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May 5, 2016      11:54 AM

A Legend Passes: Ken Towery

Ex-Japanese POW, won Pulitizer Prize for exposing Veteran's Land Board Scandal

The full obituary for Roland Kenneth Towery can be found here.

May 4, 2016      5:58 PM

HK: Cruz premise debunked as Trump re-trains his rhetorical guns on Clinton

The nation laughed but the Texas GOP convention will potentially focus on toilets

One thing is almost now certain.  The next President of the United States will be one of the two most despised political figures in the country with negatives that should have ended their campaigns months ago.

First, the Republicans: Democrats have long accused Republicans of voter suppression of likely Democratic voters through such artifices as voter ID, no voting on Sunday, fewer voting locations in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, etc. Whether true or not, the last few weeks of the Trump voter surge demonstrate that the Republican purity wars may have also been a suppression of likely Republican voters albeit subtler, especially in the down-ballot primaries where issues are frequently eye rollers with little bearing on the lives of real people.

Polls for the last decade have had had Congressional approval in the low teens with some actually dropping to single digits.  Every poll demonstrates that Americans want the President and Congress to actually compromise.  Yet compromise remains a rare and frequently terminal offense in DC.

Normally, we would handicap in favor of the candidate executing the best ground game which was, of course, the Texas Senator. However, Ted Cruz was selling intransigence the exact opposite of what the public wanted.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Harvey Kronberg

May 4, 2016      5:57 PM

Uber slapped with federal lawsuit over text messages to Austin voters

“…robo-texting thousands of unwanted text messages to the cell phones of thousands of Uber users in Austin, Texas…”

“…robo-texting thousands of unwanted text messages to the cell phones of thousands of Uber users in Austin, Texas —all without the prior express consent of those receiving Uber’s text messages—as part of a political campaign by Uber to oppose mandates from the City of Austin which impose various background check procedures for Uber drivers.”

Read it along with us…the complaint is right here.

May 4, 2016      4:59 PM

Press Releases: Appointments, water, ridesharing debate, and Target outrage!

May 4, 2016      3:58 PM

Plenty of ideas, but little money, to improve workforce diplomas in Texas

Among states that have added workforce diplomas in recent years, Texas is probably the most hands off when it comes to state assistance

Texas House lawmakers spent plenty of time talking about the expansion of career-and-technical education options during a marathon hearing, but far less time discussing what role the state should play in moving Texas forward on implementing House Bill 5.

Among states that have added workforce diplomas in recent years, Texas is probably the most hands off when it comes to state assistance. While a tri-agency workforce initiative does exist, little has been done in a number of key areas cited by as concerns by various stakeholders: incentive or incentives to scale up successful workforce projects; the ability to connect education and workforce data; or even the ability for rural school districts to join together to share career-based programs.

The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce launched SA Works just over a year ago, an employer-led collaborative to provide career expos, job shadow opportunities, apprenticeship opportunities and teacher externships. Phyllis Camacho, vice president of workforce development at the chamber, said funding to expand programs to a broader base of students and employers was the current issue.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

May 4, 2016      1:44 PM

Former Senator Chet Brooks in hospice care at Memory Care, Wyoming Springs Assisted Living

Brooks first elected to House in 1963 and to the Senate in 1967

With the permission of his family, we are letting former Senator Chet Brooks many Capitol friends know that he is in hospice care at Memory Lake which has a facility at the Wyoming Springs Medical Center, 7200 Wyoming Springs Dr., Round Rock.

May 3, 2016      7:42 PM

Cruz drops out of GOP nomination race

May 3, 2016      4:59 PM

Press Releases: Zero based budgeting, Trump not Cruz, and a $1 million weekend

For all the latest releases, click the Press Releases tab above

May 3, 2016      4:28 PM

New poll shows Cruz lagging behind Trump here at home in Texas

45 percent of Texas Republicans would vote for Trump, 40 percent for Cruz, and 15 percent for Kasich.

