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May 23, 2020      10:00 AM

SB: GOP Galveston County Judge in war of words over property taxes with some Republican Texas House members

Any hint of speaker politics aside, the significant backdrop is disagreement over whether SB2 taxing limits are canceled out by Gov. Abbott’s disaster declaration in all Texas counties; Abbott now says he does not read the law that way but the language seems pretty clear

A handful of GOP Texas House lawmakers including some in retiring Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s leadership team along with Freedom Caucus members spent some of this week slamming the Republican Galveston County Judge after he said he was glad the speaker is not coming back.

County Judge Mark Henry, who recently asked Gov. Greg Abbott to use his disaster powers to freeze property values at 2019 levels, was quoted in the Galveston County Daily News as saying Bonnen has been “hiding behind his keyboard.” Henry added that he’s glad the speaker chose to not seek reelection. That was after Bonnen said Judge Henry’s property values proposal is a “horrible idea.”

There’s apparently been bad blood between the two of them for some time, which shouldn’t surprise anyone given the escalating tensions between state and local governments. Bonnen, as quoted in the Daily News, said “My valuation doesn’t cost me one penny in property tax, his tax rate does.”

After that, some Representatives whose districts are 250 miles away – and one who is situated nearly 600 miles away – from Babe’s Beach along the seawall piled on the GOP County Judge.

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By Scott Braddock

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May 22, 2020      8:10 PM

Former Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart eyeing running for the job again, per sources

We're told the Republican is calling around, gauging support ahead of a possible June 1 announcement

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May 22, 2020      2:59 PM

After calling LGBTQ Caucus member Sarah Davis anti-LGBTQ, national group backtracks.

Annise Parker, head of Victory Fund, backs Davis’s opponent; Davis said she appreciated the correction

A national LGBTQ group led by former Houston Mayor Annise Parker has apologized for calling Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, an opponent of LGBTQ rights in a fundraising e-mail.

The e-mail was sent by the Victory Fund, the political action arm of the Victory Institute, which promotes electing LGBTQ candidates to public office. Parker, a Democrat has run the organization since 2018.

Among the candidates they’re supporting is Davis’s Democratic opponent, attorney Ann Johnson, who is bisexual. Johnson is listed as a “spotlight candidate running against an-LGBTQ incumbent.”

Johnson is also backed by Parker, who fundraised for Davis’s 2018 opponent Allison Sawyer and is an ally of Houston Councilmember Ellen Cohen, whom Davis defeated in the Tea Party wave of 2010.

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By James Russell

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May 22, 2020      11:31 AM

People on the Move

New hires, agency news, promotions, a resignation, and thoughts and prayers for a legend in Houston politics

Did this week seem to drag on forever or did it whip right by? Answers seemed to vary across the community. Maybe it all just feels extra strange because this is the first big holiday weekend since the pandemic began. If you’re trying to get away for a few days, please be safe. It’s hard to figure out what’s open and what’s closed. The more creative you are, the more fun you’ll probably have but that’s been true the entire time we were all locked down.

Meantime, there’s been another uptick in career news this week. Congrats to those who found new ventures. You can tell the Texas Capitol community about your career news, or gossip about someone else, by sending the scoop along to ksbraddock@gmail.com. Use POTM in the subject line. Please and thank you.

Here’s the Memorial Day weekend edition of People on the

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By Scott Braddock

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May 22, 2020      11:15 AM

Very different candidates face off in Central Texas GOP runoff for a shot at regaining a newly Democratic House seat

Republican Voters in western Travis County have a choice between a longtime activist who’s passionate about social issues, specifically sex ed, or an Austin police officer interested in a range of things including tax policy, infrastructure, and public safety

AUSTIN – As restrictions on movement and commerce are lifted across Texas and people begin to make individual decisions about how to once again interact with the outside world during a pandemic, candidates for the Texas House are similarly making choices about how to communicate with voters ahead of the July 14 runoffs and the general election in November.

One fundamental aspect of campaigning – block walking – highlights just one of many sharp differences between the candidates vying now to be the GOP nominee to take on Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, this fall. One of them, social conservative activist Jennifer Fleck, has resumed knocking on voters’ doors as of Mother’s Day weekend while Austin Police Department Senior Officer Justin Berry is taking a more reserved approach.

