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September 28, 2016      12:36 PM

KR: Houston voters risk reversing 40 years of moving toward equity in school finance

For HISD voters to defy the state in November implies the state of Texas should view the children of Houston as more worthy of tax dollars than a child in any other party of the state

A growing number of voices in Houston ISD are encouraging voters to reject recapture payments in an effort to force lawmakers to resolve the Texas school finance crisis.

The logic is voters would reject the idea of sending $162 million back to the state on the November ballot and force the Texas Education Agency to detach $18 billion in taxable value and the district’s tax roll, starting with the biggest taxpayer. Even Mayor Sylvester Turner is urging voters to get on board with the idea of rejecting the measure.

Unfortunately, such a move conveys a lot more than a wish lawmakers address school finance. It implies that Houston ISD, by its sheer force and might, expects to get special treatment. That the school districts that have respected Robin Hood, and sent payments back to the state, were some kind of mindless buffoons. And that Houston voters have no respect for the most important decision the Texas Supreme Court has made in the last generation: That every child, irrespective of zip code, has the right to an equitable public education in this state.

So let’s clarify what this vote means, why we have Robin Hood and, just to spice things up, we’ll bring in some talk about how this puts charter schools, and soon vouchers, right in the mix.

To correct some reports, the recapture of property taxes under the so-called Robin Hood provision is not technically about “equity of school funding” across the state. The Texas Supreme Court’s opinion in Edgewood v Kirby in 1984 was that every school district in the state should be able to raise roughly the same amount of revenue for a penny of tax effort.

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By Kimberly Reeves

September 27, 2016      5:57 PM

Budget choices lead to heavy constraints of general revenue next session

The state sits on a $4.1 billion cushion between revenue and appropriations, most of it in general revenue-dedicated funds…but that budget will be constrained to $2 billion due to constitutional budget spending limits, according to the Comptroller and LBB

The revenue picture for next session is tightening quickly given the choices lawmakers made last session to obligate future revenue to address ongoing needs, budget writers were told this week.

Tom Currah with the Comptroller’s Office and Ursula Parks of the Legislative Budget Board presented current revenue, and its constraints, in an overview before Rep. Dennis Bonnen’s, R-Angleton, House Ways and Means Committee. The outline of the picture includes funds gathered, revenue obligated and an anticipated supplemental budget that must draw down the balance of current biennial revenues.

Currah, the chief revenue estimator in Glenn Hegar’s office, noted the slowdown in oil and gas severance taxes, which will bring in about $1 billion less than last fall’s revenue forecast. When combined with a $350 million bump in franchise taxes, that brings the final tally to about $50.8 billion in revenue, which would be $650 million under projections.

As Bonnen pointed out, some of that $350 million bump is based on revenue from a tax rate that was reduced last session. That means some of that revenue will go back out to business owners in the form of refunds, although Currah expects to keep some of that excess.

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By Kimberly Reeves

September 27, 2016      5:50 PM

Press Releases: Voter Registration Day, veterans benefits, African-American Monument at Capitol, and more

Click the Press Releases button above for all the latest

September 27, 2016      5:48 PM

In Texas Energy Report: Dallas Fed says worst of Texas oil bust may be over

New data for employment, business outlook on upswing

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, pointing to improving business data in Texas, says the state might have weathered the worst of the oil bust.

Even oil and gas jobs are returning, the data show.

“We saw increased job growth in the service sector, we saw a decline in the pace of losses in the goods-producing sector, and most remarkably, we saw an increase in oil and gas employment in August that we hadn’t seen since 2014,” said Dallas Fed Economist Pia Orrenius in a video released Tuesday.

The story is in the Texas Energy Report.

By Polly Ross Hughes

September 27, 2016      3:54 PM

Pauken: Cruz Endorsement of Trump is Good for Trump – and Actually Helps Cruz Too

Former RPT Chair Pauken: “An executive in venture capital once told me, ‘After I realize I’ve made a bad deal, I don’t even want the cheese anymore just get me out of the trap.’”