Editor’s note: The full results and crosstabs are available to our subscribers at the end of this story – SB

A poll released first to Quorum Report on Tuesday morning indicates Sen. Ted Cruz is on a downward trajectory here in his home state, lagging behind Manhattan real estate mogul Donald Trump by 5 points.

The same poll finds that the vast majority of Texas Republican voters are aware of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s legal problems and 52 percent of them think he should resign his post.

The poll – conducted by Gravis Marketing and commissioned by the Texas Bipartisan Justice Committee – shows Trump now leading in Texas with 45 percent, 40 percent going for Cruz, and 15 percent saying they would vote for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. 

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

May 3, 2016      4:15 PM

Democrats ask Rangers to investigate whether House staffer is campaigning while on the taxpayers’ dime

Republican running for State Rep. in South Texas calls it a “desperate” attack

Texas Democrats on Tuesday called for an investigation into whether the chief of staff for a Republican lawmaker has been campaigning during the time she is being compensated by the state.

In a complaint sent to the Texas Rangers, the Texas Democratic Party questions whether the Chief of Staff to Rep. Gilbert Peña, R-Pasadena, is running for office in South Texas at the same time she is on the state payroll.

Maricela De Leon is running against Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, for House District 40.

“Republican State Representative Gilbert Peña should know that bankrolling candidates on the taxpayer’s dime is an abuse of office and theft of the Texas taxpayer,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. “This is the kind of corruption that festers under one-party Republican rule,” Hinojosa said.

De Leon said this amounts to a “desperate” attack and said “Canales is running scared.”

A copy of the complaint sent by the TDP to the Rangers is here.

By Scott Braddock

May 3, 2016      11:21 AM

Gov. Abbott taps Charles Smith as new Executive Commissioner of HHSC

Cecile Young, who currently serves as Chief of Staff at HHSC, has been promoted to serve as the new Chief Deputy Executive Commissioner. Both promotions are effective June 1.

May 3, 2016      11:04 AM

New round of STAAR tests, new set of issues in play

Morath told superintendents they can drive to Austin if they want to review the scoring on some tests – an unprecedented offer in the middle of a testing cycle

Education Commissioner Mike Morath has declined to adjust the state accountability system in light of the multitude of problems around this year’s STAAR administration.

Problems with administration of state standardized tests were myriad last month: test booklets sent to wrong campuses, questions about scoring of writing samples and data lost in the online testing system.

Superintendents in the Houston area outlined those concerns in a letter dated April 8, asking Morath to consider dropping STAAR A test scores for accountability. STAAR A is the alternative test used for students who need special accommodations due to a learning disability.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

May 2, 2016      6:35 PM

In endorsing Buckingham for Senate, Rep. Stickland is forced to explain her contributions to Democrats

In the midst of hot Republican Texas Senate runoff, Rep. Stickland said he told Buckingham her contributions to Democrats were “a problem” but she has since proven her conservative bone fides

During a radio broadcast following his endorsement of Dr. Dawn Buckingham for Texas Senate, Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, was put on defense about the Republican candidate’s past contributions to liberal Austin-area Democratic lawmakers.

Dr. Buckingham has said she is the “conservative” in the GOP runoff for the seat being vacated by Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, and she has said Rep. Susan King, her opponent, is a “liberal.”

That’s why the hosts of the West Texas Drive radio show in Lubbock were surprised to learn Buckingham has contributed to several Democrats in the Texas Legislature as well as a failed candidate for Congress from Illinois. That candidate for Congress said he favored President Obama’s approach to health care and supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

There are no records of Rep. King ever contributing to a Democrat.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

May 2, 2016      4:50 PM

Candidates for Texas GOP Chairman square off in heated debate before convention

Mechler and Clark focus on finances and engagement; challengers Woodfill and Adams rail against bathroom gender laws and Texas House leadership

DENTON – The candidates in the race to lead the Republican Party of Texas made their cases this weekend at a North Texas Baptist church as part of an all-day orientation for delegates to the state party convention coming up later this month in Dallas. 

