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July 25, 2014      10:46 AM

Texans for Public Justice file criminal complaint against Ken Paxton

Civil agency settlement did not resolve criminal allegations

In what should be a surprise to no one, Texans for Public Justice announced today that they filed a criminal felony complaint against Republican Attorney General nominee Ken Paxton for admittedly failing to register as an investment advisor.

In addition, the complaint says, "The Texas Securities Act prohibits a person from acting as an investment adviser representative for an investment firm in Texas unless the person is registered as a representative for that particular firm. The Texas Securities Act provides that any person who renders services as an investment advisor representative without being registered as required by the Act is guilty of a felony of the third degree."

The full complaint can be found here.

Both sides of the partisan divide have been concerned that Paxton faces criminal liability and would not be replacable on the ballot should he be indicted.

By Harvey Kronberg

July 25, 2014      9:29 AM

DMN: John Wiley Price arrested by FBI this morning

"The indictment alleges that from 2001-11, Nealy provided "concealed financial benefits" to Price totaling $950,231. The indictment refers to the funds as "a continuous stream of bribe payments."

The full Dallas Morning News story can be found here.

July 25, 2014      7:37 AM

Alamo Draft House and Greg Abbott vid were preceded by ADF and Ann Richards

See the ad below

July 24, 2014      6:25 PM

Charles Perry says he is still undecided whether to withdraw from House race while running for Senate

Time running out for local GOP chairs to replace him on the ballot in time for general election

State Rep and Senate wannabe Charles Perry today issued a statement indicating he remained undecided whether or not to withdraw his name from his House race while running in the September 9 special election for Robert Duncan’s vacant seat.  He is under no requirement to withdraw from the House seat.

However, by delaying the decision, he makes it impossible for the six county GOP chairs to pick a replacement candidate for the House seat.  If Perry wins the Senate race, another round of special elections to fill the vacant House seat will be required and could deny Lubbock and the surrounding counties representation in the House for the first months of the session.

If Perry loses the Senate race, then he still gets to play but as a state Rep.

His statement follows:

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Harvey Kronberg

July 24, 2014      6:05 PM

As federal highway funds run out, road construction will come to a halt says Pickett

No apparent sense of urgency in D.C. as partisan divide grinds nation's business to a halt

Congress may or may not come to some resolution next week on a solution to fix the Highway Trust Fund, but Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, could hardly tell from his meeting with the state’s leading transportation advocates on Wednesday morning.

US Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, spoke directly to the crisis during his weekly phone call with reporters yesterday. The Senate and House must come to consensus next week before the Congressional summer recess, or risk running short on payments to states on roads and bridges, come early August.

“We have competing proposals, Senate and House, and some amendments that will be voted on along with those two proposals,” Cornyn noted in passing on his weekly conference call with reporters. “The House has come up with a ‘least bad’ solution. It’s a temporary fix, but one that will take us into next year. The big problem that we continue to wrestle with is, ‘What do we do when the Highway Trust Fund continues to be inadequate?’ We have some interesting ideas, none of which have gained critical mass. We need to do better next year, after this temporary fix expires.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 24, 2014      5:17 PM

Alamo Drafthouse to Greg Abbott: Do not talk during the movie

Riffing off Abbott’s ad that is playing in theaters across Texas, the theater chain known for its strict no-talking policy takes a stern line with the Republican nominee for governor

July 24, 2014      1:45 PM

Updated school finance timeline -- briefs due tomorrow, some think Dietz ruling mid-August

Appeals will linger meaning Lege will have to craft budget anticipating budget impact of court rulings

Parties in the ongoing school finance lawsuit are expected to file final briefs with District Judge John Dietz tomorrow, and the optimistic lawyers among the plaintiffs expect a decision could be issued as early as mid-August.

What we do know is the number of court exhibits, witnesses and findings of the current ongoing school finance case dwarf the last school finance trial in Dietz’s court. This was a 16-week court case with 100 witnesses on the stand, 5,700 admitted exhibits and a draft document from Dietz that was pushing 350 pages and most likely will top 400 pages before it’s all over. Findings from the last school finance trial were well under 200 pages.

Wayne Pierce of the Equity Center, who was about to take the stage at a conference on school finance and legal issues, said he was optimistic about the outcome.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 24, 2014      12:59 PM

PAAT calls MQS ruling a landmark decision

“…a complaint filed with a county attorney could result in prosecution, using the Commission's interpretation in this case as a baseline for their investigation.”

