August 19, 2022      2:30 PM

People on the Move

A former House Chairman with a new gig, heavy hitters making moves, and lobby shops expanding

With both Beto O’Rourke and Greg Abbott running TV ads before Labor Day, the never-ending campaign season is really in full swing now.

Beto is seemingly everywhere while Abbott’s environment is much more controlled. The governor has even taken to avoiding local conservative radio talk shows for the most part and mainly focusing his message on the audiences of outlets like Fox News Channel and Newsmax.

As air temperatures start to cool down, political attacks about the electricity grid may subside. But political temperatures are still high when it comes to issues like abortion, gun violence, and immigration. Expect those attacks to continue.

Meantime, some of you have moved from one big job to another, some lobby shops are expanding, and a former House Chairman has a new gig. When you have career news to share – or the gossip about someone else’s job is too good to keep to yourself – send it on over to and use POTM in the subject line. Thank you.

Here’s the latest edition of People on the Move

By Scott Braddock

August 18, 2022      5:16 PM

Updated: Phillip Huffines, brother of Don, actively discussed running for governor as a write-in candidate with Wilks Brothers backing

Don Huffines denies it, saying that he and his brother look forward to "helping secure Communist Bobby O’Rourke’s third loss."

August 18, 2022      3:04 PM

Comptroller Hegar and Senate Finance Chair Huffman announce support for repeal of sales tax on feminine hygiene products

Chair Huffman said “Every woman knows that these products are not optional. They are essential to our health and well-being and should be tax exempt.”

August 18, 2022      2:38 PM

House Ways and Means to hold hearing on economic development agreements on Sept 8

August 18, 2022      11:22 AM

Beto going up on TV in major markets next week, per his campaign

" the ads will hold Greg Abbott accountable for failing the people of Texas with his extreme agenda."

August 16, 2022      4:42 PM

HK: Living Texas politics with Paul Burka

Some personal recollections from the political war zone

I stumbled into writing about Texas politics and government quite by accident in 1989.

Texas was in the midst of its greatest economic downturn since the great depression. The price of oil plummeted to $8/barrel, Savings and Loans were falling like flies and the term “banner banks’ was commonplace as regulators closed one bank after another and turned them over to new owner/managers who put up a banner with the “new” bank’s name.

A common bumper sticker was, “Will the last one out please turn off the lights.”

Meanwhile, in an epic battle between business and then dominant plaintiffs’ attorneys, the Legislature went through eight special sessions to pass workers comp reform. State reps like Mike Toomey (then known as Mike the knife), Chris Harris and Ric Williamson were called as the Pit Bulls and spear-headed budget cutting as state revenues disappeared.

Things were so bad that in my other business, the state would take 90+ days to pay for flags as well as flagpole maintenance.

In other words, it was the perfect time to walk on to the floor of the Texas House for the first time as a total novice to the world of Texas politics.

I like to say I lost my political virginity within a half hour of being on the House floor.

Which is, of course, where I met Paul Burka, Sam Kinch, Sam Attlesey, Wayne Slater and Dave McNeeley, all extraordinarily generous with their time to a newbie. At that point I realized how severely over my head I was.

By my second session, I was beginning to hit a few doubles and triples with stories.

But I doubt if I would have made it to that second session without Burka. All of the other reporters had daily or at best, weekly deadlines.

With a monthly publication, Paul had the luxury of time to sit with a rookie, reflect, tell stories about decades long rivalries and feuds among members and lobby. And simply sitting outside the rail with Burka was taken as a vote of confidence by all the players who had no clue what a Harvey Kronberg was. But if Burka was taking him under his wing, he must be OK.

In addition to having time to schmooze, he already had two decades’ more institutional knowledge than me and frankly, more than any journalist in the building.

In the last 24 hours, I have heard more Burka stories than I can count, and they were always told with a smile and frequently a belly laugh.

Paul’s journalistic integrity was impeccable. His most notorious exercise, was of course, “Ten Best, Ten Worst Legislators.” Campaigning to win an election paled next to members campaigning for winning a spot on Ten Best. On the flip side, members earning Ten Worst learned to go home to explain their new title was simply because of that “liberal Texas Monthly”

But Paul had the unique position of watching two decades of Democratic control and nearly two decades or Republican control. He brought the same standards to bear in both scenarios.