Ted Cruz’s endorsement of Donald Trump for President last week is good news for the Trump campaign and a huge setback for the GOP “nevertrumpers” like Bill Kristol, Glenn Beck, Jonah Goldberg, Erick Erickson, et al., who have been trying to persuade conservatives to vote against Trump in November.

Cruz’s support may push some of holdouts into voting for Trump in November. It also sends a signal that, more and more, Republicans (even those who don’t personally care for Donald Trump) are uniting behind his candidacy over fears of a Hillary Clinton presidency. I doubt, however, that the Cruz endorsement will have any impact on John Kasich and Jeb Bush, who once pledged to support the GOP nominee only to renege on that promise once Trump became the nominee.

A number of Cruz’s former allies were dismayed by his decision to support Donald Trump. Some even claimed that it was the end of Ted Cruz’s career as a conservative leader.

The full column by former RPT Chairman Tom Pauken can be found in the R&D Department.

By Tom Pauken

September 26, 2016      4:44 PM

Chairmen Cook and Geren to serve on Trump Texas Campaign Advisory Board

Trump state Chairman Dan Patrick unveils list of those helping Trump cross the finish line in Texas, which doesn’t include Sen. Cruz

Here’s the full announcement.

September 26, 2016      4:41 PM

Straus appoints Steve Wolens to Ethics Commission

Dallas attorney will replace Paul Hobby as Democratic member from House; former Rep served with distinction from 1981-2005

September 26, 2016      4:40 PM

SB: Patrick gives Cruz a lesson in how to lead the Tea Party

Not always giving Tea Partiers everything they want: Lt. Gov. Patrick and Sen. Cruz share the constituency of voters who demand unbending leaders, but Cruz is sidelined while Patrick is on top thanks to his ability to adapt to the political environment

A clear-eyed assessment of the long-term strength and influence of the Tea Party in Texas – the actual movement, not Astroturf groups funded by a handful of wealthy contributors – is naturally reliant on the durability of the officeholders who credit those voters for their success at the ballot box.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Sen. Ted Cruz, and to a lesser extent Gov. Greg Abbott all embrace self-identified Tea Party supporters and each has worked to promote the policies they want from government.

Given that Gov. Abbott has largely been missing in action when it comes to the Republican Party of Texas’ current quandary, the race for the White House, Patrick and Cruz deserve a review of their performances. Patrick was on board with nominee Donald Trump from the moment Cruz was no longer an option. Cruz, not so much.

These two statewide Republicans both won office principally by defeating the same man, former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in GOP runoff elections with small electorates dominated by voters demanding politicians who will commit to “doing what they said they would do.” In considering which has the more durable career, the difference may well be that Patrick does what he said he would do while Cruz merely says what he said he would say.

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By Scott Braddock

September 26, 2016      4:36 PM

Press Releases: Bathrooms, endorsements, appointments, and more

Click the Press Releases button above

September 26, 2016      6:10 AM

Rep. Dawnna Dukes to retire

“…in light of my ongoing health issues and concerns, I find that I can no longer provide the active, effective leadership that is needed to continue my sworn duties."

Eleven-term State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, tells Quorum Report that due to persistent issues related to her August, 2013 car accident, she will be resigning her Texas House seat effective January 10, 2017.

Although her name remains on the 2016 ballot, the resignation will require the Governor to call a special election to fill the seat for the next session.

Dukes told QR that multiple recent visits to the emergency room combined with a more serious evaluation of her condition from physicians has forced her to re-evaluate her situation. Dukes said this was going to be her last session in any case but concerns over her caring for her nine-year-old daughter prompted the decision.