In a message to members of the lobby group for Texas lobbyists, the Professional Advocacy Association of Texas' president Jack Gullahorn said that this week's ruling by the Texas Ethics Commission in the case of Michael Quinn Sullivan was "a landmark decision."

The ruling, which will be appealed by Sullivan and his organization Empower Texans, found that not only is Sullivan a professional lobbyist who has failed to register - a charge he denies - but he also either lost or destroyed thousands of emails that were requested under a lawful subpoena. He has denied that as well on television, but not under oath.

That aspect of the case could open up criminal liability for Sullivan, as QR has reported. The commission fined Sullivan the maximum amount they were able to in the case, which is $10,000. Sullivan, by the way, is also accused of running a political action committee without making legally required disclosures but the TEC has yet to address that.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

July 24, 2014      12:33 PM

House members tapped for lottery panel

Bingo and the lottery under scrutiny following last session’s debate

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on Thursday tapped several lawmakers to the Legislative Committee to Review the Texas Lottery and Texas Lottery Commission.

The committee, which was created by The Legislature last year, will study bingo and the distribution of the revenue it generates and the potential impact of eliminating the state lottery.

“The House had a healthy and productive discussion about the Texas Lottery last year, and this committee will continue that discussion,” said Straus. “I hope these Members will take an objective and thorough look at how the lottery and charitable bingo impact our state.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

July 24, 2014      10:51 AM

Press releases: Creighton endorsed by TX Tea Party PAC; border reax; same sex marriage report and more.

July 24, 2014      10:47 AM

Stanford: Phil King's problem with prosecutors

From the left--King's has history with Public Integrity which is looking at a criminal complaint filed against him

Ethics enforcement in Texas is so relaxed that you really have to put your back into corruption to draw the interest of prosecutors. You can launder corporate money, like Tom DeLay did. You can take bribes, like one judge named Angus McGinty did when he exchanged favorable rulings for car repairs. That fella made life easier for prosecutors when they found a text message he sent to the person bribing him that read, “I’m a whore for money.”

Or you can do something with more creativity, more flair. Sometimes it takes a guy like state Rep. Phil King to really make a statement by making it a policy not to disclose in-kind gifts. According to Assistant District Attorney Rob Drummond, the Travis County Public Integrity Unit has received a criminal complaint and is “reviewing it to determine whether to open a criminal investigation.”

In June, Denton resident Aaron Renaud filed a complaint with the Public Integrity Unit that largely covered the same ground that Betty Richie covered with her ethics complaint against Tom Craddick in May. Both Renaud and Ritchie allege that Rep. Tom Craddick funneled $25,000 into his daughter’s Railroad Commission campaign by giving it to Phil King who gave it to the Dallas-Fort Worth Conservative Voters PAC to do turnout for Christi Craddick in North Texas. Concealing a contribution in this way is a no-no, but King messed up when he didn’t disclose the contribution from Tom Craddick until after Ritchie filed her complaint, but that’s probably not enough to draw a loo k from prosecutors.

The rest of Jason Stanford's column can be found in today's R&D Department.

By Jason Stanford

July 24, 2014      10:25 AM

Texas same sex marriage battle looms at federal appeals court

A "prohibition of disparate treatment is what the federal judges are relying upon when they’re hearing these cases on state (gay marriage) bans.”

Just as a federal judge struck down the same-sex marriage ban in Colorado, it’s worth noting that the Texas test case on the same subject is headed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday with the state’s first set of briefs.

The Colorado ruling is stayed, pending a review by the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals. If that appeal fails, Colorado would become the 27th consecutive state in the process of striking down same-sex marriage bans based upon the last year’s ruling in United States v Windsor. That ruling, as you may be aware, did not legalize same-sex marriage, but it declared a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act an unconstitutional deprivation of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment.

“The Windsor case was not specifically about marriage, but the guts of that decision is that the equal protection clause does apply to gay people,” said Chuck Smith of Equality Texas. “That prohibition of disparate treatment is what the federal judges are relying upon when they’re hearing these cases on state bans.”

