May 25, 2018      2:25 PM

People on the Move

Texans heading to DC, others getting promotions in Austin, a veteran of the legislative process leaves some huge shoes to fill, a documentary in the works, and more

It’s those short trips with no down time that wear you out.

Driving to San Antonio Wednesday to speak at the Texas Association of Business meeting then immediately flying to Houston to attend the Republican Party of Texas Chairman’s forum the same day, though, meant I got to see so many of your smiling faces along the way. Big thanks to Harris County GOP Chairman Paul Simpson and his sidekick, er, comms director Vlad Davidiuk for their hospitality. It was also good to meet Fort Bend County Republican Party Chairman Jacey Jetton. Paul and Jacey did an incredible job corralling RPT Chair James Dickey and challenger Cindy Asche, who leave you with the impression they don’t like each other very much.

More on their race soon and, of course, we’re almost into June so both party’s conventions are right around the corner.

Back at the Capitol, it was an emotional week in the aftermath of the tragedy in Santa Fe. Many in the halls of the building expressed skepticism that Gov. Greg Abbott’s hastily arranged and well-choreographed roundtables will lead to anything other than talk and photo ops. The governor seems as well-intentioned as when he sought to fund quality pre-k programs.

Meantime some Texans are heading to DC, others are getting promotions right here in Austin, and others are leaving huge shoes to fill. Let me know what you’re hearing at and put People on the Move or POTM in the subject line. You can brag on others or yourself. It’s fine, really. Here’s Texas’ weekly roundup of People on the Move:

By Scott Braddock

May 25, 2018      2:21 PM

Smith: Memorial Day Thoughts

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith writes that on Memorial Day we honor those who perished or suffered that we may live on “to love one another.” Those who today sow hate and discord should reflect upon their actions, too.

A group of people are gathered in a room. The light goes out, as lights sometimes do. Rather than change the bulb, a loud voice gathers half the room into a group that blames the others for the predicament. The others, a new bulb in one hand, fight back with the other. The room stays dark. Welcome to America, 2018.

It’s worse than that. The room is not actually dark. The loud voice is just frightening half the room that the other half wants to turn off the light. The threat of darkness is an apocalyptic fantasy that uses hatred of others to enforce loyalty to the loud voice.

The complete column by Glenn W. Smith is in the R&D Department.

By Glenn W. Smith

May 24, 2018      4:43 PM

Attorney suing state over length of tests calls ed commissioner testimony "evasive"

A testy exchange between the agency and the Public Ed Chair: “I think this year we’ve had what would be comparable to any other state with the tests online. It doesn’t excuse what happened…”; “So, the short answer is yes,” Huberty replied

The results of students who were subject to a timing-related snafu during this year’s administration of the STAAR will not be counted against school ratings this fall.

Commissioner Mike Morath told the House Public Education Committee informed lawmakers before sending out the announcement today. The Texas Education Agency estimates that up to 29,000 students taking the STAAR online, mostly special education students, had a lengthy mid-test delay as a subcontractor attempted to “fix a bug” with its online technology.

That would mean, three years into a four-year contract, ETS has had test administration glitches twice, Chair Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Kingwood, pointed out. Or as Huberty put it, out of three years of test administration, ETS had “screwed up twice, right?”

By Kimberly Reeves

May 23, 2018      6:22 PM

Updated with funeral arrangements: Vatra Solomon passed away

Funeral services are Sunday, May 27 at First Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant. Visitation with family from 3pm to 4pm and Memorial service at 4pm at the church. Private burial.

Long time Texas Capitol aide, Vatra Solomon, passed away last night in Mount Pleasant.

Vatra was a commanding presence in the offices held by Bill Ratliff, both as Lieutenant Governor and State Senator. She later worked at the Comptroller’s Office and with Eric Wright’s lobby shop.