The worst was to be called “Furniture” by Burka. There was no ‘splainin’ that back home.

And it had a therapeutic effect. Some members took his most severe criticism to heart and actually became serious legislators. And for those who thought him biased, they usually forget that members could move from Ten Best to Ten Worst and vice-versa in two consecutive sessions.

Even the press corps waited with bated breath for his bi-annual wrap up. We who thought ourselves deeply embedded in the process always found surprise narratives in Burka’s discoveries of arcane maneuvers by members that moved the needle – whether for good or bad.

But, of course, Burka had his flaws.

Ross Ramsey and I shared countless stages with Burka for trade associations, lobby events and the like. Burka would always make it at the last minute or, more commonly, ten minutes late. Ross and I were always prepared to cover for him and may have even expressed what we knew to be his opinion on a matter in his absence—all with proper attribution, of course.

“Paul would say…..”, we told these audiences.

We both knew that if Burka was on deadline, it was anyone’s guess if he would actually make it to the event. More than once, I was walking on stage to do a duet with him and Paul would call to tell me he couldn’t make it…minutes before we were supposed to make the audience laugh at how dysfunctional Texas politics was.

Whether it was Ross and me together or just one of us scheduled to be on stage with Burka, we were always prepared to carry the whole show.

Another favorite was when he was one of the questioners in a gubernatorial debate. Burka asked Rick Perry why the State had so badly flubbed some Medicaid process. Perry may have “dissembled” in his response (Burka knew HHS issues better than most). Perry’s confident but brazenly inaccurate response left Burka totally flummoxed.

He said, “Well, I will have to check.” But everyone watching knew whose version of the issue was correct.

Burka and former Speaker Tom Craddick both arrived on the scene in the 1970s and knew each other well. To say that Craddick’s speakership was controversial would be an understatement. Craddick was ultimately the target of his own committee chairmen trying to remove him from the Chair in 2007. They failed but Craddick was ultimately deposed by Joe Straus in 2009.

In his Ten Best-Ten Worst that year, Burka chronicled some of the many things Speaker Craddick accomplished for his district in the Appropriations bills during his tenure.

He questioned how many parochial dollars Straus sought for his district in the Approps bill and reported --- “Zero.”

Unheard of.

He may have coined it beforehand, but one of my favorite Burka-isms surfaced during Tony Sanchez’s expensive but failed campaign to take down Perry in 2002. Burka famously said, “I have a term for candidates counting on new voters showing up at the polls. They are called losers.”

Both Obama and Trump proved to be the exceptions to that rule and Beto O’Rourke certainly hopes the rule doesn’t apply to him.

Burka was no fan of the legendarily mercurial Bob Bullock. Often heroic but completely flawed as a human being, Bullock was…unique.

Paul went to interview then-Lt. Governor Bullock back in the days when journalists actually used reporter pads. Halfway through the interview, Burka completely irritated Bullock with a question the Lite Guv did not want to answer. Bullock simply got up, grabbed Burka’s pad and, as I recall the story, walked out of the room.

Burka never forgave him.

He was always outraged when Democrats or Republicans would not allow reporters into “private” caucuses in the Speaker’s Committee Room adjacent to the House Floor. “That room belongs to the people,” Paul would rant.

The lobby knew and trusted Burka and he reciprocated. But while he respected confidences and counted them as friends, he never shied away from reporting bad behavior – at least, visible bad behavior.

For those of us who try to report from inside the game, that may be one of the toughest lines to walk.

To call Paul my mentor was an understatement.

One of the highest honors I ever received was when Paul started calling me asking what he was missing about a battle or what the back story was in some issue or campaign we were following.

There will never be another Paul Burka. Shelf life in politics is short but Paul did move the needle and helped shape modern Texas in countless ways for decades. Political folks always knew Paul was watching.

There is no greater legacy.

I was proud to call him a friend and even prouder that he called me a friend.

RIP Paul Burka.

By Harvey Kronberg

August 16, 2022      1:59 PM

Vernon "Max" Arrell passed away

"He was an unwavering advocate for disabled citizens of our great state”

Vernon “Max” Arrell has passed away.

