July 18, 2018      5:46 PM

Abbott loses fight to keep Bexar County out from under Clean Air Act nonattainment status

The Environmental Protection Agency has overruled a recommendation of Gov. Greg Abbott and placed Bexar County in the nonattainment category under the Clean Air Act.

That means Bexar County will join the Houston and Dallas regions in filing attainment plans, although Bexar County’s requirements will be to a lesser degree.

By Kimberly Reeves

July 18, 2018      4:53 PM

Senate confirms Andy Oldham to Fifth Circuit

Gov. Abbott tweeted: "He’s a strict constitutionalist cut from the same conservative mold as @Scotus Justice Alito for whom he clerked."

July 17, 2018      5:55 PM

Audit slams HHSC for inconsistent, incomplete contracting practices

The audit outlines the many challenges former Sen. Williams faces, including significant deficiencies on five procurements totaling well over $3.4 billion

The choice of vendors in contracts worth $4.6 billion out of the Health and Human Services Commission cannot be adequately defended with reliable, accurate and complete information, according to a letter out of State Auditor’s Office today.

The audit, requested by Gov. Greg Abbott, is the worst blow yet for an agency that has seen both procurement management and Abbott’s hand-picked Executive Commissioner Charles Smith depart the agency in recent months under a heavy fog of confusion over the execution of some of the largest contracts in the state.

By Kimberly Reeves

July 17, 2018      5:51 PM

Lt. Gov. Patrick leading the charge to defend Sen. Burton, and other campaign finance filings

Of the three potentially vulnerable Republican senators in the fall, Burton appears to be the only one backstopped by the Senate’s presiding officer so far; Patrick has been working to secure business support for her with mixed success

Editor’s note: This story has be updated throughout – SB

It’s Christmas in July for state political nerds today, with another round of semiannual reports now on the Texas Ethics Commission website. Even if there was some delay this morning as an upgrade to the site was being done.

Here’s what we rounded up at Buzz Central.

By James Russell

July 17, 2018      11:59 AM

HK: A primer on past speaker races and a few observations about this one

The GOP caucus route sounds good but has little upside and much downside

Back in 1964 a two term Texas House member from De Leon decided he wanted to run for speaker but one term incumbent Speaker Byron Tunnell had his re-election all but locked down. Undeterred, this member went across the street from the Capitol to seek the advice of a former one-term member turned lobbyist at the Texas Auto Dealers Association. The lobbyist agreed that Tunnell had a lock on re-election and said the best the wannabe could do was collect “second-vote” pledges which would be easy because there was virtually no chance of a second vote.

Turns out that then-Governor John Connally wanted Tunnell out as Speaker but this quintessentially internal House decision was beyond his ability to impact. Instead, after Tunnell was re-elected in his district, Connally offered him an appointment to the Railroad Commission basically just to get him out of the Speaker’s office. 

Tunnell accepted and suddenly there was only one lawmaker to whom virtually every House member had pledged. His name was Ben Barnes and in 1965 he became the youngest Speaker in Texas history.  The lobbyist whose advice proved prescient was Bob Bullock who later became Comptroller and subsequently Lt.  Governor.

The point is that there is no such thing as a typical Speaker’s race. So, what could be about to unfold now?

By Harvey Kronberg

July 17, 2018      11:55 AM

Video: Gutierrez slams Gallego as career politician

While a poll is circulated showing Gallego leading in SD19 special election where early voting is underway, Rep. Gutierrez is on TV slamming the former congressman: "You fired him from Congress."

July 17, 2018      10:38 AM

AG Paxton reports $7.2 million cash on hand

His Democratic challenger Justin Nelson has $1.1 million in the bank

July 16, 2018      5:56 PM

Campaign finance reports in legislative races trickle in

The June semiannual campaign finance reports are here. Well, sort of. Reports from candidates and incumbents are trickling in. Some press releases announcing major hauls have hit our inboxes, too. Candidates running in the three most competitive senate races have yet to post their numbers.

So, at the moment we are looking at the Texas House races that look to be competitive in the fall.

By James Russell

July 16, 2018      5:51 PM

Federal judge promises a narrowly focused trial over requirements for burial of fetal remains

“We’re not going to decide here…at what point in time a fetus is viable or life exists or any of that…..it isn’t before us in this case.”

Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra beat back criticism of his handling of discovery in the so-called “fetal remains trial” this morning, while insisting the parameters of his judgment be as narrow and possible and not tackle the settled law of Roe v Wade.

Ezra was clear today about what he did and did not want to consider in a week-long trial on part of Senate Bill 8, the state’s new requirement to bury the fetal remains from abortion procedures: at which point life begins and whether a clinic should or should not be performing abortions.