Many a Northeast Texas officeholder and candidate trekked to Vatra’s home for advice, which, as anyone who dealt with her knows, was always delivered with good cheer but wasn’t always what they wanted to hear. She’ll be missed by all of those she guided over the years.

Funeral services are Sunday, May 27 at First Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant. Visitation with family from 3pm to 4pm and Memorial service at 4pm at the church.  Private burial.

May 23, 2018      6:20 PM

Despite terroristic threats nearly doubling, many smaller Texas ISDs lack threat assessment policies

TEA says the number of terroristic threats by Texas students has almost doubled in the last decade, from 1,061 reports in the 2009-10 school year to 2,074 threats in 2016-17

Twenty percent of Texas school districts have no protocol in place to identify and work with students who exhibit threatening behavior on a school campus, according to a three-year audit of school district safety plans out of the Texas School Safety Center.

Gov. Greg Abbott is hosting three days of stakeholder feedback on the shootings at both Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church and Santa Fe High School.

Wednesday focused on the root causes of mass shootings: gun safety and mental health. The lion’s share of the attention next session will likely be the contentious fight over gun control.

The ability to address mental health issues on school campuses is sorely needed, Abbott told assembled reporters after a closed-door meeting with stakeholders. Schools need better strategies to identify students who need to be removed. Administrators need to back up teachers. And students need avenues to report potential threats, Abbott said. 

By Kimberly Reeves

May 22, 2018      9:42 PM

Speaker Straus subtly spikes the football

“Once again, Republican primary voters have shown overwhelming support for responsible candidates who will put their communities first”

Surveying the landscape, the retiring presiding officer issued this statement:

"I want to congratulate the candidates who won their runoffs tonight and will now head to the general election in November. They have worked hard and sacrificed much to earn these victories. Once again, Republican primary voters have shown overwhelming support for responsible candidates who will put their communities first and take a serious approach to the state's challenges. The results in these runoffs and in the March primaries clearly demonstrate that Republican voters want constructive and pragmatic leadership for our fast-growing state."

May 22, 2018      9:40 PM

AP calls it for Valdez in the Democratic gubernatorial runoff

May 22, 2018      9:36 PM

Rene Oliveira loses to Alex Dominguez 56.71% to 43.29%

May 22, 2018      7:28 PM

White leads Valdez 50 to 49 with 4% reporting

May 22, 2018      7:26 PM

Allison leads Bebee 58 to 42

May 22, 2018      7:25 PM

Metzer 58 to Ruzicka at 42

May 22, 2018      7:24 PM

Buckley leads Cosper 60 to 40

May 22, 2018      7:23 PM

Leman leads Wolfskill 55 to 44

May 22, 2018      7:23 PM

Bell lead Spitzer 64 to 36

May 22, 2018      7:22 PM

Cody Harris leads Thomas McNutt 57 to 42

May 21, 2018      5:48 PM

Updated: Republican Texas House Chairman Cook asks Gov. Abbott for a special session to address school shootings now

“The time to act is now”; As Cook calls for action, Democrats ask Abbott to consider gun legislation they filed in the last session

In the wake of the deadly Santa Fe school shooting last week, Texas House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook on Monday told Gov. Greg Abbott there is no time to waste when it comes to preventing another similar tragedy.

That’s why the Republican from Corsicana asked Gov. Abbott to call a special session this summer to make changes in how students are protected all over Texas.

By Scott Braddock

May 21, 2018      5:29 PM

Greenfield: Revenue is soaring

Economist Dr. Stuart Greenfield with his finger on the pulse of the state revenue situation: So what will the ending FY19 balance be? At a minimum, it will be an order of magnitude greater than the current $93.8 million

The state has postponed appropriating substantial funding to address the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, primarily relying on federal funds.  Maybe my analysis of the state’s fiscal condition as we enter the summer months of FY18 will help our snoring legislators to arise from their slumber. 