In his more than 40 years of state service, he advocated for and provided services to disabled Texans, including 23 years serving as Commissioner of the Texas Rehabilitation Commission. Services are pending with Weed, Corley Fish Funeral Home on Parkcrest in Austin. Burial will follow at the Texas State Cemetery.

“After four decades of public service, Max Arrell defined what a public servant stood for," said former Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos. "He was an unwavering advocate for disabled citizens of our great state. He will be missed by many; my thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

August 16, 2022      9:21 AM

Already retiring Rep. James White resigns from the Texas House

August 16, 2022      9:20 AM

Ohio utility executive Pablo Vegas named new ERCOT CEO

August 16, 2022      9:18 AM

TLR and Speaker Phelan team up to support GOP nominee Caroline Harris in Texas House District 52

"TLRPAC is contributing $25,000 to the Harris campaign, and Speaker Phelan is matching TLRPAC’s contribution for a combined total of $50,000," per TLR's announcement

August 15, 2022      7:40 PM

HK: Dueling outrages: How Mitch McConnell may have blunted the presumptive GOP midterm tsunami

Outrage over abortion restrictions vs outrage over executing a search warrant on a former President. Which is most durable in raising voter intensity?

Just a month ago, Republicans justifiably relished their likely takeover of the US Senate and House of Representatives. Along the way, they were expected to consolidate power in red and purple statehouses in a post redistricting year.

Frankly, many on both sides of the aisle were clearly stunned that Mitch McConnell’s egregious middle finger salute to the Constitution would come back to bite him so quickly. The Dobbs Supreme Court decision may very well have dropped Republicans in the grease and at the worst possible moment for them.

A supporter of so-called “originalists”, McConnell brazenly ignored the “originalist” constitutional mandate for the Senate to advise and consent on presidential nominations—particularly the Supreme Court.

The political world is full of irony. But it is a particularly delicious irony that McConnell flouting the Constitution by denying President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland even the courtesy of a hearing would bring the wrath of the political universe down on Republicans so quickly.

By Harvey Kronberg

August 15, 2022      7:37 PM

Jack Morrison, husband of Rep. Geanie Morrison, passed away

A private ceremony for family is Tuesday at the state cemetery. A public celebration of his life will be held at a later date

August 15, 2022      10:21 AM

Paul Burka has passed away -- a pioneer in political reporting, a true friend and mentor. More to come

August 15, 2022      10:00 AM

Texas school A-F ratings show improvement over the last time they were done before the pandemic

It’s the first round of ratings released by the TEA since 2019; they were paused for 2 years because of Covid-19

Per the Texas Education Agency this morning: (depending on your browser, you may have to right click that link and open in a new tab)

1,195 districts and 8,451 campuses were rated this year, with returns showing promising signs of progress in Texas’s efforts to catch students up academically. Driven by significant gains in student academic growth, 2022 saw 25% of districts and 33% of campuses improve their letter grade from 2019. 18% of high-poverty campuses in Texas were rated an A, continuing to prove that demographics do not equal destiny.

“These results show our state’s significant investment in the post-pandemic academic recovery of Texas public school students is bearing fruit,” said Texas Education Commissioner, Mike Morath. “I’m grateful for the driving force behind this year’s success: our teachers and local school leaders. Statewide policy in Texas continues to remain focused on meeting the needs of students, with an accountability system that supports high expectations, robust tutoring supports, rigorous curricular resources, and an investment in evidence-based training for our teachers.”

August 15, 2022      9:46 AM

Well ahead of Labor Day, Abbott on the air with his first TV ad of the general election

It appears $1.8 million has been placed so far

August 12, 2022      2:57 PM

People on the Move

Staffer moves, lobby moves, and notable awards

How is it the middle of August already and I haven’t been to a single Astros game this season? Gotta fix that ASAP before the campaign trail gets too busy. And of course, it will after Labor Day when the big, multimillion dollar media buys start manifesting on television screens across the Great State. Stay tuned.

Meantime, there are some significant moves to tell you about in the Texas Capitol community this week. Folks around here thrive on knowing who works in which office, so make sure to send career news anytime to Be sure to use POTM in the subject line.

Thanks so much.

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

By Scott Braddock