By Kimberly Reeves

July 16, 2018      7:35 AM

Gov. Abbott spent $22 million in the reporting period, per TEC filings

Per the Texas Ethics Commission filings, Abbott raised $10 million and maintains a cash on hand balance of roughly $29 million. The amount spent includes a $16 million media buy placed in June

July 13, 2018      10:58 AM

People on the Move

A power player brings a Washington firm to Austin, senior staffers moving on to new ventures, promotions earn congratulations, and some award winners to brag about

I take a couple days off and you folks make all kinds of news. Wasn’t this supposed to be the dog days of summer?

First, a personal milestone to share: The 100th episode of the Texas Take Podcast that I co-host with Mike Ward at the Houston Chronicle and Ryan Poppe of Texas Public Radio is now available here along with the previous 99 episodes. How is it possible we’ve already done 100 of these? It’s all thanks to those of you who listen each week and to our Quorum Report advertisers including the Texas Association of Counties and the Texas Association of Realtors. It is humbling that anybody cares what I have to say about any of this in print or in audio form. If you have yet to check out the show, subscribe on iTunes or listen here. Thanks so much.

Enough about me. People on the Move is about you.

As always, if you have career news to share, send a note to ksbraddock@gmail.com and put “POTM” or “People on the Move” in the subject line. Here’s Texas’ weekly roundup of People on the Move:

By Scott Braddock

July 12, 2018      6:10 PM

Updated: Former Capitol staffer charged with aggravated assault, likely to face murder charges

Charles Curry Jr., 29, is being held in the Travis County Jail on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon involving a string of shootings yesterday on Wednesday, and Austin police do expect to file murder charges against the former Capitol staffer for the shooting death of Christian Meroney, 32.

Curry was identified as the driver of a white Tahoe yesterday who shot at people in four locations that stretched from South Interstate 35 to the South Post Apartments, 1500 South Lamar, where the Meroney murder took place on Monday. Curry was taken into custody by the Austin Police Department  at the South Post Apartments around 6 p.m. last night.

July 12, 2018      6:02 PM

Conclusions differ as to whether Texas is making progress on higher ed goals

The Public School Finance Commission this week revealed a sharp division over whether Texas was on track to meet the goals set out by the state’s 60x30 Plan.

If the 60x30 Plan doesn’t sound familiar, it likely will next session. Many of the early goals of the Public School Finance Commission hinge on efforts to add incentives to meet the goals of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s plan, which suggests 60 percent of all adults in Texas will have a degree or certificate by 2030.

By Kimberly Reeves

July 12, 2018      4:19 PM

Lt .Gov. Patrick raised $4.5 million, has $14 million COH

Blakemore says “The broad support the Lt. Governor has received from business and grassroots leaders across the state is reflected in this $4.5 million fundraising report — bringing the total amount he has raised since he first announced he was running for Lt. Governor to $45,000,000, more than any other Lt. Governor in Texas history in two election cycles."

July 12, 2018      11:02 AM

Powerful Texas Association of Realtors endorses Democrat John Turner in a House seat now held by a Republican in Dallas County

After Rep. Villalba was defeated by Lisa Luby Ryan in March, the Realtors are going with the Democrat in November

John Turner, a Dallas attorney, has now also already earned endorsements from the Dallas Firefighters Association, the TSTA, and the Dallas ISD Trustees whose districts overlap with Texas House District 114.

In making their endorsement TREPAC Chairman David Alan Cox said, “We are proud to support John Turner in his campaign to represent the constituents of HD 114. We have been impressed with his command of the complex issues facing our great state and with his dedication to protecting homeowners across Texas.”

The full announcement is here.

July 11, 2018      9:12 PM

O'Rourke to report raising $10.4 million in the 2nd quarter, will have $14 million on hand

The late breaking news from the El Paso Times.

July 11, 2018      6:59 PM

Abbott agrees to debate Valdez on Sept. 28 in Austin

Will save you the time of checking: Yes, that's a Friday night at 7pm. Valdez responds on twitter: "We’re in and always happy to discuss our vision for a Texas that works for all. We haven’t agreed to the terms yet - but seriously, during Friday Night Lights? ?? Texans deserve better. Call me, maybe?"

July 11, 2018      6:22 PM

Hegar raises revenue estimate by $2.8 billion

"Due to better-than-expected economic and revenue growth through June of fiscal 2018 and an improved outlook for fiscal 2019, we now estimate the state will have $110.17 billion in General Revenue-Related (GR-R) funds available for general-purpose spending for the 2018-19 biennium"

Comptroller Glenn Hegar has bumped revenue estimates up going into the 86th legislative session, but not enough to overcome what will likely be a tight post-Harvey budget.

First, the good news: Last year’s revenue projection was that lawmakers would enter the budget cycle with only $94 million in available revenue, based on oil prices at $50 per barrel.

That was conservative. Now, with prices hovering around $70 a barrel, the returns on the oil-and-gas industry have exceeded expectations. Combined with better-than-expected sales tax collections, lawmakers come into the session with $2.8 billion. 

By Kimberly Reeves