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By Harvey Kronberg

September 23, 2016      6:33 PM

GOP Ethics Commissioners: We are working to ensure Texas disclosure rules are predictable and fair

In letter to Abbott, Patrick, and Straus, the Republican members of the Texas Ethics Commission outline "blatantly false" accusations made by Tim Dunn's group Empower Texans and affiliated organizations

All the Republican members of the Texas Ethics Commission have now told Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Speaker Joe Straus that an effort led by Midland oilman Tim Dunn’s group Empower Texans to change the direction of the agency is based on claims that are “so blatantly false that we feel duty bound to respond to them directly."

In a letter to the big three dated September 16 and obtained by Quorum Report on Friday through an open records request, Chairman Chase Untermeyer along with Commissioners Hugh Akin, Jim Clancy, and Robert Long said they had no choice but to respond to a letter sent to all Republican lawmakers by Dunn’s Empower Texans and co-signed by other groups including Texas Right to Life, the Texas Home School Coalition, and the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party.

In the Empower Texans letter sent last month, which you can read here, the professional activists made many claims about the Ethics Commission including that the “process is the punishment.” The commission has, QR readers are aware, been investigating Empower Texans for years leading to a maximum fine for illegal lobbying and protracted court battles on multiple fronts.

Lawmakers should “investigate the commissioners and staff at the TEC for their inexcusable and inexplicable actions,” the paid activists wrote. “All of the commissioners need to be replaced, and the agency needs to be fundamentally reformed or abolished,” argued Dunn’s spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan.

After Dunn’s group demanded TEC commissioners be replaced, Lt. Gov. Patrick did his best.

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By Scott Braddock

September 23, 2016      6:32 PM

In Texas Energy Report: Energy all-star panel reveals legislative game plan for oil and gas

Fast-tracking Railroad Commission Sunset, tapping $10 billion Rainy Day Fund and more

HOUSTON – A long-elusive sunset bill to reauthorize the oil-and-gas regulating Texas Railroad Commission for 12 more years will be fast-tracked next spring and stripped clean of such controversies as replacing the agency’s outdated name or moving certain functions elsewhere, a key lawmaker said Friday.

Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, chair of the Sunset Advisory Committee, promised members of the state’s leading oil and gas lobby that the RRC’s sunset bill will contain what members of his committee deem necessary instead of the traditional recommendations of the Sunset Advisory Commission staff.

“The idea is the (sunset) staff won’t write the bill. We the committee will write the bill. I would like to see the sunset legislation in the first 60 days. We’re going to take the Railroad Commission up early on the House side so it is not changed so much in May and becomes this terrible thing that won’t pass anymore,” said Gonzales, referring to the legislature’s practice of tagging otherwise dead or “zombie” bills on to sunset legislation.

In the Senate, “We will pass a Railroad Commission Sunset bill, and it will be a clean bill,” added Sen. Craig Estes, incoming chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee. “It won’t have any bells or whistles on it to drag it down.”

The full story is in the Texas Energy Report.

September 23, 2016      5:56 PM

Press Releases: Honoring Gold Star mothers, appointments, endorsements, disaster funding, and more

Click the Press Releases button above

September 23, 2016      5:27 PM

House budget chair urges greater use of outside contract reviews

LBB: “… we have a responsibility to do our best to protect the treasury, to ensure the proper use of taxpayer dollars, and also to ensure your directives, as legislators, are being carried out by state agencies.”

The chair of the Texas House budget-writing committee is urging agencies to take advantage of the contract review functions triggered by the failure of the Attorney General’s T2 contract.

Of late, two scenarios have emerged with larger state contracts plagued with problems: The self-dealing scandals such as the Health and Human Services’ 21CT contract; or, more often, problematic delivery of a contract such as the AG’s child support overhaul, which is unlikely to go live before the end of 2017.

Both House Appropriations and Senate Finance sat down with the agencies charged with deploying the changes under Senate Bill 20. And while Chairman Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, will soon by ceding his chair because he is retiring, he remained emphatic about improving contracting processes.

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By Kimberly Reeves

September 23, 2016      2:53 PM

Sen. Cruz endorses Donald Trump

Days after Lt. Gov. Patrick applied pressure, Cruz took to Facebook to give a lengthy explanation and confirmed he will vote for Trump

Here’s the Facebook post where Sen. Cruz confirms the endorsement.

September 23, 2016      2:52 PM

Video flashback: Sen. Ted Cruz vs Donald Trump

When Cruz went after the eventual GOP nominee, Trump called him "the single biggest liar."

September 23, 2016      12:50 PM

Smith: Hostilities at Hofstra: The First Presidential Debate of 2016

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith previews next week’s Clinton-Trump debate in Hempstead, New York

Is it just a coincidence that Donald Trump held a bizarre event with fight promoter Don King the week before his upcoming bout with Hillary Clinton in the first presidential debate of 2016? King’s first gig in boxing was the Ali-Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” fight of 1974. Is Trump promising “Hostilities at Hofstra?”

The phrase doesn’t have the punch of “Rumble in the Jungle.” The debate, however, might match the fight in South Africa in pre-hostilities hype and over-the-top news coverage. Which, we should agree, is not a good thing.

Presidential debates are not about awarding a gaudy golden belt to someone. They are about – or they should be about – the selection of the President of the United States. Elections past have seen good debates and bad debates. Few challenged the political media the way the 2016 debates do.

Why is this?

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

By Glenn W. Smith

September 23, 2016      12:48 PM

Sources tell Politico that Sen. Cruz will fold and endorse Trump

“If he announces he endorses, it destroys his political brand,” said someone who had worked for Cruz's campaign.

The breaking report from Politico is here.

September 23, 2016      11:09 AM

As promised, Paxton appeals Voter ID case to SCOTUS

The petition is here.

September 22, 2016      5:44 PM

Greenfield: Projecting revenue that will be available for the next Legislature

Our resident number cruncher writes that “Even with a positive rate of growth for tax revenues in FY17, these growth rates will be applied to a lower base. Unless growth rates are increased substantially, tax collections in FY17 will again be $1 billion less than in the CRE.”

With the close of Fiscal Year 2016, signers of the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) pledge can rejoice. They can genuflect to the statue of Grover Norquist and proclaim that – under their brilliance – tax revenue declined while maternal mortality increased and special education services suffered. Is that not fulfilling the ATR directives of lower taxes, smaller government?

My sarcasm aside, tax collections at the close of the fiscal year, as Comptroller Hegar stated, were less than the Comptroller estimated in October 2015. While the Comptroller had estimated that all funds tax collections for FY16 would be $49.7 billion, actual collections were $48.5 billion, $1.2 billion less than the estimate and $3.3 billion less than FY15 tax revenue.

Figure 1 shows the cumulative YTD growth for FY10 through FY16. Only FY09 (-8.5 percent) and FY10 (-6.5 percent) had greater declines in tax collection than FY16 (-6.2 percent).  Following the decline in FY10, tax collections increased by 9.9 percent in FY11.

The full column from Dr. Stuart Greenfield can be found in the R&D Department.

By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

September 22, 2016      5:43 PM

Press Releases: Simulated Convention of States, mourning the loss of Jacqueline Ellis, counterterror, and more

Click the Press Releases button for the latest

September 22, 2016      1:25 PM

Poll: Clinton leads Trump in Harris County by 9 points with likely voters

“Clinton’s lead narrows however to only 4 percent (well within the survey’s margin of error) if we restrict the analysis to only those who indicated that they are extremely likely to cast a ballot this fall.”

The University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs poll results can be read in full here.

September 21, 2016      5:10 PM

HD 107 is possibly the swingiest of House swing seats in an ever-changing Dallas County

Republican Kenneth Sheets, now facing Victoria Neave, has taken on formidable opponents previously and won

DALLAS – The Texas House race with perhaps the most potential to keep Democrats and Republicans on edge on election night is the contest for HD 107 in Dallas County. The swingiest of swing seats is represented now by three-term Republican Rep. Kenneth Sheets of Mesquite. The district includes parts of Dallas, Garland and Mesquite.

Like neighboring Rep. Cindy Burkett – the Sunnyvale Republican facing Rowlett Democrat Rhetta Andrews Bowers – Sheets’ district is rapidly changing ethnically.

On paper, the changes look as if they would benefit Democrats. Yet urban Republicans like Sheets have managed to hold on.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By James Russell

September 21, 2016      5:06 PM

In Texas Energy Report: Tom Smitty Smith's sometimes bumpy but mostly Happy Trails

How state consumer champion cleaned Texas air while cutting energy bills

Tom “Smitty” Smith’s 30-year career of watching out for Texans’ pocketbooks ultimately helped clean the air they breathe, too. And, that was no accident.

The director of the Texas arm of Public Citizen, founded by consumer advocate Ralph Nader, announced Tuesday that he’s about to hang up his spurs and hand the reins to a yet-to-be-named successor. With luck, the man whose adopted “Happy Trails” as his trademark sign-off, will make his exit form the hallways of the Texas Capitol in the early months of 2017.

Were he not retiring, he would have turned his attention to the oil-and-gas regulating Texas Railroad Commission’s upcoming Sunset Advisory Commission review, Smith said in an interview with Texas Energy Report. But his main frustration as he departs is not having been able to stop the corrosive effect of special interest money on the Texas Legislature.

“One of the things I regret most, that’s left undone, is not really getting a handle on the influence of corporate money, business money, on Texas politics,” he said. “In the 30 years I’ve been doing this, we’ve had wave after wave of business groups get organized and link their donations to legislators, to specific votes they want to have on legislation, that takes away citizen rights – whether it be tort reform or homebuilder protection acts or where we are right now, which is taking away communities’ rights to protect themselves from the oil companies,” he continued.

The full interview is in the Texas Energy Report.

By Polly Ross Hughes

September 21, 2016      5:04 PM

Schuster: Water In Israel: Quenching Our Thirst For Peace and Providing Lessons for Texas

In this op-ed, Hillel Schuster writes that cooperation across governments and the private sector creates a scenario in which politics and profits can combine to become a powerful engine of change

Editor’s note: Hillel Schuster, who lives in Israel, is participating in the Israel Public Diplomacy Forum’s visit to Texas this month. For more information on that, click here – SB

The Old Testament is chock-full of references to water and its life and death impact on the economy and inhabitants of the land of Israel/Canaan. Abraham sojourns from Israel to Egypt during a time of famine (due to lack of rain). Isaac is reported to have dug many wells to survive here; and the Jewish people’s ultimate enslavement to Pharaoh in Egypt begins with Jacob bringing his extended family south, to Egypt during a 7-year period of famine (again, due to a lack of rain) in Israel.

The most basic economic reward and punishment recorded in the Bible relates to having the rains fall in their time. In fact, peace in Israel is specifically described as a time when the land can be productive due to an abundance of water. (See Leviticus 26:3-4)

In short, with respect to Israel: When there is water, there is peace and when there is no water, there is economic turmoil and upheaval.

Guess what? Thanks to a combination of economic foresight, technology and steady rate of infrastructure investments, there is water in Israel and lots of it. What’s more, soon some of the investments made by Israel will be replicated in Jordan and Egypt and there are even water projects planned to be jointly executed between Jordan and Israel.

Yes, you read that right, JOINTLY EXECUTED…Perhaps peace is coming; and the actors will not be the politicians, but rather, a bunch of nerdy engineers and investment bankers. Let me explain.

The full column by Hillel Schuster can be found in the R&D Department.

By Hillel Schuster

September 21, 2016      11:42 AM

Texas voter registration hits new record

There are now roughly 14,853,000 registered voters up from 14,238,000 during the primary, SOS office said. Potentially on track to surpass 15 million this cycle.