The race pits incumbent chairman Tom Mechler of Amarillo and vice chairman Amy Clark against two hardline social conservatives: Former Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill and former RPT Chairman and Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams.

The incumbents are campaigning to continue the party’s dominance in statewide elections with a focus on finances and engagement.

Woodfill and Adams’ message is straightforward: They want to “take their party back.” Their critics have asked “back to what? Bankruptcy?” referring to each of their tenures at the head of Republican Party operations that suffered financially.

Outgoing State Republican Executive Committee member Jean McIver served as moderator, asking each candidate to stick to his or her message and avoid attacking each other.

But Mechler and Woodfill quickly turned the forum into a hot debate, with Woodfill campaigning on one central issue: His role in the campaign to defeat Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, which of course was not a statewide issue.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By James Russell

May 2, 2016      4:45 PM

Press Releases: Endorsements aplenty, 1115 waiver extension reactions, and more

For all the latest, click the Press Releases tab above

May 2, 2016      4:40 PM

Weather-related damage eats through additional funds for TPWD

The infrastructure in the system is aging together: “Essentially, this development is coming to the same age at the same time...It’s a wave crashing on us.”

Almost half of the additional revenue set aside to supplement the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s budget will be chewed up by the costs of catastrophic weather events that have occurred around the state in the last year.

Agency officials addressed a House Appropriations subcommittee this morning on the uses for the additional $83.6 million dedicated to state parks last session, which is about a quarter of the agency’s overall budget. The majority of that funding came from a dedication of excess revenue from the sporting goods tax, a provision passed in the last days of the session as House Bill 158.

Executive Director Carter Smith and his team from TPWD thanked the lawmakers for the infusion of funding, which will provide a stable ongoing revenue source for both short- and long-term plans for the 100 parks in the state. That’s critical as the backlog of deferred maintenance is now estimated at $700 million.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

May 2, 2016      2:24 PM

Endorsements in SD 24: NRA and TSRA endorse King; Rep. Stickland endorses Buckingham

May 2, 2016      11:28 AM

CMS approves 15 month extension of 1115 waiver for Texas

Here is the letter notifying the state of the approval of the extension.

May 1, 2016      4:56 PM

Texas Energy Report: Sunset report recommends revealing to public what RRC really does

Report urges better oil and gas accountability, contested cases and gas utility rate cases moved elsewhere

The 125-year-old Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the powerful oil-and-gas industry, might be “steeped in the Texas mystique,” but a name change revealing the agency’s true mission is long overdue, a report released Friday says.

“Transparency demands that the agency’s name reflect its actual mission,” said a Sunset Advisory Commission report for the Railroad Commission, strongly repeating a recommendation that Texas lawmakers rejected in 2001 and 2003. “The agency’s outdated name misleads the public and continues to impede the agency’s efforts to be more transparent.”

Friday’s sunset staff report begins a third attempt in six years to reform an agency critics say pampers the fossil fuel industry while shortchanging public health and safety. As the industry suffers from bankruptcies, layoffs and losses after a plunge in oil prices, it asked that lawmakers keep in mind its precarious financial situation when considering more or higher fees from the oil industry.

Yet environmental advocates were quick to point out the report failed to address stepped up oversight of oil and gas disposal wells, namely scientific concerns that they are likely the cause of a notable increase in earthquakes.

The full story is in Texas Energy Report, where you can find daily coverage of energy issues across the state.

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 29, 2016      5:40 PM

Senate leaders clash with local governments at property tax session in North Texas

Lt. Gov. Patrick lectures county judges and other local officials to ignore their lobbyists; TML argues it would be apocryphal to suggest every city chose to raise taxes 7.99 percent each year

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick this week threw down the clearest marker yet as to where the Texas Senate is heading when it comes to property taxes in the 2017 session, telling cities and counties that they should ignore the advice of their lobbyists and – as he put it – work with senators to offer input on reforms.

Patrick made an appearance before the Senate Select Committee on Property Tax Reform & Relief during its latest field hearing. This time they met in Arlington.