And, of course, Texas will get its own turn with De Leon v Perry, in which plaintiffs asked for an injunction in the state’s gay marriage ban in 2013. Two couples are involved: A lesbian couple married in Massachusetts but denied the right to jointly adopt in Austin and two gay men who were denied a marriage license in Texas.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 23, 2014      5:17 PM

House panel digs into economic incentive funds used to lure jobs to Texas

Sparks fly over ideology versus what happens “in the real world”

The special Texas House committee appointed by Speaker Joe Straus to scrutinize Gov. Perry’s job-luring pots of money – chiefly the Texas Enterprise Fund – got down to work on Wednesday. In its first hearing, the House Select Committee on Economic Development Incentives listened to expert witnesses for and against the incentives that were called everything from “interstate job piracy” to essential “tools in the toolbox” for continuation of the state’s dynamic economic growth.  

Chair of the committee, Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson, stressed that while Texas has been a dominant economic engine among the states, it is important to ensure that "any spending has greater benefit than cost to taxpayers.”

The Texas Enterprise Fund, according to the state's numbers, has been used to invest more than $560 million in businesses that either moved to Texas or expanded operations here. 75,000 jobs have been created as a result, according to those state numbers. The TEF and the Emerging Technology Fund, both used and touted by Perry over the years, have come under fire from some on the right who call them “tax cronyism” and some on the left who say they amount to “corporate welfare.” In asking lawmakers to study this, Speaker Straus said “We owe it to taxpayers to take a detailed look at what has worked and what can be improved.” Some programs may need “retooling” and others have possibly “outlived their usefulness,” Straus said.

A very vocal critic of the funds, Greg LeRoy, who’s the executive director of a Washington-based group called Good Jobs First, said lawmakers need to be careful that they don’t allow incentives to turn into subsidies. The difference, LeRoy said, is that an incentive gives a company a reason to do something it would not otherwise do while a subsidy is the act of “paying companies to do what they would have done anyway."

The rest of the story, subscribers only

July 23, 2014      5:16 PM

Nelson names Finance Committee Director

Shannon Ghangurde comes with Nelson from HHS Committee

Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, announced on Wednesday that Shannon Ghangurde will be the director of the Senate Finance Committee, which Nelson now chairs.  

Ghangurde’s been Director of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee since 2008. She also worked for Sen. Buster Brown years ago. "Shannon is a veteran staffer who brings extensive policy and budget experience to this new role. She will get the job done," Nelson said.

July 23, 2014      2:54 PM

Study: After HB2, abortions drop 13% but at a cost

"...a strategy that shifts from “demand side” – informed consent, waiting periods, parental approval – to a strategy of “supply side” – restrictions on doctors and medical facilities."

Sen. Dan Patrick’s camp has remained strangely silent, although a new study out today shows the impact of House Bill 2 has been a 13 percent reduction in abortions.

 On the floor of the Senate, Patrick often told his colleagues he wanted to make abortions medically safer and make sure those seeking abortions had the best available information to make informed decisions. But he also didn’t shy away from talking about his own desire to protect life from conception.

“When you wake up in the morning, you have to know what you believe in. When I wake up in the morning, I know what I believe in,” Patrick told San Antonio Express News reporter Kolten Parker last session, a clip he posted on his campaign website. “I respect and follow the law, as is. So we pass the sonogram bill, we’ll pass this bill. We’ll do everything we can to reduce the number of abortions -- which we are in Texas -- under the law, but the question is, ‘Do you want to end abortion?’ And the lieutenant governor didn’t answer that question. I want to end abortion.”

The shorthand from an initial report that will appear in the journal Contraception does appear to support Patrick’s goals. The number of abortion clinics in Texas has dropped from 41 to 22. The percentage of abortions, once some of the initial restraints of House Bill 2 were in place, dropped 13 percent. And the percentage of early-term medical abortions – those abortions induced by a combination of drugs -- was down 70 percent between last November and the end of April.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 23, 2014      2:34 PM

Democrats roll out plan for aggressive voter protection program

“When asked by Quorum Report about what the effort will actually entail, Battleground laid out some ambitious numbers.”

Calling it the “largest and most comprehensive voter protection program Texas has ever seen,” the Wendy Davis campaign along with Battleground Texas on Tuesday essentially said they’re ready to go to war to ensure minorities and others are able to make their voices heard in the November election.

Davis’ campaign manager Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, told volunteers and reporters on a morning conference call that the stakes are too high to take anything for granted. He and others said it has become the norm for voters to be disenfranchised only to have that information become known after the election results are in and it’s too late to do anything about it.

That’s why Democratic groups are being proactive this time around, Turner said.

