “self-employed models.”)

The United States now has a recoverable oil supply larger than Saudi Arabia and Russia. This is a big deal for a nation that for too long has been dependent on the whims of Middle East mullahs. We don’t have to continue to place our national security in the hands of hostile energy powers that hate us. We can now meet our own energy needs, and supply the world. All we need is a president with a vision.

Eric Bearse is a speechwriter, political consultant and public relations specialist. He can be reached by e-mail at eric@ericbearse.com. His full column can be found in today’s R&D Department.

By Eric Bearse

September 23, 2014      8:57 AM

Are new water regulations a land grab or jurisdictional clarification?

Texas Congressmen sign on to resolution calling new rules federal overreach

House members may be up in arms, but it’s still impossible to know exactly how burdensome amendments to the Clean Water Act could be on Texas.

The Waters of the United States rule, which are open for comment until October, have been roundly opposed by the national counties association and a number of regional water authorities. At a session at the National Conference of State Legislatures earlier this summer, Ken Kopocis of the Environmental Protection Agency painted the rule as a work in process intended to tighten regulation, wholly based on research, that still had room for clarification from partner states.

Attorney Virginia Albrecht of Huntoon & Williams LLC, on the other hand, painted a rule with so many ambiguous definitions that it would be fraught with problems and expenses among the many jurisdictions charged with enforcing it. Those problems include points as simple ditch, tributary and even with the deadline to post comments only a month away, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has little to say about its own particular viewpoint on the issue. Asked whether the law would be good or bad for Texas, an agency spokesman simply stated TCEQ would submit comments on the rule.

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By Kimberly Reeves

September 23, 2014      8:54 AM

New Abbott TV ad focuses on transportation

"A guy in a wheelchair can move faster than traffic on some roads in Texas. I'm Greg Abbott."