August 16, 2019      5:42 PM

People on the Move

A subdued ALEC, agency news, lobby moves, and appointments

So great to see all your smiling faces at ALEC and the associated events this week. Even ran into a Democrat or two – and not just the protesters outside. Someone joked that any officeholders or candidates protesting ALEC better not have taken any contributions from various companies’ PACs. Would not be a good look.

Some of the folks on “the list” looked to be in good spirits at the Four Seasons bar, which I still just don’t like. And apparently one of the wives of an “B lister” (“Bonnen lister”) didn’t mind heckling Speaker Dennis Bonnen as he was speaking at the Texas dinner.

Awkward.

Meantime, there’s some agency news, lobby moves, and appointments to pass along this week. If you have career news to share with the Texas Capitol community, you can send it anytime at ksbraddock@gmail.com and please use POTM in the subject line. Many thanks.

Here’s the latest edition of People on the Move.

By Scott Braddock

August 16, 2019      5:36 PM

In general, school district ratings rise throughout Texas this year

The “C” and “D” categories did shrink. On campus grades, about a quarter of all campuses were “C,” another 37 percent were “B” and almost one in five campuses in Texas were rated with an “A” this year.

Commissioner Mike Morath spent part of this week celebrating the success of districts like Aldine ISD, while news outlets were focused on the future of nearby Houston ISD.

Both Morath and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick both emphasized a theme that “poverty is not destiny” during an appearance at Stephens Elementary in Aldine. Stephens moved from a “D” to an “A” in the course of one year, with a

“The educators at Stephens Elementary start the day with the belief that all children can learn, they can achieve at high levels, they can learn reading, writing and math,” Morath said. “And when they say all, they mean all. They don’t mean unless you’re a foster child. They don’t mean unless you’re homeless. They don’t mean unless you’re poor, or you don’t speak English or unless you’re in special education.”

By Kimberly Reeves

August 16, 2019      5:03 PM

New York Times: A Texas-Size Political Scandal Threatens Powerful House Speaker

After rumblings earlier this week that the RNC is unhappy about the situation and awkward moments at ALEC in Austin, the story goes national: "Except there was a tape..."

The story plays dramatically in the pages of the Times:

AUSTIN — In Texas, they’re calling it the case of “The Speaker and the Creeper.”

The political imbroglio started last month, when Michael Quinn Sullivan, a conservative pit-bull who routinely antagonizes establishment politicians, accused the Republican House Speaker, Dennis Bonnen, of offering his organization coveted House media credentials if it would work to defeat 10 incumbent House members from Mr. Bonnen’s own party.

Mr. Bonnen denied it, and the bombshell was initially greeted with some skepticism. Why would one of the state’s top politicians court a back-room deal — to undermine his own bench — with a man Texas Monthly recently described as “one of the biggest snakes in Texas politics?”

Except there was a tape….

August 16, 2019      3:32 PM

Rep. Farrar retiring Sept. 30, asks Gov. Abbott to call special election for Nov. 5th

August 16, 2019      12:09 PM

Rep. Dustin Burrows resigns as Chairman of the Texas House GOP Caucus, sources tell Chad Hasty in Lubbock

KFYO radio in Lubbock cites sources close to Burrows.

August 16, 2019      11:05 AM

Denton County GOP executive committee calls on Speaker Bonnen and Burrows to resign over Sullivan meeting, alleged quid pro quo

Not an insignificant county GOP; the executive committee also asked the Republican Party of Texas to condemn the alleged actions "and assure the public that the organization will not tolerate anything that compromises the conservative principles and standards we hold ourselves to." The adopted resolution also asks the House GOP Caucus to select a replacement speaker

August 15, 2019      10:17 AM

Despite speculation, former Rep. Ron Simmons announces he will not seek any office this cycle

He was said to be considering either running for his old Texas House seat or the Congressional seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Kenny Marchant

August 15, 2019      8:25 AM

SB: "Forgive and remember"

There RNC is said to be quite unhappy that this kind of drama is unfolding while Speaker Bonnen's troubles become an issue in the race to lead the RPT; Bonnen's team and supporters shift from apologizing for him saying “terrible things” to arguing that the Sullivan meeting “is not a crime”

The apology tour is on as Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Texas House GOP Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows seek to make amends after admitting to saying “terrible things” about members in a private meeting while the cops have now been called to thoroughly investigate whether there was any wrongdoing.

