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February 8, 2016      4:46 PM

Press releases: Cruz mailer violated Texas law?, campaign endorsements galore, new senate committee on Texas ports and more

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February 8, 2016      4:06 PM

Hours before the vote, Sen. Cruz barnstorms New Hampshire

As he trails in the polls, radio airwaves are filled with pro-Cruz commercials about a return to the gold standard; voters pepper him with questions about war, immigration, and faith

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Trailing Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and even John Kasich in the polls one day ahead of this state’s first in the nation primary election, Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday rushed from event to event and electrified crowds of his diehard supporters.

Many of those supporters, by the way, rushed in from other states to help him. But Cruz’s organization here is nowhere close to the size and scope it was in Iowa leading up to his victory in the caucuses.

Pro-Cruz advertisements touting a return to the gold standard saturated commercial breaks during conservative talk radio shows – which have less influence here than in the South – and there were reports of a new, controversial mail piece from Cruz promising a “check enclosed.”

When an organizer at a Cruz rally asked how many of those in attendance were actually from New Hampshire, very few hands were raised. That organizer railed against the “establishment,” saying "they don't like him because they can't control him…he's not about the art of the deal. He's the real deal.”

“This is a room of patriots,” Cruz said to about 200 people who braved the beginnings of a winter storm to gather at an American Legion Post in Manchester. “The people of Iowa showed up …and they chose the constitution above the corruption of Washington,” Cruz said. Naturally that won big applause from the conservative crowd as did his anger about Obamacare and the “Washington Cartel.”

But there was an extra sense of urgency in Cruz’s tone on Monday.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

February 5, 2016      5:59 PM

Rick Perry endorses Massengale for Supreme Court over his appointee Lehrmann

"His legal experience and intellect will add strength to our State's highest court," Perry said.

February 5, 2016      5:22 PM

Judge denies American Phoenix Foundation effort to move Bresnen suit out of Austin

"Texas law empowers the public to ensure that the privilege of operating as a non-profit is not abused,” Bresnen said.

A state district court judge has rejected an effort by the American Phoenix Foundation to move a lawsuit against it out of Travis County. Attorney and lobbyist Steve Bresnen has filed suit against the foundation in an attempt to view its financial records.

Many political observers have questions about who is funding the foundation, which has been secretive about its donors. Quorum Report readers will recall that this is the group who clandestinely filmed lawmakers during the 2015 session in the Texas Capitol and other locations as well.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

February 5, 2016      4:54 PM

DPS Director tells Congress the Texas Legislature is aggressively pursuing border security

“…these increased efforts would not be possible without additional resources provided by Governor Abbott’s Office and the Texas Legislature," McCraw said.

Amid recent political attacks by self-proclaimed conservative groups aimed at Texas House Republicans over border security, the Director of the Department of Public Safety Steve McCraw emphatically told Congress that the state's leadership is aggressively tackling the issue.

In testimony this week before the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, McCraw sought to make it clear that the governor, the House and the Senate chose to make a critical investment in border security.

“Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature understand that securing our nation’s border with Mexico is the sovereign responsibility of the federal government, however, the federal government has failed to adequately provide the appropriate resources to secure our international border," McCraw told lawmakers in DC. "That failure has forced the State of Texas to spend millions of dollars of state money to fulfill what is a federal responsibility.”

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By Scott Braddock

February 5, 2016      4:53 PM

Anti-trust law could open door to medical competition

Texas is one of only two states that has declined to put telemedicine on the books

An obscure but important U.S. Supreme Court decision last year gave telemedicine a chance to make headway in competition with Texas brick-and-mortar doctors.

The case of Teladoc v Texas Medical Board now is headed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Last month, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman agreed Teladoc had the right to sue TMB over its new telemedicine rule, which requires face-to-face interaction before any type of medical diagnosis. 

Teladoc has operated in Texas for a decade without a single complaint, said general counsel Adam Vandervoort. Texas remains one of two states – the other being Arkansas – that have declined to put telemedicine on the books.