Speaking as a witness, Patrick advocated for a 5 percent cap on property tax growth. Seniors cannot continue to be priced out of their homes, he argued. Patrick said property taxes on a median priced home of $200,000 would double and even triple in the time frame it would take for a child to complete public school.

“What I’m asking the judges and the mayors to do is I’m asking you to ignore your consultants and your lobbyists who do not have the best interests of your constituents at heart,” Patrick said. “I am asking you to come to the Capitol and let’s sit down together to find a plan to allow people to stay in their homes and afford their homes and allows you to do your job.”

Legislation is imminent, Patrick said, and local governments should be part of the solution.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves and Scott Braddock

April 29, 2016      4:33 PM

State Auditor is asked to look into paid leave practices in Paxton's office

“It’s important that Texans are confident that no elected official is abusing or misusing taxpayer dollars, especially to advance the work of a political campaign.”

The State Auditor has been asked to investigate the use of paid leave in Attorney General Ken Paxton's office after it was first reported by the Dallas Morning News that some top staffers were still on the state payroll even after resigning.

One of those staffers, former First Assistant Chip Roy, was still receiving his state salary even after saying he had quit his job and went to work on behalf of efforts to help elect his old boss Sen. Ted Cruz to the White House.

“Paid leave policies are great, but it looks like Paxton violated state law," said Lucy Stein with Progress Texas, the liberal group that formally asked the Auditor's office to get involved.

“The facts clearly warrant a State Auditor’s Office investigation, particularly since Paxton’s justification for dolling out 64 days of paid leave to two ex-employees has changed multiple times,” Stein said.

“It’s important that Texans are confident that no elected official is abusing or misusing taxpayer dollars, especially to advance the work of a political campaign.”

Their letter to the Auditor’s office is here.

April 29, 2016      4:32 PM

Press Releases: Appointments, endorsements, Prop 1, and more

To see all the latest releases, click the Press Releases tab above

April 29, 2016      4:03 PM

Governor's office outlines small business spending in realigned eco devo division

Realignment includes moving existing programs including the commissions on women, film and music, as well as the military preparedness and workforce investment council

The governor’s office is satisfied with the portfolio of programs currently offered to help the state attract and retain small businesses.

The National Federation of Independent Business estimates red tape and regulation costs up to $12,000 per employee, which is 30 percent higher than the cost to large businesses. Most of that added overhead comes down to departments that small businesses typically don’t staff, such as legal services and human resources, Annie Spilman of the Texas NFIB told a subcommittee of the House Economic Development & Small Business Committee this week.

“We would just ask that before we add another regulation on the books, that you look and strip out an antiquated policy,” Spilman told lawmakers.

The Texas House’s interim charge about this is to consider the effectiveness of the state’s current programs to support small business and how to possibly cut red tape. Committee members are specifically interested in minimizing the time and effort small business owners must dedicate to both pulling permits and dealing with state agencies.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

April 29, 2016      1:01 PM

Texas A&M Commerce President Dan Jones passed away this morning

System Chancellor Sharp said “Dan Jones was one of our great presidents. He had a vision for the future that was brilliant and courageous. We will make sure his plans become reality. We will miss him greatly.”

April 29, 2016      11:32 AM

Another try for Rockwall County in battle for retiring Rep. Scott Turner's seat

Business candidate Holland has stronger and broader fund raising base; Keating promises to be the same kind of legislator as his backers Leach, Sanford, and Shaheen

Editor’s note: Following the original publication of this story, Sen. Van Taylor, who supports Keating, wished to weigh in. We of course welcomed his thoughts and this story has been updated to include them – SB

North Texas’ House District 33 was carved out during decennial redistricting to accommodate the growth of both Collin and Rockwall Counties. According to the most recent US Census data, Rockwall County’s population has grown 16 percent between April 2010 and July 2015. But the county still shares legislative seats with a portion of neighboring Collin County. Collin County is a well-known Tea Party hot bed, and the home base for Rockwall’s state senator, Van Taylor, R-Plano, and all of House District 33 represented by outgoing Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco.