As Comptroller Hegar recently noted, sales tax increased 13.4 percent from April 2017.  This substantial increase was accompanied by substantial year-to-date (YTD) increases in other General Revenue-Related (GRR) revenue sources.

The complete column by Dr. Stuart Greenfield is in the R&D Department.

By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

May 18, 2018      5:06 PM

People on the Move

A prominent player with a new lobby shop, a comms pro on the move, heavy hitters in public ed, and some law school grads to brag on

May is already getting away from us. It’s the last day of early voting in the runoffs, which of course happen Tuesday.

A lot of folks in Austin have been checking their sample ballots to see if they still even have any races to vote in if they’re Republicans. Democrats, naturally, have their governor’s race yet to decide as well as congressional challengers to nominate around the state.

We’ll have full coverage of the results Tuesday night. Then the next day, the candidates for Republican Party of Texas Chairman will face off in a debate in Houston. Hope to see you there.

Meantime, at the Capitol it was another week of new lobby shops, folks taking new positions and starting new adventures. You know by now the Buzz Central team loves to hear what’s going on. Send a note anytime at and if it’s about this please put “People on the Move” or “POTM” in the subject line. That helps my simple mind keep it all organized.

Here’s Texas’ weekly edition of People on the Move:

By Scott Braddock

May 18, 2018      5:05 PM

Third Court of Appeals does not let MQ Sullivan off the hook in case of alleged illegal lobbying

The all-GOP court found that “The lobbyist-registration statute at issue is a legally permissible restriction” and not a trampling of Sullivan’s free speech rights

An all-Republican panel of the Third Court of Appeals in Austin this week rejected an attempt by attorneys for Midland oilman Tim Dunn’s spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan to toss out the case of his alleged illegal lobbying at the Texas Capitol.

Sullivan’s lawyers were hoping the court would agree with them that the case being pursued by the Texas Ethics Commission should be dismissed because of a state law aimed at helping journalists and others do their jobs without fear of frivolous lawsuits.

By Scott Braddock

May 18, 2018      5:00 PM

Senators accuse Austin of dragging its feet on telecom legislation

Chairman Hancock quips: “I think you work with whoever you want to work with…I think you don’t work with whoever you don’t want to work with.” Sen. Whitmire notes that Houston has managed to improve this infrastructure despite the fact that Hurricane Harvey rolled through last year

The City of Austin has approved only a couple of permits for the creation of a statewide 5G wireless network, a position met with some frustration from state lawmakers this week.

This next generation of connectivity, 10 times faster than current wireless service, is one that will help put autonomous cars on the road and flying taxis in the sky, we are told.

More pragmatically, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1004 last session to outline the deployment of network nodes in the right-of-way of roadways and capping fees at a loss of up to $750 million to local cities.

By Kimberly Reeves

May 18, 2018      4:48 PM

Gooden versus Pounds congressional runoff coming down to the wire

Empower Texans is largely sidelined perhaps thanks to one of Gooden’s key allies; race could have big repercussions down ballot in contest to succeed Chair Cook

DALLAS – After the May 22 runoffs, it’s difficult to blame the voters in Congressional District 5 for wanting to drain the swamp, the phrase made popular by President Donald Trump describing the federal government.

Because this race has gotten nasty.

By James Russell

May 18, 2018      12:59 PM

Smith: A Story to Undo Trump

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith suggests Democrats learn the lessons of rival TV networks efforts to beat Dallas and J.R. Ewing in the ratings. Tell a completely different story.

You’ve noticed, of course, that Donald Trump never smiles. The film loop running in his head comes from his beloved World Wrestling Entertainment: all Mussolini-jawed bluff, virtual body slams and cheers for the steely-eyed victor scripted in advance.

If nothing else, Trump stays on his mark, in character. Humiliated by Bill Gates, Kim Jong-un or Stormy Daniels, Trump plays on. He’s happiest as the popular soap-opera villain, the center of every televised storm.

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

By Glenn W. Smith