The candidates could perhaps not be more dissimilar, with Fleck taking heat recently for arguing the coronavirus is part of a divine plan to prevent public school students from learning about gender identity and Berry making headlines by talking a suicidal man off the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin. But the one who wins the runoff in western Travis County may be part of a larger GOP effort to regain territory lost in the 2018 cycle to Democrats.

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By Scott Braddock

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May 22, 2020      11:12 AM

With unemployment at historic highs, a recovery is likely two years away

The consensus among economists is this isn’t the time to worry about public debt and government should spend whatever it takes to get people comfortable spending money again since about 70% of the economy is based on people “buying stuff”

This morning’s news of Texas unemployment at 12.8 percent is nowhere near the end of the bad economic news, per experts.

At a biweekly Zoom conference of the Texas Business Leadership Council, economist Jason Schenker warned that the US economy will most likely not reach December 2019 levels until the middle of 2022. Schenker also reported that US unemployment is really about 25.8% with Texas unemployment about 17.3%.

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By Jon Fisher

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May 22, 2020      9:16 AM

Texas unemployment rate at 12.8 percent

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May 21, 2020      8:36 PM

Keith Wade, senior adviser to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, passed away tonight

Full statement from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on the passing of Keith Wade:

“Keith and I go back 46 years to our days on the campus of the University of Houston.

After I was speaker of the student government, he was president. Our journey in politics started there on the UH campus.

Throughout his life, Keith championed the causes of labor, people who have been disenfranchised and he advocated for the rights of people to vote. He was instrumental in so many campaigns in all levels of government. And that is true in my case as well. He was actively involved in my 2015 campaign and when I ran for re-election in 2019.

Keith served as a special advisor to both me and Mayor Annise Parker.

This is a sad day for a lot of people because Keith wasn’t just a consultant or a Special Advisor. He was a friend and a brother.”

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May 21, 2020      7:26 PM

Pandemic education funding is limited, aid appears focused on the poorest schools in Texas

The $1.2 billion in federal funding to public schools in Texas under the CARES Act – the federal response to COVID-19 – appears to be focused on low-income school districts, with some potential for COVID-19-related funding this fall.

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By Kimberly Reeves

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May 21, 2020      3:25 PM

Now with about 400 plaintiffs, Dr. Hotze and other conservatives file suit against Abbott calling his COVID-19 executive orders unconstitutional

The filing is right here.

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May 21, 2020      2:34 PM

Despite differing opinion, Republican Party of Texas Chairman says nomination for Ratcliffe seat will move forward

“Because the primary runoff has been delayed until mid-July due to the Coronavirus pandemic…the window to conduct the CDEC meeting and elect the replacement nominee is just three weeks.”

Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey on Thursday afternoon said that the nomination process will go forward for a replacement candidate on the ballot for Rep. John Ratcliffe, who was just confirmed as Director of National Intelligence.

“President Donald Trump made an excellent decision placing a Texan in charge of our intelligence community,” Dickey said. “We look forward to electing a Republican candidate who will follow Congressman Ratcliffe’s excellent example in CD4!”

In an afternoon email to party faithful, Chair Dickey said that “Because the primary runoff has been delayed until mid-July due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the new County Executive Committee terms begin August 3, 2020, which means the window to conduct the CDEC meeting and elect the replacement nominee is just three weeks.”

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By Scott Braddock

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May 21, 2020      1:56 PM

Veteran GOP elections expert: After DNI confirmation, it is not legal to replace Rep. John Ratcliffe on the ballot this fall

For the answers to key questions about what happens next, some Republicans turned to veteran GOP elections attorney Eric Opiela, who said Ratcliffe’s name needs to stay on the ballot at this point on the elections calendar

Editor’s note: The full legal memo circulated among some Republicans is available to our subscribers at the end of this story – SB

Now that he has been confirmed by the US Senate as Director of National Intelligence, it has been conventional wisdom that Rep John Ratcliffe, R-Heath, would be replaced on the ballot and that new Republican would be chosen by a local committee of GOP party bosses to face the Democrat in the race this fall.

But according to a memo that’s been circulated among some Republicans and obtained by Quorum Report, that may not be so easy.