In the 2012 Republican primary, which effectively determines the race in this conservative district, Turner faced a challenge from Jim Truitt, the current mayor of the city of Rockwall. Turner won by almost 60 percent of the vote and went onto win the general election with 85 percent and no Democratic opponent.

Turner, a two-term representative with no significant legislative track record, mounted an unsuccessful challenge to Speaker Joe Straus in an expensive bid to preside over the lower chamber in the 8th legislative session. Backed by groups aligned with Tim Dunn’s Empower Texans, Turner received 19 votes to Straus’ 127.

After Turner announced his retirement last year, the open seat race was a chance for the burgeoning Rockwall County to finally have a representative to call its own.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By James Russell

April 29, 2016      11:17 AM

Supreme Court refuses to block Texas Voter ID Law

But the court said it could revisit the issue as the November elections approach.

The story is here.

April 28, 2016      6:14 PM

Paxton declines to defend Ethics Commission in lawsuit over House videos in campaign ads

Wayne Smith's challenger wants to be able to use House videos in political advertisements, which would violate Texas law

The Texas Attorney General's Office will not represent a state agency facing a lawsuit related to a heated GOP runoff in Southeast Texas.

The Texas Ethics Commission has been sued by Briscoe Cain, the challenger of Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee Chairman Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, because Cain would like to use archived Texas House livestream video in his political ads. Doing so would be illegal. Taxpayers footed the bill for production of the video.

Attorneys for Cain, the same lawyers who regularly represent Tim Dunn’s Empower Texans and allied organization Texas Right to Life, argue that the video will show voters proof of Smith’s hypocrisy on the campaign trail.

Cain is asking a judge in Harris County to strike down that section of Texas law. The judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order and a hearing has been set next month.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

April 28, 2016      6:12 PM

Energy Future Holdings says Oncor sale is dead, Reuters reports

EFH tells bankruptcy judge controversial $19 billion sale is off

Today an attorney from Energy Future Holdings (EFH) told a judge that its plan to finance its exit from bankruptcy by selling the Oncor distribution company, Texas largest electric utility, is history.

Instead, EFH hopes to offer an alternative in coming months after an investment group led by billionaire Ray Hunt and his son Hunter Hunt balked at conditions placed on the Oncor deal by the Texas Public Utility Commission. The deal, which would have turned Oncor into a real estate investment trust, had faced fierce and widespread opposition because it would have funneled a non-existent tax liability from ratepayers to investors and posed other risks.

The Reuters report is here.

April 28, 2016      5:43 PM

Rep. J.D. Sheffield appointed as Chair of the Legislative Committee on Aging

Rep. Toni Rose will also be on the panel since Reps. Susan King and Elliott Naishtat are both retiring from the House

April 28, 2016      5:39 PM

Texas Tech, UT representatives update lawmakers on fetal tissue research

Researchers say they “understand the sensitivity, and are absolutely committed to complying with all laws, rules and regulations."

Two Texas university systems are investing – albeit very minimally – in controversial research that involves fetal tissue, and both are doing so without legal concerns, officials told a panel of lawmakers in Austin Thursday.

"While this research is a small part of our collective scientific enterprise, it is work that would be difficult or impossible to do otherwise," Ray Greenberg, the University of Texas System's executive vice chancellor for health affairs, told the House Committee on State Affairs. "We also understand the sensitivity, and are absolutely committed to complying with all laws, rules and regulations."

Last year, the entire UT system spent about $34,000 on costs associated with obtaining fetal tissue, predominately obtained from a California-based nonprofit. While the sale of fetal tissue is illegal, consenting patients may donate it to medical research.

Federal law allows those involved with the donations to make and receive "reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue."

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Eva Ruth Moravec

April 28, 2016      4:34 PM

Press Releases: People on the move, endorsements, bathroom outrage, property taxes, and more

For all the latest, click on the Press Releases tab above