“I respect the Texas Medical Board. It’s a very strong board. It keeps the public safe,” Vandervoort said in a phone interview. “But it’s unwilling to listen to this, or even discuss if there is a safe way of doing this.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

February 5, 2016      4:38 PM

Smith: On the Right, It’s Not the Rule of Law; It’s the Rule of Pa

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that it’s a hollow defense of the indicted Planned Parenthood attackers to say they couldn’t break the law because they meant well.

Remember the howls from the Right when Rick Perry was indicted for abusing his office? The indictment, he and his supporters said, was an attack on the Constitution and contrary to the “rule of law.”

Now, fast-forward to the recent indictments in Houston against the two activists who used forged IDs to infiltrate and videotape Planned Parenthood. Their lawyers – Jared Woodfill and Terry Yates – are arguing that they couldn’t break the law because their intentions were good.

It’s like that old song by The Animals: “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good/Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”

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

By Glenn W. Smith

February 5, 2016      4:37 PM

Press Releases: ACA works, endorsements, appointments, and classrooms to careers

February 5, 2016      11:55 AM

Ethics Complaints filed against Joe Basel and others in connection with Ann Kitchen recall effort

Fred Lewis calls out Basel: “If you’re big enough to do it you’re big enough to tell us who’s funding it”; Basel says he’s not worried

The Ethics Commission on Friday received sworn complaints against Joe Basel - yes, the same Joe Basel who runs the American Phoenix Foundation – and two other people alleging Texas law has been broken in an attempt to oust an Austin City Council member.

Via the Austin Monitor:

While the city clerk still has not received a promised petition seeking the recall of Council Member Ann Kitchen, the Texas Ethics Commission has received four complaints filed against the group behind the alleged effort.

Austin attorney Fred Lewis filed the four complaints on Friday morning. They name Austin4All PAC, Rachel Kania, Tori Moreland, and Joe Basel as respective respondents.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

February 4, 2016      7:04 PM

Ethics Commission: Advanced search of campaign finance filings is live

Per the Ethics Commission Executive Director, the software upgrade now includes the ability to easily search by contributor

February 4, 2016      5:02 PM

Despite initial hype, Chairman Geren and French face off in low-key contest

“Geren’s biggest detractors actually live outside his district. And they are somewhat distracted by their races now.”

FORT WORTH – The Republican primary for House District 99 could’ve been nasty by now. After all, two scions of prominent Fort Worth families are facing off and third-party groups have made the contest a priority.

But so far the campaign pitting local businessman and Tim Dunn-backed Bo French against House Administration Committee Chairman Charlie Geren has yet to emerge as a competitive race, according to veteran political observers.

“It’s truly the classic mash up of establishment versus insurgent. Because Geren’s more tied to the establishment, he’s a prime target,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, professor of political science at the University of Houston.

One thing is clear: The defeats of former Senators John Carona of Dallas and Bob Deuell of Greenville in 2014 have taught incumbent Republicans not to be caught flat-footed this time around.

French boasts family connections spanning from Midland to Dallas as the son of the late oil and gas executive L.R. “Bob” French and wife Marcia. That fact was shown in his first campaign finance report. Donors included billionaire Dallas banker Gerald Ford, who donated $5,000 and Walmart heiress Alice Walton, who donated $1,000.

But the majority of French’s haul comes from a more familiar Midland resident: Chairman Dunn.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By James Russell

February 4, 2016      4:35 PM

Press Releases: Burrows endorses Cruz, abortion outrage in Houston, a special election, and more

February 4, 2016      4:10 PM

Nelson: Texas is Committed to Women's Health

In op-ed, Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson argues the Legislature’s intent “has always been in keeping with the will of Texans who do not want their tax dollars to support abortion, directly or indirectly”

Here they go again. This week researchers funded by supporters of Planned Parenthood released a new misleading “study” of women’s health in Texas. The conclusion faults Texas for excluding the abortion provider and its affiliates from government-subsidized programs.