Some of the members on the alleged hit list tell QR that Chairman Burrows has sounded remorseful and looked “downright despondent” in meetings over the last few days. On the bright side, at least he has resurfaced and is talking with colleagues again. One member is said to have told Burrows that even though the apology is accepted – we’re all adults after all – that does not mean there should be no repercussions for plotting against fellow Republicans in secret and “making a deal with the devil.”

As conservatives gather in Austin for ALEC, the issue comes up frequently in the low talk. Bonnen gave the welcome speech at the reception last night then left. The story has not quite garnered national press attention so many of the attendees are hearing about it for the first time as they come into Texas.

By Scott Braddock

August 14, 2019      10:37 AM

Gov. Abbott creates domestic terrorism task force

Members include the Big 3, the head of DPS, etc

Here is the info from the Office of the Governor.

August 13, 2019      4:53 PM

Abbott sets Nov 5 as special election to choose successor for retiring Chair Zerwas

August 13, 2019      4:25 PM

Texas Facilities Commission updates progress on the North Austin Complex

The Texas Facilities Commission is close to topping out a new nine-story office building, the first phase expansion of the Health and Human Services Commission’s North Austin Campus.

Jacobs Engineering Group is the lead on the North Austin Campus project, which is expecting to decrease some of the 600,000 square feet of HHSC rental space. The first phase will add 406,000 square feet of office space to HHSC agencies. The project also includes an adjacent 7-story 1,850-car garage. Both should be completed by December 2020.

By Kimberly Reeves

August 13, 2019      9:08 AM

Rep. Tan Parker draws GOP primary challenger

Veteran Tony Lawrence says in announcement: “I understand what Texas small business owners go through to operate and succeed. I have started small businesses, including a mobile music recording business and stone masonry construction company."

Here’s the challenger’s website.

August 12, 2019      5:21 PM

Gov. Abbott endorses Rep. Stan Lambert for reelection

One of the members on the alleged hit list gets Abbott's stamp of approval.

“Representative Lambert’s commitment to ensuring a better future for Texas students, teachers, and taxpayers, we were able to enact much needed reforms for our school finance and property tax systems this session," Abbott said.

August 12, 2019      11:11 AM

General Investigating votes to ask Texas Rangers to investigate Bonnen/Sullivan/Burrows meeting

August 12, 2019      10:19 AM

Chair Meyer takes General Investigating immediately into executive session

Chair Meyer says no witnesses will participate in the proceedings today

August 11, 2019      8:40 PM

While General Investigating hearing unfolds in Austin Monday, Speaker Bonnen set to be at annual shareholders meeting of his bank

The Speaker has invited members of the Texas Capitol community to invest in his business over the years; one of Heritage Bank’s board members is now treasurer for Bonnen’s $3 million PAC

As Texas House General Investigating Committee Chairman Morgan Meyer remains tight lipped about exactly what may unfold during Monday’s hearing probing the June 12 meeting of Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Empower Texans spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan, Quorum Report has learned where the speaker is scheduled to be instead that day: His bank in Pearland for the annual shareholders meeting of his company.

Conceivably he could appear at both meetings, but it doesn’t seem likely after some reporting this weekend.

By Scott Braddock

August 11, 2019      8:38 PM

Democrat running against Chairman Meyer, Joanna Cattanach, says he should recuse himself from Bonnen/Sullivan investigation due to $20K contribution

"Integrity is obviously compromised when chairman Meyer's single largest contributor this cycle is the subject of the investigation he is supposed to oversee," Cattanach said. She asked for Rep. Krause to recuse himself as well after also receiving nearly $20K for in-kind polling from Speaker Bonnen. No comment from either of them so far.

August 9, 2019      10:30 PM

HK: China Tariffs and resulting currency war could make recent legislative promises hard to keep

Hard to quantify as of yet, but agriculture, oil and gas could see sharp drops in demand

While Texas lawmakers were off enjoying the National Conference of State Legislatures in Nashville, national news may be providing unusual challenges in the months to come.

A recent headline from CNBC’s news website caught my eye and brought back home how impactful the new wave of tariffs and the Chinese retaliation could be to Texas.

Particularly since the Legislature made a slew of expensive commitments last session based not on a predictable revenue stream but largely on our robust rate of growth.

By Harvey Kronberg

August 9, 2019      9:13 PM

After Sullivan waives confidentiality, Office of the Speaker releases original letter to Bonnen about June 12 meeting

The letter shows Bonnen was notified on June 19 in writing that Sullivan “unequivocally” rejected Bonnen’s alleged offer

On the Friday night before Monday’s scheduled Texas House General Investigating Committee hearing into Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s June 12 meeting with Michael Quinn Sullivan, the Office of the Speaker released a copy of the original letter sent by Sullivan to Bonnen accusing him of a quid pro quo.

The office had originally declined to release the letter, citing an exemption under Texas law that allows for constituent communications to be kept confidential in order to protect personal information. Gardner Pate, the speaker’s general counsel, this evening said that Sullivan had waived confidentiality and sent the letter to media outlets that had requested a copy including Quorum Report.

Here is the letter.

As a reminder, here is the letter Bonnen sent in response, which has been in the public domain since Sullivan took his accusations public on July 25.

August 9, 2019      5:36 PM

Office of the Speaker denies request to release original letter from MQ Sullivan about June 12 meeting

One of the perhaps significant unknowns in the whole dustup between Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Empower Texans Spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan is exactly what was said in Sullivan’s original letter to the speaker about their now controversial June 12 meeting.

The letter from Sullivan was what prompted this response from Speaker Bonnen. Sullivan has declined to even release a copy of it.

Quorum Report and other media outlets have asked the speaker’s office for the original letter from Sullivan – which Bonnen confirmed exists in his response (above) to Sullivan – but today we were denied.

“Our staff has conducted a thorough search for information responsive to your July 29, 2019 public information request, and we have no responsive information that is not otherwise made confidential by Chapter 306 of the Government Code,” wrote Gardner Pate, Director of Policy & General Counsel for the Office of the Speaker.

Some have speculated that the speaker might have also recorded the meeting. Pate’s response was the same to a request for an electronic recording and any notes from the meeting.

August 9, 2019      5:31 PM

Rep. Raymond asks Chair Meyer to make entire General Investigating hearing Monday open to the public

If some of it does have to be in executive session: "As you know, the Texas Senate has on several occaisions held a "Caucus of the Whole" where all 31 Senators meet, but it is not open to the public. At minimum, it is my request and hope you would allow the same for House Members," Raymond said.

The letter from Rep. Richard Raymond to General Investigating Chair Morgan Meyer can be downloaded here.

August 9, 2019      5:25 PM

Lotto Texas: Coming to a grocery store check-out lane near you soon

Spot retailer growth: “If we go live this year with Dollar General, which is our first partner, we’re going to grow our retailer base in one year more than we have in the last 20 years.”

Texas is on a path to roll out lottery ticket sales in the check-out lanes of retail stores, starting with Dollar General this fall and expanding to CVS, H-E-B and Walgreens by next year.

“For the last 24 months, we’ve been working on an initiative we believe has the potential to dramatically expand our retail base, allow our products to be more universally accepted in retail and, ultimately, drive us to new sales and revenue records in the future,” Executive Director Gary Grief told the three-member board of the Texas Lottery Commission during their last meeting.

By Kimberly Reeves