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June 29, 2015      4:52 PM

Supremes send EPA back to the drawing board on clean coal regulations

Challenge to Waters of the US rule appears to be bobbing on the horizon

Gov. Greg Abbott must feel a certain satisfaction in the U.S. Supreme Court dressing down the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to perform a cost-benefit analysis on its proposed regulation of coal-powered plant emissions.

Of all the Obama Administration agencies Abbott targeted in his time as attorney general, the EPA was his favorite. He has sued the agency multiple times in his 12 years as attorney general over what he called regulation overreach. He emerged as a skeptic of climate change during his campaign, although he admitted the state should protect the environment. And, for good measure, Abbott as governor met went to Capitol Hill in May to express his unhappiness over the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Abbott’s response today on the opinion, however, was measured, saying that the Supreme Court had rightly upheld the argument that the EPA had violated the law when it imposed a multi-billion-dollar regulation on power plants without considering cost.

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By Kimberly Reeves

June 29, 2015      4:51 PM

Press Releases: More SCOTUS reactions, more on marriage licenses, and Nelson Mandela's birthday

June 29, 2015      4:19 PM

Comptroller Glenn Hegar endorses Rep. Bryan Hughes for Texas Senate

Hughes leads in endorsements of statewide officeholders in the race for the seat being vacated by Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler.

June 29, 2015      3:16 PM

Department of Justice is asked to monitor Texas implementation of gay marriage ruling

Meantime, a lesbian couple in East Texas is already suing the Smith County Clerk for denial of a marriage license

Calling for intervention “if necessary,” Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, on Monday asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch for the Department of Justice to monitor Texas’s implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.

Sen. Ellis’ request comes one day after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding opinion telling county clerks that they can refuse to issue marriage licenses to couples if that issuance conflicts with their religious beliefs and another clerk is available to do it for them.

In his letter to Lynch, Sen. Ellis writes that he has “serious concerns about the far-reaching implications of this blanket protection” for state officials who defy the law. He asks if judges could use Paxton’s argument to refuse to grant or recognize divorce “if it offends their religious sensibilities,” or refuse to issue a death penalty “under his or her belief that ‘thou shalt not kill’ means just that. Where does it end?”

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By Emily DePrang

June 29, 2015      3:01 PM

Supreme Court temporarily blocks regulations that would have shuttered Texas abortion clinics

This suggests the high court will for sure take up abortion next term

The latest from NBC News.   

June 29, 2015      2:16 PM

New Rick Perry Animation: Economic Freedom

Perry campaign pushes his record on jobs in animated short

June 29, 2015      1:23 PM

Rep. Anchia renews push for gender neutral birth certificates in adoptions

Legislation on this failed in the session, but gay marriage ruling provides a new context

Citing the fact that the State Registrar of Vital Statistics moved without hesitation last week to make applications for marriage licenses in Texas gender neutral, Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, on Monday asked that office to similarly change the supplemental birth certificates for children adopted by same-gender parents.

It’s been a long-running cause for Anchia, who has filed legislation to change those supplemental birth certificates for the past four sessions. His arguments have mainly fallen on deaf ears in the Texas House.

“It is important to these children, as well as their parents, that their birth certificates accurately reflect their families,” Anchia said. “This change is both pro-adoption and pro-family."

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By Scott Braddock

June 28, 2015      5:33 PM

Paxton tells county clerks and judges they can flout Supreme Court decision on gay marriage

The AG warns, however, that those who deny marriage licenses to same sex couples will likely face litigation.

Here is the opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton.

June 26, 2015      5:25 PM

Stakeholders await a move beyond the anti-Obamacare rhetoric in Texas

Lawmakers have met more than once to discuss the expansion of health insurance coverage. So, why isn’t the state, in the wake of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings on Obamacare, closer to its own solution?

As Republicans on Capitol Hill and elsewhere pledge to continue to fight to repeal the Affordable Care Act, doctors here in Texas are asking when state leaders intend to tackle the idea of the Texas solution to affordable health care.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation unveiled a Texas solution to the state’s Medicaid program, known as TexHealth, as early as 2011. Lawmakers have met more than once to discuss the expansion of health insurance coverage in what was known as the Texas solution.

So why isn’t the state, in the wake of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings on Obamacare, closer to its own solution?  

That’s the question the Texas Medical Association is still asking. Cardiologist Tomas Garcia, the president of TMA, said doctors stand ready to support a solution – any solution – to address medical care in Texas.

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By Kimberly Reeves

June 26, 2015      5:10 PM

Gay marriage in Texas not mainstream, but closer than ever

Polls say 57 percent of Americans support gay marriage; 48 percent of Texans do

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state gay marriage bans like the one we had in Texas, it created a smorgasbord of interesting legal questions for Attorney General Ken Paxton. What current Texas laws are also threatened or invalidated? Will state benefits extend to gay spouses? How will adoption, custody issues, and the issuance of birth certificates change? Can a religious hospital deny visitation to a legal spouse for being gay? Will state employees who refuse to recognize gay spouses in the course of their duties be punished?