Some Republicans in the district wanted the answer to two key questions:

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By Scott Braddock

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May 21, 2020      1:33 PM

Gov. Abbott terminates air travel restrictions for those coming to Texas from hot spots including New York and New Jersey

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May 21, 2020      11:58 AM

Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann says she has tested positive for COVID-19

She tweeted: "Greg and I have tested positive for COVID-19. We began to exhibit symptoms last week, despite diligently complying with stay-at-home rules. Thankfully, this has not interfered with #SCOTX work, as the Court is working remotely. We are grateful for your thoughts & prayers."

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May 20, 2020      5:48 PM

Updated: Former Lt. Gov. Dewhurst allegedly assaulted by his girlfriend

Dewhurst, 74, reportedly suffered broken ribs. Leslie Ann Caron is facing criminal charges in Harris County

Here's the latest from KHOU TV:

HOUSTON — Former Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst is recovering from injuries after two alleged attacks by his "live-in" girlfriend, the Harris County District Attorney's office told KHOU 11 News.

Court records show 40-year-old Leslie Ann Caron was arrested and charged with injury to an elderly person.

From the DA's Office: Caron is accused of kicking Dewhurst, 74, in the ribs during an argument on May 13. Dewhurst told police she left their home but came back on May 17 and kicked him in the ribs again. He said Caron also hit him with a pot, scratched him and bit him. Dewhurst went to the doctor and X-rays confirmed he had two broken ribs.

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May 20, 2020      5:45 PM

Video: Royce West campaign slams Sen. Cornyn, accusing him of racist dog whistle

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May 20, 2020      5:10 PM

Bouncing between the guard rails: Fifth Circuit temporarily blocks vote by mail in Texas

This comes one day after a federal judge allowed for expansion of the franchise and on the same day the Texas Supreme court heard arguments in the state-level case. Dizzy yet? Developing....

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May 20, 2020      1:40 PM

The Big Three ask state agencies to reduce budgets by 5 percent

Here’s their letter.

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May 19, 2020      5:45 PM

Federal court grants injunction in vote by mail suit brought by Texas Democrats

Paxton vows quick appeal: “The district court’s opinion ignores the evidence and disregards well-established law. We will seek immediate review by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Here’s the order from Federal Judge Fred Biery.

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May 19, 2020      4:25 PM

US Senate confirms Trey Trainor as newest Federal Elections Commission member

The FEC now has enough commissioners to enforce campaign finance laws for the first time since Aug. 31

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May 18, 2020      6:20 PM

Updated: Abbott loosens restrictions on businesses in offices, child care facilities can open now

Abbott talked quite a bit about the number of Texans who have recovered from COVID-19, but it is a statistic medical professionals avoid when discussing the disease because it is an unreliable indicator

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday continued loosening restrictions on Texas businesses as the state now enters Phase 2 of his plan for commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic including the opening of youth sports, day care centers, local bars and professional sports events.

Abbott, in a Texas Capitol news conference today, touted what he calls a "positivity rate" for COVID-19 patients, a 7-day rolling average that has dropped from almost 14 percent in mid-April to just below 5 percent on Sunday.

Democrats were quick to say Abbott is fudging the numbers and, they say, Texas hasn’t met the White House guidelines for moving forward with lifting certain restrictions.

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By Kimberly Reeves

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May 18, 2020      5:57 PM

A DPS Trooper doing security at the Texas Capitol tested positive for COVID-19, per House Administration

"All individuals known to have been in direct contact with this person and/or the exposed areas are being tested and asked to self-isolate until a negative test result is received"

One of the DPS troopers stationed at the Capitol complex has tested positive for COVID-19, Texas House Administration Committee Chairman Charlie Geren told members and staff in a note tonight.

“Our office has received notification that a DPS Trooper stationed within the Capitol Complex has tested positive for COVID-19,” Geren said.

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May 18, 2020      1:54 PM

Lubbock GOP leaders split with President Trump by endorsing Josh Winegarner for Congress

Sen. Charles Perry, former Sen. Bob Duncan and former Sen. Phil Gramm all now support Winegarner; President Trump has endorsed Ronny Jackson, his former physician, for the seat being vacated by Rep. Mac Thornberry

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