Sen. Davis joined the call as well to tout her record in the Texas Senate on voter protection as well as her participation in court battles over the issue. She sought to contrast that with her Republican rival Attorney General Greg Abbott, who she said has tried to weaken the voting power of some Texans through redistricting as well as his philosophical and legal support for Texas’ voter ID law. "He is not working for all Texans," Davis said. “We have certainly never accomplished anything in America with less democracy and we are not going to start now," she said.

When asked by Quorum Report about what the effort will actually entail, Battleground laid out some ambitious numbers.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

July 23, 2014      1:53 PM

Political confusion and financial burdens result from Sept 9 special SD28 election

Local parties could have to fund up to four special elections

Governor Rick Perry’s decision to call a special election on September 9 to replace Senator Robert Duncan has generated confusion and the likelihood of serious expense on the 51 counties in SD28 and the six counties in Rep. Charles Perry’s House district.  Duncan’s term expires in 2017, so this special election will determine who serves through the next biennium.

The political confusion centers on if and when Perry follows through with his original stated intention to resign his House seat to run for the Senate.  With a September 9 special election date, there is no requirement to do so.  If he does resign in the next few days, the GOP county chairs in the six county House district can name a replacement to be put on the November ballot.    

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Harvey Kronberg

July 22, 2014      4:58 PM

Rare agreement in Texas about the burden of health care

Interfaith group turns to conservative lawmakers for long-term solutions

Two US appeals courts have issued dueling decisions around the Affordable Health Care Act, but the leader of one of the state’s biggest faith-based organizations has a longer-ranging question: Do Texas lawmakers intend to leave employers, and especially small employers, on the hook for health care costs?

The DC circuit court on Tuesday morning said health care subsidies should be available only to state-established health care exchanges, cutting out states like Texas, which of course refused to establish its own exchange. Hours later, however, the Fourth Circuit of Appeals, struck down a similar challenge. The White House already has indicated the DC decision will be appealed to the full 15-member court.

For Bee Moorhead, who heads Texas Impact, the real question ahead of the 2015 legislative session is not yes or no to subsidies. It’s how Texas intends to shape its own health care future in a way that does not unduly burden small business owners.

The Affordable Care Act offered two levers intended to contain health care costs: A statewide health insurance exchange and a federally subsidized expansion of Medicaid. Texas has rejected both. Those decisions shifted the question to business owners who choose, or don’t choose, to offer health care coverage.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 22, 2014      4:47 PM

Press Releases: The well-being of children, Obamacare ruling reactions, border statements and more sniping in the race for governor

July 22, 2014      3:41 PM

Bearse: Rethinking Rick Perry

From the right: The maturing of Perry as national personality is more than just repackaging

I am loathe to make predictions about politics – especially about elections more than two years away. Ask me who the Republican nominee for president will be, and I will say, “ask me in August, 2016.” Ask me who the Democratic nominee will be, and it is tempting to go with the presumptive favorite Hillary Clinton, but in this case I will take the field. She’s like California Chrome before the Belmont, only there has been no Kentucky Derby or Preakness where she enters the race on a winning streak.

I think Democrats will figure out their nomination is worth fighting for, not a coronation because “it’s my turn.” Look how well that message worked for Senator Hutchison’s gubernatorial bid in 2010.

I don’t know what my old boss, Rick Perry, will do. I don’t know if he will run, or ride off into the sunset. But if he runs, we may very well look back on this period as his “training montage,” like in the movie “Rocky.” Rocky hit the gym, Perry hit the books, and they both began the transformation from street fighter to contender.

First, you have to look at the political backdrop. We have a president who won’t even acknowledge that the crisis at the border is worthy of a visit. Imagine if President George W Bush did a fundraiser in Shreveport and didn’t adjust his schedule to see New Orleans right after Katrina had hit. This is the group that likes government solutions. Why can’t they come up with any?

The rest of the column by former Perry speechwriter Eric Bearse can be found in today's R&D Department.

By Eric Bearse

July 22, 2014      12:49 PM

Perry sets Sept 9 special election for Duncan Senate seat

Nov 4 had been the likely date; this means candidates must file no later than close of business on Aug 1

July 22, 2014      7:56 AM

Press releases: Mostyn top Davis donor, Reax to troops on the border, Straus on managing costs and more

July 21, 2014      5:12 PM

HK: Ethics Commission ruling may create possible criminal liabilities for MQ Sullivan

TEC alleges losing or destroying evidence plus lobbyist Sullivan refused to answer questions under a lawful subpoena.