But instead of focusing on legal and logistical state issues, Paxton used the long and passionate statement issued by his office this morning to assure everyday Texans that he would protect them from the coming pro-gay—or anti-anti-gay—siege.

Paxton said progressives and the media have used gay rights issues to “publicly mock, deride, and intimidate devout individuals for daring to believe differently than they do.” But whatever the law, “Nothing will change our collective resolve that all Americans should be able to exercise their faith in their daily lives without infringement and harassment,” Paxton said.

Governor Greg Abbott also stressed in his statement this morning that a Texan could not be compelled by the Supreme Court ruling “to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage,” which sounded more than a little bit like some Texans are afraid they’ll be forced into gay marriages.  

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By Emily DePrang

June 26, 2015      5:06 PM

Press Releases: SCOTUS reactions, annoucements, celebrating CPAs and more

June 26, 2015      4:27 PM

Keffer on retirement: It was just time and not because of any electoral threat

"I think hot seats in hell are reserved for people who knowingly mislead people for their own gain," Keffer said of groups like Empower Texans

Retiring Texas House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, pulled no punches this week during a live radio interview when he was asked about the just-released Empower Texans rankings of legislators funded by Midland oilman Tim Dunn. Keffer also said his planned exit from politics is not because of any fear that he might not be able to win reelection if that’s the path he had chosen to pursue.

“It’s all a sham,” Keffer said of the Empower Texans rankings while he was on West Texas Drive radio show in Lubbock.

“There’s no way to get around it,” Keffer said, adding that the group directed by Dunn’s spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan favors those who opposed Speaker Joe Straus, plain and simple. "Everybody else is obviously going to be down in failing grades and poor grades," he said.

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By Scott Braddock

June 26, 2015      4:05 PM

Rep. Doug Miller announces for reelection

"This was truly a banner session for conservatives," said Miller.

Here is the announcement from Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels.

June 26, 2015      3:48 PM

Smith: Here is Days of "Miracle and Wonder"?

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that recent progressive victories on health care reform, marriage equality and the Confederate flag should not fool us into thinking that Injustice doesn't remain at large in America

The Rev. William Barber, president of North Carolina’s NAACP and organizer of the Moral Mondays movement, had this to say about the tragedy in South Carolina and the removal of Confederate flags from Southern government buildings: “The perpetrator has been arrested but the killer is still at large.”  

Barber was referring to the deeply ingrained institutional racism, private bigotry and government-enforced economic inequality that remain across the land. While we applaud the recognition that racist symbols such as the Confederate flag have no place in America, much remains to be done to erase the root injustices.  

A day after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, the Court held bans on gay marriage to be unconstitutional. Like Paul Simon sang in different circumstances, “these are the days of miracles and wonder.” 

The complete column by Glenn W. Smith can be found in the R&D Department.

By Glenn W. Smith

June 26, 2015      3:31 PM

On gay marriage, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick "would rather be on the wrong side of history"

"I would rather be on the wrong side of history than on the wrong side of my faith and my beliefs. I believe I am not alone in that view in this country."

Here is the full statement from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s office on today's gay marriage ruling.

June 26, 2015      12:40 PM

Texas Republican leaders react angrily to same-sex marriage ruling while counties take varied approaches to implementation

Abbott attacks the court itself: “The Supreme Court has abandoned its role as an impartial judicial arbiter and has become an unelected nine-member legislature.”

On the 12th anniversary of the Lawrence v. Texas decision striking down state laws against sodomy, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday morning that marriage is a right and that extending it only to heterosexual couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. The ruling was immediately met with predictable partisan division while many county officials across Texas started to figure out how they will proceed.

The decision came down 5-4 with the four dissenting justices – Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia – each writing their own dissents.

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, said same-sex marriage is a fundamental right based on “four principles and traditions,” those being able to choose one’s spouse is an inherent part of individual liberty; a two-person union is unlike any other; marriage protects children and families; and that it’s the cornerstone of the social order. It is worth noting that three of those four tenets were components of the state’s defense of its ban on gay marriage.

One popular argument, however, got no traction: biology. Because no state has made procreation or the ability to procreate a requirement to get married, Kennedy wrote, the court rejected the biological argument for restricting marriage to heterosexual couples.

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By Emily DePrang

June 26, 2015      12:20 PM

After gay marriage ruling, Gov. Abbott instructs state agencies to prioritize religious liberty

"This order applies to any agency decision, including but not limited to granting or denying benefits, managing agency employees, entering or enforcing agency contracts, licensing and permitting decisions, or enforcing state laws and regulations."