The report published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine is based on a Texas Policy Evaluation Project study funded in part by the Susan T. Buffet Foundation, a major supporter of Planned Parenthood.  The study reviews claims in the Women’s Health Program and its successor, the Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP), from 2011 to 2014.  That program served 114,441 women in 2014.

The complete column by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, is in the R&D Department.

By Sen. Jane Nelson

February 4, 2016      4:07 PM

Coppedge: Texas Supreme Court Republican Primary Voter Guide

The latest in our special series by veteran observer of Texas judicial races John Coppedge

Quorum Report is pleased to offer a voter guide compiled by veteran observer of judicial races in Texas John Coppedge.

Although a long-time Republican, he has largely steered clear of sharing his point of view and instead focused on compiling the credentials, awards and profiles of which we are aware in the Court races.

Today, we present his guide of the Republican candidates running for Texas Supreme Court. Click here to download it.

By John Coppedge

February 4, 2016      4:06 PM

SB: James Russell joins QR as contributing writer covering DFW

Russell will provide dispatches from North Texas during election an cycle in which some particularly intense races are playing out in the Metroplex

Management at Buzz Central is pleased to welcome James Russell as a contributing writer. He'll focus on politics in Dallas/Fort Worth. He is based in Cowtown, which he has always proudly called home.

James is also a staff writer for the Dallas Voice, where he covers a wide variety of issues. He is a general assignment staff writer focused on - among other things - elections, campaign finances, HIV/AIDS, and of course the Texas Legislature.

James also has a keen interest in the intersection of the arts, cultural life and society. His first dispatch from the Metroplex will appear in this afternoon’s Daily Buzz, focusing on the race between House Administration Chairman Charlie Geren and businessman Bo French.

By Scott Braddock

February 3, 2016      5:23 PM

Bankers predict slight, but not significant, impact of oil prices on bond sales

But that doesn’t mean some local governments won’t pull back

Bankers at a public finance conference on this week generally predicted only a slight drop in state bond issuance due to the ongoing slump in oil prices.

Douglas Hartman, executive director of J.P. Morgan Securities, said J.P. Morgan’s municipal bonds issuance had dropped from $400 billion to $375 billion, year over year. Hartman predicted Texas would follow a similar trend, a possible decrease of between 5 and 6 percent, but much would ride on interest rates.

“Our official position is that the feds will raise rates three times this year,” Hartman told the crowd at the Omni Barton Creek Resort. “I personally think that’s one too many. What we’ve seen with the fed rate increase in December is that it’s helped us with some escrows and made some refunding more attractive.”

In other words, when interest rates go up, financial activity on existing bonds goes up. Hartman also continues to be bullish on new bonds, predicting activity in all sectors of the market due to continuing pent up demand. The school district space has come out active in the first quarter of the year, along with demand for tuition revenue bonds, water bonds and anticipated road activity, Hartman said.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

February 3, 2016      5:19 PM

Press Releases: HB2 fight, the passing of Babs Miller, endorsements, and more

Click here to see the latest news in our Press Releases section.

February 3, 2016      5:17 PM

Confusion arises over new business conflict of interest forms

“We certainly expected to comply…But there were certain complexities and unintended consequences we found”

New conflict of interest forms that went into effect on Jan. 1 – and are intended to increase transparency in contracting – have launched with fits and starts around the state.

Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, passed one of two versions of the conflict of interest notification during the last session. Local government and state agencies can no longer enter contracts with businesses unless the form is filed. But the form has left some confusion, especially among the financial services industry.