We and others will be exploring these issues in more depth in the coming days, but the shocker in the today’s Texas Ethics Commission Ruling was the quite explicit declaration that Michael Quinn Sullivan and his associates either lost or destroyed substantial amounts of evidence sought for the investigation.  The exact quote referenced in our earlier story by Scott Braddock was that Commissioners were “left with the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Sullivan and Empower Texans have destroyed or lost thousands of emails sent to members of the Legislature during 2010 and 2011.”

In addition, Sullivan refused to answer questions under a lawful subpoena.  That would be his right if he invoked his Fifth Amendment protections.  He did not.  Instead, he refused to answer citing First Amendment which is a questionable legal theory at best.

Sullivan has multiple legal channels available to appeal and his attorneys of course said they will do so.  Nevertheless, along the way, Sullivan may have exposed himself to possible criminal liability.

By Harvey Kronberg

July 21, 2014      4:07 PM

Perry uses controversial Exec Order deploying military to border

Shifts from humanitarian crisis to criminal incursions; law enforcement unclear about value of military

Gov. Rick Perry deflected criticism of his executive order to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the border this afternoon, shifting the focus from deportee children from war-torn countries to drug traffickers and criminal opportunists crossing the Texas border to commit hundreds of thousands of crimes over the last 6 years.

News of Perry’s decision to deploy the National Guard troops to assist the Department of Public Safety in the ongoing effort called Operation Strong Safety leaked out over the weekend, giving critics enough time to question the how, why and how useful the National Guard would be at the state’s southern border.

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, called for support along the border last month with emergency funds, but he balked at the use of additional law enforcement in The Monitor over the weekend.

“They (cartels) are taking advantage of the situation,” Hinojosa told The Monitor. “But our local law enforcement from the sheriff’s offices of the different counties to the different police departments are taking care of the situation. This is a civil matter, not a military matter. What we need is more resources to hire more deputies, hire more Border Patrol. These are young people, just families coming across. They’re not armed. They’re not carrying weapons.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 21, 2014      3:41 PM

Updated: Ethics Commission finds MQS guilty of failing to register as a lobbyist

Agency finds that MQS and Empower Texans either lost or destroyed email evidence; maximum civil penalty of $10,000 is imposed

Note: This story has been updated throughout, including reaction from lobbyist Steve Bresnen – SB

The Texas Ethics Commission on Monday announced that the agency has found Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Empower Texans and a spokesman for Midland oilman Tim Dunn, guilty of failure to register as a lobbyist. For that, the commission imposed the maximum civil penalty of $10,000.

The agency found, among other things, that Sullivan and Empower Texans either lost or destroyed thousands of pieces of email evidence. Commissioner said they were “left with the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Sullivan and Empower Texans have destroyed or lost thousands of emails sent to members of the Legislature during 2010 and 2011.”

“The Texas Ethics Commission unanimously finds that Mr. Sullivan, as part of his regular employment, communicated directly with members of the legislative branch to influence legislation without properly registering as a paid lobbyist,” the order said. The commission said the agency didn’t seek a contempt order against Sullivan because it would have delayed the case, however commissioners felt the fact that Sullivan was uncooperative bolstered the case against him.  

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

July 19, 2014      2:10 PM

Federal challenge to House map concludes with final testimony

DOJ seeks to find intent in Republican map drawing to exclude Latinos

The Department of Justice put former Rep. Burt Solomonschief of staff and committee clerk on the stand for the first time Saturday morning, closely questioning her about when, and if, minority members had the same access to the House map as key Republicans advisers in the House.

Saturday is likely the last day of trial testimony around the Department of Justice’s concerns that the 2011 Texas House and Congressional maps abridge the rights of minorities under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This is not to be confused with separate actions ahead on the amended 2013 maps, which will begin in September.

This week before the three-judge federal panel was devoted to the process and results of the original 2011 House map, amended on the floor of the House during the original legislative session. Those on the docket for today included John Alford of Rice University, as well as former chief of staff Bonnie Bruce and attorney Ryan Downton, who drew the map.  

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 18, 2014      6:43 PM

SBOE tries to calm conservative critics of history curriculum

Rule changes likely to accommodate conservative concerns over Common Core

The most valuable lesson the State Board of Education appears to have learned out of the lingering CSCOPE controversy last year is that when it comes to criticism, the board can never act too swiftly to address conservative activists.

More than a dozen angry parents and a couple of college students were on hand for an informal hearing around the AP US History framework this morning. The topic was not set for the agenda, but Chair Barbara Cargill made it known that people who wanted to express concerns could address the board on Friday morning.

Such a decision seems to flout the spirit of the Open Meetings Act, but when it comes to addressing controversial topics, it might be a smart move. The rise of conservative media ready to latch onto topics such as CSCOPE or Common Core – and post updates on a weekly, daily, or even minute-to-minute basis – makes quick responses imperative.

“This is radical departure from what our Texas teachers are accustomed to,” testified activist Alice Linahan, who has a pretty broad outreach with her Women on the Wall Radio shows. “We’re shifting from passing a Texas US history state exam, based on our Texas TEKS, that are traditional, foundational and knowledge based and going to APUSH, which has a completely different philosophy of education.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 18, 2014      5:57 PM

Updated - Rottinghaus: Which conservative groups endorsed best?

University of Houston political scientist ranks the success rates of Empower Texans, Texas Right to Life, and others in the primaries

With the 2014 primaries and runoffs in the books, the refrain nationally and internationally is that the Tea Party ran the table in Texas.  The New York Times reported that the “Tea Party Holds Sway,” the Wall Street Journal wrote that the election showed the “Tea Party’s Muscle,” while the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom proclaimed a “Tea Party Takeover.” 

Does the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party control the Republican nomination politics in Texas?  Texas is undoubtedly conservative but there is variation in which groups have the most sway.  One way to look at which groups are most influential is to examine the successful percentage of endorsed candidates in the primary and runoffs.  An endorsement from a political group signals to voters that the endorsed candidate’s views are seminal to those of the organization and gives us a window into their influence on the Republican electorate.  The voter guides produced by each political organization is a shorthand way for voters to understand the views of the groups. 

The complete column from Brandon Rottinghaus can be found in today's R&D Department. 

July 18, 2014      5:56 PM

Press Releases: Announcements, appointments, women's health, Common Core controversy and more

July 18, 2014      5:03 PM

Eltife to chair Business and Commerce and Estes to head up State Affairs

Dewhurst unveils key appointments

Lt. Gov David Dewhurst announced more interim appointments on Friday afternoon, including the chairmanships of some of the Senate’s most powerful committees. The appointments include Sen. Craig Estes as chair of State Affairs and Sen. Kevin Eltife as chairman of Business and Commerce.

All of the new appointments announced by Dewhurst on Friday afternoon can be found in the announcement here.

July 18, 2014      9:43 AM

Stanford: We cannot leave these men behind

From the Left: Our liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues that Congress needs to act quickly to save the lives of Afghan interpreters who put it all one the line for the United States.

The situation on Texas’ southern border is not the only refugee crisis facing the United States. Thousands of Afghan interpreters who need to get out before the Taliban kills them for collaborating with U.S. troops are stuck over there because the State Department has run out of visas. Make no mistake, this is a test of our national character: These men risked their lives to help us bring democracy to Afghanistan, but they might die because our government doesn’t work.

About 6,000 interpreters need to come here, and we’ve only got 3,000 slots left. We can either start digging 3,000 graves in Afghanistan, or we can remember that we’re the country that put a dozen men on the moon. We can do big things, and this is just paperwork. This should not be that hard.

As fun as it may be to blame feckless diplomats working for Hillary Clinton and now John Kerry, the number of visas the State Department is allowed to hand out is limited under the Special Immigrant Visa program set to expire in September. That means the only solution lies in the greatest deliberative body in this history of the world, the United States Congress.

Yes, I know. This is the same congress that only gets a 7% confidence rating from Americans, which according to Gallup, is the worst rating recorded for any institution. Ever. A 2013 poll found that cockroaches, head lice, colonoscopies, and—ugh—political pundits were more popular than congress, which is on track to pass the fewest non-ceremonial bills. Ever. So yes, at this point I’m willing to engage in a little empty flattery to move this along.

Jason Stanford's complete column can be found in today's R&D Department.

By Jason Stanford

July 18, 2014      12:49 AM

Dewhurst says Schwertner will chair Health and Human Services

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told our friends at Time Warner Cable News in Austin that Sen. Charles Schwertner will replace Sen. Jane Nelson as the chair of Health and Human Services. Nelson is moving up to Senate Finance Committee chair – the first woman ever to hold that position.