Soon after the United States Supreme Court ruled Friday morning that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a memo to the heads of all state agencies saying that they need to prioritize Texans' religious liberty and First Amendment rights.

"Texans of all faiths must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that their religious freedom is beyond the reach of government,” he said, adding that “Renewing and reinforcing that promise is all the more important in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.”

"The government must never pressure a person to abandon or violate his or her sincerely held religious beliefs regarding a topic such as marriage,” Abbott said. "That sort of religious coercion will never be a 'compelling governmental interest,' and it will never be 'the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.'"

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By Scott Braddock

June 26, 2015      10:56 AM

Full text of Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage

"They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

Here is the conclusion of the majority opinion of the United States Supreme Court:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.  As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.  It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.  Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered.”

The full document can be found here.

June 26, 2015      9:51 AM

KUT reports that Travis County will start issuing same sex marriage licenses within the hour

June 26, 2015      9:04 AM

Supremes affirm same sex marriage under equal protection doctrine

More to follow

June 25, 2015      5:26 PM

High Court strikes down state objections to disparate-impact housing claims

Indirectly rebuked the practice of Texas House members to veto the placement of subsidized housing in their local neighborhoods

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Fair Housing Act and indirectly rebuked a practice that’s given Texas House members the right to veto the placement of subsidized housing in their local neighborhoods.

Then-Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a bold appeal of a disparate-impact claims case to the nation’s top court after losing at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal was bold because circuit decisions have generally favored the idea that discrimination can be proven indirectly by outcomes.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in a 5-4 opinion, wrote that the court had upheld disparate-impact claims in other areas of the law, such as employment practices. Texas had argued that discrimination must be outright or explicit.

“Together, Griggs holds and the plurality in Smith instructs that antidiscrimination laws must be construed to encompass disparate-impact claims when their text refers to the consequences of actions and not just to the mindset of actors, and where that interpretation is consistent with statutory purpose,” Kennedy wrote. “These cases also teach that disparate-impact liability must be limited so employers and other regulated entities are able to make the practical business choices and profit-related that sustain a vibrant and dynamic-free enterprise system.”

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By Kimberly Reeves

June 25, 2015      4:43 PM

Press Releases: Reactions to SCOTUS, Hutchison on Wallace Hall, changes at the RRC, and more

June 25, 2015      3:06 PM

Rep. Scott Turner tells Quorum Report he is not running for Congress

Amid rumors to the contrary, Rep. Turner says it is not true that he's running for the seat currently held by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano.

June 25, 2015      1:24 PM

Former speaker candidate Rep. Scott Turner will not seek re-election

"As the Word says, there is a time and a season for everything. Today, I am announcing my plans not to seek reelection to the Texas House. In this new season for my family and me, I look forward to impacting our community, state, and nation through exciting opportunities in business, community service, ministry, and whatever path the Lord directs."

June 25, 2015      9:19 AM

In a 6 to 3 decision, Supreme Court upholds nationwide health insurance subsidies under Obamacare

More than 832,000 Texans will be able to keep receiving tax credits to purchase health insurance through the federal exchange

Here is the news flash from the New York Times.

June 24, 2015      5:00 PM

After 20 years working together, Blakemore and Hotze split up

All on good terms, it seems; Hotze and Blakemore wish each other the best; Jeff Yates to direct the Conservative Republicans of Texas

The political action committee funded by firebrand social conservative and top gay marriage foe Dr. Steve Hotze will no longer be run by veteran Houston GOP strategist Allen Blakemore, it was announced on Wednesday.

The Conservative Republicans of Texas PAC will now be under the direction of Jeff Yates, who served as Executive Director of the Harris County Republican Party for about six years. More recently, Yates has been the president of his own political consulting firm, The Yates Company.

“For the past 19 years, Allen Blakemore has directed the growth and the rise in influence of CRT as the pre-eminent Republican PAC in Texas,” Hotze said. “The impact of what he has helped CRT achieve will continue to be felt for years to come. Allen Blakemore has been a trusted friend and ally.  My prayer is for his continued success in all his future endeavors.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

June 24, 2015      4:59 PM

Press Releases: The Lt. Guv slams a magazine article (seriously), endorsements, announcements, and more

June 24, 2015      3:44 PM

Rep. Dan Huberty to seek reelection in 2016

"As a small business owner, I know the needs of this community and my constituents and I am hopeful they will vote to send me back to Austin to continue fighting for them," Huberty said.

Here’s the full announcement from Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Humble.

June 23, 2015      5:58 PM

SB: In Empower Texans rankings, one lawmaker is left out in the cold

Only one of the 19 who voted against Straus was not named a "Taxpayer Champion" on the Dunn scorecard; Rep. Mark Keough would have made the cut if he had voted against Abbott's pre-k initiative. Keough says "I came to Austin to be a statesman."