“The idea was to provide more governmental transparency,” Capriglione told the Bond Buyer’s Texas Public Finance Conference. “People wanted to know who’s giving out those contracts and who’s profiting from those contracts?”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

February 3, 2016      10:19 AM

SB: Ethics Commission says key software issue is nearly resolved

Many QR readers have said they are frustrated that they cannot search filings by contributor

The executive director of the Texas Ethics Commission told Quorum Report this morning that recent a frustration of many political professionals could be resolved as soon as later in the day.

Consultants, lobbyists, and yes lowly journalists have been agitated by the fact that the commission’s new software for searching campaign finance reports does not allow you to easily search by contributor.

It’s a function that was available with the old software.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

February 3, 2016      10:15 AM

FEC wants more information from Cruz about loans he did not initially disclose

The letter from the Federal Election Commission to the Ted Cruz campaign can be seen here. A tip of the hat to Dave Levinthal, who spotted it first, at the Center for Public Integrity.

February 2, 2016      5:44 PM

Updated: Texas Association of Business pushes for more competition in title insurance business

"Most people don't have any understanding of the fact that the prices are set and there's no competition," Hammond said

Editor’s note: Following our original report earlier in the day, the Texas Land Title Association weighed in on the proposals. This story is updated to reflect that – SB

A legislative fight over the Texas title insurance system is brewing as a pair of lobby organizations begins a media blitz in favor of reform while the title insurance industry itself says it is “well managed” and has worked well for nearly a century.

On Tuesday, the Texas Association of Business and the Texas Public Policy Foundation's blitz began with a press conference in the Speaker's Committee Room in the Capitol. Bill Hammond, CEO of the association, said they are "dedicating substantial sums of money" to advertising in media outlets across the state, and on Facebook and Google Ads.

"Our hope is to have Texans contacting their elected officials, asking them about the issue, and urging them to give them choice," Hammond said in a telephone interview.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Eva Ruth Moravec

February 2, 2016      5:42 PM

Press Releases: Celebrating Black History Month, endorsements, high speed rail, and yard signs galore!

Click here to see the latest news in our Press Releases Section.

February 2, 2016      5:26 PM

In Texas Energy Report: TXOGA says oil industry pays second-highest state revenues in history

Even so, industry also seeking billions in tax breaks, exemptions

The Texas oil and gas industry touted its second-highest payment of taxes and public royalties in state history Tuesday -- $13.8 billion in FY 2015 versus $15.7 billion the previous year– even as the financially ailing industry continues to search for tax breaks and exemptions during the bust.

The industry, reeling from a 70 percent plunge in oil prices since summer 2014, “knows that 2016 is off to a rough start” and that economists predict no immediate relief in sight, Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association (TXOGA) said during his annual update of the industry’s contributions to the Texas economy.

“Make no mistake. Texas is an oil and natural gas state,” Staples told reporters during a conference call. “The oil and gas industry anchors our economy.”

Yet, even as oil and gas industry contributions to the state coffers remained high in 2015, they could possibly have been even high still, according to estimates supplied by the Texas Comptroller.

The full story can be found in Texas Energy Report.

By Polly Ross Hughes

February 2, 2016      1:56 PM

Wilks brothers contributed $200,000 to Texas Home School Coalition PAC

Farris Wilks essentially delivered the THSC PAC haul by contributing $200,000; the PAC has $210,000 on hand

February 2, 2016      9:22 AM

Speaker Straus raised $156K, has $8.5 million on hand

Challengers Sheila Bean raised $14,000 with $6,000 cash on hand; Jeff Judson's new report has not appeared as of yet

February 2, 2016      9:17 AM

Rep. Byron Cook raised $37,000 with $687,000 on hand; challenger McNutt raised $78,000 with $198,000 COH

February 2, 2016      9:14 AM

Rep. Bryan Hughes has $371,000 on hand, Red Brown with $129,000, David Simpson $20,000

February 2, 2016      9:12 AM

SD 26 fundraising: Sen. Menendez reports $340,000 cash on hand, TMF has $437,000 on hand

Menendez raised $59,000 Jan 1 to 21; TMF raised $71,000

February 1, 2016      9:28 PM

Sen. Cruz wins the Iowa caucuses

Cruz 28%, Trump 24%, Rubio 23%

February 1, 2016      4:56 PM

Updated: Uber to leave two Texas cities: Galveston and Midland

Company tells QR's Eva Ruth Moravec it is changing tactics and will no longer enter cities that don't already have regulations in sync with their business model.

Ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc. is leaving two Texas cities – Midland and Galveston – and has a new strategy for dealing with cities with unfriendly rules.

Uber will no longer enter Texas cities that don't already have regulations favorable to transportation network companies, or TNCs, the San Francisco-based company told the Quorum Report Monday.

In an exclusive interview, Sarfraz Maredia, Uber's Houston-based general manager, said in keeping with the new strategy Uber will cease operations immediately Monday in those two cities, which combined are home to about 1,000 drivers.

"We're shifting our expansion strategy and we're focusing on markets that already have modern ridesharing regulations," Maredia said. "We'll focus on markets that acknowledge the benefits of ridesharing."

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Eva Ruth Moravec

February 1, 2016      4:23 PM

Rep. Cook calls on Thomas McNutt to implement E-Verify at Collin Street Bakery

Cook says his opponent is running a “sanctuary business”; McNutt’s campaign counters he cannot be held responsible for things that happened at his company back when he was in middle school

Following a report that undocumented immigrants have worked at the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook on Monday ratcheted up the heat on his GOP primary challenger Thomas McNutt by challenging him to implement the E-Verify system at the company where he is a vice president.  

Dallas Morning News reporter Brittney Martin filed the story in which she detailed the fact that the bakery – known around the world for its fruitcakes – has had undocumented immigrants on its payroll. The McNutt campaign has disputed the facts in that report and has said the bakery follows the letter of the law in its hiring practices.  

“My opponent is a hypocrite,” Cook said. “McNutt says he’s opposed to sanctuary cities, but is running a ‘sanctuary business’ himself because illegal aliens know the Collin Street Bakery and Navarro Pecan Company do not participate in the E-Verify program.”

In a blistering news release, Cook’s campaign on Monday also pointed to the 2005 death of an immigrant worker at Navarro Pecan Company, where the McNutt family owns 49 percent of the firm.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

February 1, 2016      11:59 AM

Ethics Commission rejects opinion to allow out-of-state donors to pay Paxton's legal bills

Opponents saw it as a ""permission slip for Ken Paxton"

The Texas Ethics Commission on Monday refused to give its blessing to a proposed advisory opinion that could clear the way for out-of-state donors to pay for Attorney General Ken Paxton’s legal defense in his current ongoing litigation.

A TEC subcommittee, chaired by Vice Chair Chase Untermeyer, attempted to craft an opinion from an anonymous requestor who had suggested various scenarios which took the question of bribery off the table and acknowledged that contributions to staff in the attorney general’s office was not against the law.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

February 1, 2016      10:06 AM

Infidelity website emerges as issue in Texas House race

Rep. Workman blasts challenger Jay Wiley as immature for Ashley Madison membership; Wiley says he is a victim of identity theft

A Republican Texas House candidate is responding to sharp criticism born out of the fact that his personal information was revealed as part of last year’s massive data breach of a website designed to help married people cheat on their spouses.

Jay Wiley, the GOP challenger to Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, is publicly defending himself because it turns out that his old email address, his former physical address, and his credit card information were used in 2009 to sign up for a membership on the website Ashley Madison. The site billed itself as an enabler of extramarital affairs: “Life is short. Have an affair,” the site said in promotional materials. As you may have read, the website was hacked last year, ultimately resulting in the release of user information of millions of the site’s members.

Wiley’s information was among them.  

"It’s a matter of maturity and judgement," Rep. Workman said of his opponent.

But Wiley’s campaign insists to Quorum Report that this is an identity theft scenario and he is working diligently to clear his name.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock