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December 9, 2016      5:06 PM

So-called pill mills the focus of Texas Medical Board's sunset hearing

“I want to be sure we’re careful, that we’re really precise…What I don’t want to do is create a problem for a class of patients who aren’t doctor shopping.”

Lawmakers on Friday debated how to apply the scalpel to the physician practice of overprescribing highly addictive and dangerous drugs.

During a Sunset Commission meeting, both the Texas Medical Board and the Texas Department of Transportation were under review, with 120 speakers signed up to testify on the Texas Medical Board alone.

Early discussion at this morning’s meeting focused on a key recommendation of the Sunset report: unclear statutory authority over pain management clinics.

The concern is those clinics, or doctor practices, that are known informally as “pill mills.” While most of the members on Sunset Commission agreed the prescription monitoring program, or PMP, was part of the solution, the broader answer itself would be more complicated.

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By Kimberly Reeves

December 9, 2016      5:05 PM

Video: Sen. Cruz says queso speaks to the soul and relaxes you while dribbling down your chin

Cruz makes his case for queso over cheese dip. We offer his monologue without comment.

December 9, 2016      5:01 PM

Smith: Bent Knees Stay Bent

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the imperial Donald Trump wants Americans to bend our knees to him. We should remain upright

 It’s not easy watching adult Americans sacrifice their pride and self-esteem so they can be ushered like serfs across the fake-gold lobby of Trump Tower for audience with a president-elect.

If we hold to the nation’s mythos, it’s a rather un-American impulse. True Grit’s Rooster Cogburn wouldn’t do it. For many, though, it seems there are unconquerable desires to be close to power or to have power embrace their interests.  

Some, of course, go there for apparently selfless reasons, hoping their fealty persuades Donald Trump to let a little light shine into his otherwise closed-tight-as-gold-vault mind. Still, it rattles democratic souls to know how most of the televised lobby crawls will end once the penthouse threshold is crossed: “Oh please oh please, I beg of thee, can I at least be undersecretary of something oh Majestic One?”

The full column by Glenn W. Smith can be found in the R&D Department.

By Glenn W. Smith

December 9, 2016      4:41 PM

Press Releases: Bill filings, honors, censoring Linus, and more

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December 9, 2016      2:25 PM

TPPF and NFIB take no position on restricting restroom access by gender

When asked by QR about one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's priorities, neither organization had a position on the issue which the Texas Association of Business argues will cost the state's economy $8.5 billion in GDP annually

December 8, 2016      6:18 PM

TLR pushes hard for lawsuit limits on hailstorm claims

The Office of Public Insurance Council: “A statewide hail litigation crisis does not currently exist in Texas,” but TLR fires back “This is the largest lawsuit abuse we’ve seen in years"

The concerns over hailstorm litigation – and the need to address it next session – is overblown, the Office of Public Insurance Council told the Texas House Insurance Committee.

The cost of resolving hailstorm damage at the courthouse was a key insurance issue last session. It also made the top of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s legislative priorities. But the results of a yet-to-be-completed Texas Department of Insurance data call would indicate the practice may not be having a significant impact on the state’s insurance market.

“A statewide hail litigation crisis does not currently exist in Texas,” OPIC Deputy Council Joe Matetich told House lawmakers.

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By Kimberly Reeves

December 8, 2016      6:16 PM

Carlos Aguilar announced as new CEO of Texas Central Partners

Aguilar has 30 years of experience with large industrial projects and was most recently at CH2 Hill consulting firm, Tim Keith continues with Texas Central focused on capital markets and financing, operations and external affairs

December 8, 2016      5:59 PM

Press Releases: Reactions to CPS plan, car seat safety, people on the move, and more

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December 7, 2016      5:42 PM

TxDOT provides early preview of response to Sunset report

Chairman Lewis stands by his executive director James Bass, who says “we should not be afraid of feedback.”

Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Tryon Lewis reaffirmed his support for Executive Director James Bass as the agency heads into a difficult Sunset review meeting on Friday.

House Transportation Chairman Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, asked Bass and Lewis to be on hand for his committee meeting today to answer questions about the Sunset review. Bass is the latest in a revolving door of TxDOT executive directors, but former lawmaker Lewis, once more, reaffirmed Bass’ direction of the agency since he took his job on Jan. 1.

“The changes he’s making are enormous, and he’s doing a great job,” Lewis said.

The Sunset Commission raised questions about the ability of TxDOT to handle an estimated $80 billion it is expected to handle in construction contracts over the next decade. Pickett said he didn’t want to upstage Sunset Commission, but he had his own questions about the timely completion of the 2,000 or so construction and maintenance contracts let each year.

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By Kimberly Reeves

December 7, 2016      3:29 PM

Updated: Health and Human Services Chairman Schwertner rolls out CPS reforms, calls on Abbott to make it an emergency item

"We have children going unseen for months at a time, we have children sleeping in office buildings because there's nowhere else for them to go, we have children dying," Chairman Schwertner said. "If this doesn't qualify as an emergency, frankly I don't know what does."

As Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday rolled out $8 million for a pilot program aimed at helping some of the state's most troubled foster kids, he also came under increased pressure to declare the problems in Child Protective Services an emergency item when lawmakers convene next month.

"If this doesn't qualify as an emergency, frankly I don't know what does,” said Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, who also rolled out the Texas Senate’s plan for changes to CPS.

"We have children going unseen for months at a time, we have children sleeping in office buildings because there's nowhere else for them to go, we have children dying," he said.

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By Scott Braddock

December 7, 2016      1:42 PM

Now is the time for Texas lawmakers to boost vaccination rates, advocates argue

“We have an opportunity right here and now to fight preventable diseases and improve the health of Texas children and families.”

Hoping to reverse the trend of more and more Texans deciding against basic vaccinations for their children – a trend fueled by junk science and conspiracy theories not unlike the one blamed for a man being arrested with a gun at a Washington pizza restaurant – advocates in Texas are presenting lawmakers with recommendations for how to combat the problem.

A new report from the Immunization Partnership was being delivered at Texas Capitol offices throughout the day on Wednesday as a fight over vaccines brews once again inside the pink granite building.

While the vast majority of the state’s 5 million public school students are vaccinated, there has been a surge in those who have opted out for non-medical reasons. Since we’re talking about communicable diseases, that naturally puts the greater population at risk because of choices made by other people.  

About 45,000 students last year did not get their shots for non-medical reasons, which is a 9 percent increase over the previous year. That number has consequences. For example, right now there are 28 cases of mumps reported in Johnson County, just south of Fort Worth.

“Let there be no debate about the effectiveness of vaccines. They work,” said Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, during a Capitol news conference hosted by the Immunization Partnership.

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By Scott Braddock

December 6, 2016      5:16 PM

Advocates push to double funding for Abbott's pre-k grants

The TEA budget request only covers one year of a two-year investment; meantime Gov. Abbot is rallying for a convention of states

Advocates are pushing hard for more investment in pre-kindergarten knowing full well that the Texas Education Agency’s budget request only funds one year of a two-year investment.

Grants for quality pre-kindergarten programs were, of course, a top priority of Gov. Greg Abbott during his first session as the state’s chief executive officer. It was so important to him, in fact, that Abbott made a rare appearance before the House Republican Caucus to ask for their support while some Tea Party groups railed against Pre-K as “godless” socialism.

A new Children at Risk study, funded by the Meadows Foundation, is a look at the outcomes of those children who participated in pre-k and their eventual results on the third-grade STAAR assessment. A review of 47,000 children showed that those who participated in full-day pre-kindergarten were 40 percent more likely to be on pace for college readiness.

“The big thing was if you did the high-quality pre-k -- which we defined as full day with student-teacher ratios of 1-to-11 or 2-to-22 and if they had quality K-3, which we defined as our gold ribbon schools, then those kids had significantly better scores,” said Bob Sanborn of Children at Risk, which presented the report on the same day Gov. Abbott was holding a rally at the Capitol for his new top priority: A convention of states to rewrite the U.S. Constitution.

Sanborn’s statement about the kids’ performance needs to be unpacked.

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By Kimberly Reeves

December 6, 2016      4:04 PM

Study: Bathroom bill could cost Texas $8.5 billion in GDP and 185,000 job losses

Association of Business President Chris Wallace: “We cannot slam the door on the Texas miracle of openness, competitiveness, economic opportunity and innovation”

Business leaders say a new study indicates Texas could lose up to $8.5 billion in GDP annually if lawmakers pass so-called anti-LGBT bills – a claim Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has dismissed as fearmongering.

During a news conference spearheaded by the Texas Association of Business, the battle lines were drawn before a key bill is even filed. The fight over the Women’s Privacy Act, Senate Bill 6, is expected to be a pitched battle between the legislature’s social conservatives and a long list of concerned businesses, including Intel, SXSW and Google.

“San Antonio has hosted the NCAA Final 4 many times, the NBA All-Star Game, so many things, so many conventions where we work and compete nationally,” Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, told reporters on the South Steps of the Capitol. “Passing this bill would be tantamount to saying, ‘We don’t want your business, go away.’”

The business community proposed similar arguments last session: If Texas passes a bill that discriminates on the basis of gender identity – a so-called bathroom bill – it could pose significant harm to recruiting both major events and industry talent to the state.

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By Kimberly Reeves

December 6, 2016      4:00 PM

House and Senate leaders ask Ethics Commission to reject pay increases for lawmakers

"The state of Texas is preparing for a tightened budget," Straus and Patrick wrote. "Simply put, legislators don't need a pay raise."

The letter sent today to the Texas Ethics Commission from Speaker Joe Straus, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Administration Chairmen Rep. Charlie Geren and Sen. Kelly Hancock can be downloaded here.

December 5, 2016      4:45 PM

Abbott set to appoint Racing Commission Chairman Pablos as new Secretary of State

Rolando Pablos will be “committed to the constitutional duties of the office and ensure the dispassionate application of election law"

The full announcement from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office can be found here.

December 5, 2016      4:44 PM

A Texas GOP Elector will not vote for Trump

This comes after one Elector resigned; this one says "Fifteen years ago, I swore an oath to defend my country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. On Dec. 19, I will do it again."

In a New York Times op-ed, Dallas GOP Elector Christopher Suprun laid out his argument:

“George W. Bush is an imperfect man, but he led us through the tragic days following the attacks. His leadership showed that America was a great nation. That was also the last time I remember the nation united. I watch Mr. Trump fail to unite America and drive a wedge between us.

Mr. Trump goes out of his way to attack the cast of Saturday Night Live for bias. He tweets day and night, but waited two days to offer sympathy to the Ohio State community after an attack there. He does not encourage civil discourse, but chooses to stoke fear and create outrage.

This is unacceptable. For me, America is that shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan envisioned. It has problems. It has challenges. These can be met and overcome just as our nation overcame Sept. 11.”

The full op-ed is here.

December 5, 2016      4:27 PM

Press Releases: A banking legend honored, stopping illegal questions, and rooting out corruption

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December 2, 2016      6:14 PM

Advocates to reduce gun violence roll out early agenda

Meantime Rep. Stickland is digging in to pass “Constitutional Carry” while the Lite Guv is only going as far as reductions in handgun licensing fees

Texas Gun Sense has rolled out a legislative agenda early, hoping to find more middle ground for compromise with Second Amendment enthusiasts.

Two groups opposed open carry last session: the large, more vocal Moms Demand Action and the smaller grassroots Texas Gun Sense. Andrea Brauer, who leads Texas Gun Sense, said her group’s goal was an attempt to find middle ground on decreasing gun violence instead of simply being a group on the defensive, saying “no” to every legislative proposal.

“We want to have a proactive agenda that moves gun violence prevention bills forward,” Brauer said during a news conference. As to the group’s moderating agenda, “We know if we don’t get different people on board, we won’t get it passed.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

December 2, 2016      6:12 PM

Rep. Leach asks Gov. Abbott to make CPS reforms an emergency item

“I do not believe there to be a more pressing challenge than the comprehensive reform and restructuring of this troubled agency,” Leach wrote

In an impassioned plea, one of the more conservative members of the Texas House this week asked Gov. Greg Abbott to make an overhaul of Child Protective Services an emergency item when the Legislature convenes in January.

“I am profoundly heartbroken over the tragedies that have taken place under the watch of our state’s Child Protective Services (CPS),” wrote Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, in a letter dated Thursday.

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By Scott Braddock

December 2, 2016      6:10 PM

SAO: TEA needs to do more monitoring of service center contracts

Audit criticizes TEA for failures it has claimed to have fixed in recent years, including a lack of sufficient documentation to verify whether expenditures were allowable

The Texas Education Agency – and its execution of contracts with its education service centers – is the latest to face scrutiny from the State Auditor’s Office.

Texas’ 20 regional educational service centers generally serve two primary functions: executing contract work outsourced from TEA and providing regional resources and training, which can be critical in rural areas. Each regional service center has its own board of directors, although the Commissioner of Education retains ultimate authority over the centers.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

December 2, 2016      5:28 PM

Press Releases: Endorsements, spending cap, border security abstractions, and more

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December 2, 2016      1:39 PM

Smith: Trump Treasury Secretary Nominee Took the Home of One of His Voters

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith asks what should be done as Donald Trump (and stateside backers) prepare to take America to the cleaners

The Associated Press reported that Donald Trump’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, Stephen Mnuchin, foreclosed on the home of a Trump voter. Needless to say, the voter, a Los Angeles-area voter named Teena Colebrook, feels betrayed.

Odds are the Associated Press story will disappear into the memory hole rather quickly. But, then again, maybe Mnuchin’s very name is a mnemonic, a device for remembering. We should hope so, because we should remember this story.

It’s a remarkable moment in our political history, and it should be seen as such by all, no matter their party affiliation, ideology and political knowledge level. It’s remarkable enough that someone like Trump can be elected. Sure, he took a significant beating in the popular vote, but the rules of the game hand him the White House through the Electoral College. So there’s that.

But even more remarkable is Trump’s immediate moves.

The full column from Glenn W. Smith is in the R&D Department.

By Glenn W. Smith