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comment from Rep. Mark Keough – SB

One assumption made by most seasoned Texas Capitol observers was that if a Republican lawmaker did the bidding of Midland oilman Tim Dunn and his spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan by voting against Speaker Joe Straus, they would be rewarded with the label of “Taxpayer Champion” on the Empower Texans scorecard.

Of the 19 who complied, that was true for 18.

One lawmaker, however, was left out in the cold – not only excluded from the Straus governing coalition in the Texas House during the session but now also dropped in the grease of receiving less than “Taxpayer Champion” status as the so-called Fiscal Responsibility Index was released on Monday.

Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands, didn’t make the cut but said he is happy to defend his record during his freshman session.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

June 23, 2015      5:57 PM

HK: Vetoes overwhelmingly hit Democrats

In the “for what it is worth” category, bills that were vetoed were more likely to be nixed by Abbott if they had two Democratic sponsors

Many thanks to one of our friends for sharing this brief analysis:

Of the 42 bills vetoed, here is the break out:

Republican and Republican Sponsors – 9 vetoed (includes Sen. Joan Huffman-amended ethics bills)

Republican and a Democrat Sponsor – 4 vetoed

Democrat and Democrat Sponsors – 29 vetoed

Of bills vetoed, 33 had a one or two Democrat sponsors.

By Harvey Kronberg

June 23, 2015      5:48 PM

Feds: Texas to operate under current waiver until new application reviewed

The timeline for the rewrite of NCLB is unclear while education groups push for quick action

Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout – SB

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday announced the approval of new waivers for another seven states, plus the District of Columbia, and promised to continue to honor past exceptions set to expire under the No Child Left Behind Act, which includes the state of Texas.  

The extension of the Texas waiver – referred to in Department of Education parlance as "flexibility" – ended with the 2014-15 school year. Texas submitted a new round of documentation at the end of session. According to the Department of Education, Texas will remain under its 2013 waiver until the application for a new multi-year waiver has been evaluated.

The new Texas application is substantially the same as an earlier version. A bill that would have substantially addressed federal concerns around the application, Sen. Kel Seliger’s Senate Bill 893, never got a hearing in the House Public Education Committee after passing the Senate in early April.  

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

June 23, 2015      4:34 PM

Group representing 13,000 grad students at UT Austin calls for removal of Jefferson Davis statue

The Graduate Student Assembly voted today to call for "the removal of the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis" with "haste and without bureaucratic delay."

Here is a copy of the resolution.

June 23, 2015      4:07 PM

Chairman Darby announces for reelection

“It is a privilege and honor to represent West Texas families and businesses that provide the fuel, food, and fiber to Texas and the nation,” Darby said.

Here is the announcement from Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo.

June 23, 2015      3:18 PM

Coppedge: Statewide Judicial races under way

Longtime observer of Texas judicial races Dr. John Coppedge takes a look at who is already running and speculates a bit on how it all might play out

The 2016 election season has begun. Candidates are already raising money and campaigning for the six statewide judicial spots in Texas – three Texas Supreme Court seats and three Texas Court of Criminal Appeals seats.

And once again the Republican Primary will determine the outcomes. Democrats will continue their electoral drought in statewide races that now extends over two decades.

The three incumbents on the Texas Supreme Court whose terms expire soon are, of course, all Republican and are all running for re-election. Justice Eva Guzman and Justice Paul Green will get universal support from those who historically take an interest in this court from the conservative side. To date, no potential Republican challengers have emerged for them.

It remains to be seen whether the personal injury bar mounts an effort to remove these two Justices like they tried to do in 2014 in an expensive but doomed attack on Chief Justice Nathan Hecht and Justices Phil Johnson and Jeff Brown.  

The full column from Dr. John Coppedge can be found in the R&D Department.

By Dr. John Coppedge

June 23, 2015      10:26 AM

Looming Supreme Court decisions will impact Texas directly and indirectly

Decisions coming on gay marriage, the Affordable Care Act, fair housing, lethal injection, and more

The majority of the cases still pending before the U.S. Supreme Court this term could have some impact on Texas, either directly or indirectly.

The court, sensitive to the scale of its decisions, has signaled its intention to issue its next round of opinions on Thursday. That’s in addition to its typical Monday opinions. It gives the media a chance to give a full day of coverage to each of the court’s two biggest pending cases: one dealing with the legality of federal tax subsidies under Obamacare and the other on a state’s ability to ban same-sex marriage.

That would leave next Monday, or possibly Tuesday, as the final day for opinions. Abortion supporters also filed a motion for a stay of the state’s abortion clinic law on Friday night, on appeal from the Fifth Circuit, and the court’s decision on that stay could come on any day. The law is set to go into effect on July 1.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves