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July 22, 2017      1:08 PM

Bo Pilgrim passed away

Co-founder of Pilgrim's Pride and longtime political player was 89

Here is the story from the Longview News-Journal.

July 22, 2017      10:47 AM

License holders sue over fees meant to keep Texas Racing Commission solvent

Tracks argue it should have gone through normal rulemaking, the choice to implement the fee went outside the board’s authority, and it gave license holders no chance to review the supporting materials

Four of the 10 remaining owners of racetrack licenses in Texas have sued the Texas Racing Commission and its board for passing a supplemental fee last month to cover agency shortfalls.

License holders – and especially the greyhound license holders – had warned the board and staff that additional costs would be devastating to the industry. The license holders – LRP Group, Ltd.; Valle de los Tosoros, Ltd.; Gulf Coast Racing, LLC; and Gulf Greyhound Partners, Ltd. – filed a temporary injunction against the supplemental fee, due August 1.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 21, 2017      8:00 PM

Updated: Senate State affairs kicks out bathroom legislation to kick off the weekend

Lack of invited testimony signals to business leaders that senators are disinterested in their thoughts; hundreds line up to oppose restrictions on which people can relieve themselves in which public facilities

In the first public hearing on the so-called bathroom bills of the special session, over 250 people signed up to testify on SB 3 and SB 91, most of whom opposed the measure. It was a familiar sight for those who attended committee hearings on similar legislation during the regular session. And just like the regular session, the legislation was kicked out of the committee nearly along party lines, with one Democrat voting yes.

The bills authored by Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, were filed to answer Governor Greg Abbott’s call to “protect the privacy of women and children” during the special session, following a relentless push from Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick to legislate which people can use which public facilities.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Lyanne A. Guarecuco

July 21, 2017      6:32 PM

Press Releases: Teacher pay, bathrooms, conservative solutions, and more

Click the Press Releases button above for the latest

July 21, 2017      2:40 PM

Audio: Patrick suggests Speaker Straus is a closet Democrat

Patrick says Straus is "a Republican who has a Democrat as his chief of staff, a Democrat consultant and who gets elected by 55 Democrats." Straus spokesman says "Yes, our chief of staff last worked in government for noted Democrat Rick Perry."

For the first two years or so of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's time as presiding officer of the Senate, he regularly took a pass on weighing in much at all about Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.

When previously asked about whether Straus was sufficiently conservative, Patrick would often demur and stay focused on leading the Texas Senate in his public comments.  

That time in Patrick's political career has now fully concluded, it seems.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

July 21, 2017      2:38 PM

Smith: Political Dollars and Dangling Participles

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the enormous sums donors give state Republican officeholders raise especially disturbing questions in a one-party state like Texas.

Wealthy Texans are contributing extraordinary sums of money to Texas Republican officials these days. The sums are so large it’s a wonder that a candidate hasn’t surfaced with the message, “Elect me and I’ll grant your wishes for half the price.” Government favors at a discount.

It has a certain appeal.

Looking at Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s recent campaign finance report, former Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane gave Patrick $150,000 in June. Highway contractor James Pitcock matched McLane with another $150,000 to Patrick. Apparently not to be outdone, H. Ross Perot gave Patrick $150,000 on June 28 and another $75,000 on June 30.

It’s almost like pitiful little $50,000 contributors will have a hard time getting beneficiaries of their largess to return their phone calls these days.

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

By Glenn W. Smith

July 20, 2017      5:19 PM

KR: Texas Senate school finance proposal takes from one hand to give to the other

"The move to transfer money from HHSC, which primarily funds Medicaid, could be devastating if lawmakers don’t put the funds back in 2019”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s proposed funding of teacher longevity bonuses, TRS-Care support and bumps to charter school facility funding would squeeze $675 million from the Health and Human Services Commission, pitting the budget’s two major agencies against each other.

Temporary or no, many of those who would benefit from Senate Bill 19 are dismayed by the chosen method of finance. The bill mirrors much of what Patrick promised in a news conference last week, pulling from an agency that just propped up funding for Child Protective Services.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 20, 2017      5:18 PM

Press Releases: Sunset, bill filings galore, tagging, and more

Click the Press Releases button above

July 20, 2017      10:50 AM

Calendars to meet Friday to set Sunset in the House for Monday

Chairman Hunter says the deadline for filing amendments will be 24 hours prior to the floor debate. So, amendments need to be in by 2pm Sunday.

July 20, 2017      12:44 AM

Abbott expands call to include all items he had listed, adds TRS-Care to the mix

Teacher pay raises including TRS-Care, school finance, limited school vouchers, property taxes, spending limit, spending limits for cities and counties, union dues, abortion restrictions, maternal mortality, and more. On TRS-Care, teacher groups have recently rallied around a proposal by Rep. Lance Gooden.

Here is the supplemental proclamation.

July 20, 2017      12:32 AM

Just after 12:30am, the Texas Senate passes Sunset legislation on third reading

July 19, 2017      1:46 PM

The Senate will reconvene tonight at midnight for third reading on Sunset bills

Senate chairs expect to start holding hearings on school vouchers, bathrooms and more on Friday

July 19, 2017      1:18 PM

House State Affairs kicks out Sunset legislation

July 18, 2017      4:19 PM

Senate stumbles a bit out of the blocks but Sunset is on a fast track

Senators Zaffirini and West said they’ve never seen the tag rule suspended in their 30 and 24 years in the Senate, respectively

The Texas Senate today hit the ground running on Sunset legislation, with Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, filing a motion to suspend rules including one that would suspend the tag placed on SB 20 by Senator Jose Rodriguez, Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

The tag appeared to be a move as part of a broader strategy by Senate Democrats to delay debate on sunset bills SB 20 and SB 60, while Senator Hancock pushed to fast-track the bills so that they could be taken up in the Business and Commerce Committee while the Senate recessed before noon.  

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Lyanne A. Guarecuco

July 18, 2017      4:01 PM

Push starts to add TRS-Care on session call, warnings of issues ahead for ERS

During the regular session, the House pushed for the use of the Rainy Day Fund to resolve TRS-Care problems but the Senate balked

One group of people nowhere on Gov. Greg Abbott’s call clearly have reaped the benefits of a three-week gap between the regular and special sessions: retired teachers.

The efforts range from nominal to astronomical: Reps. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, and Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, put aside $100 million in House Bill 76. Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, is ready to pull $150 million out of the Rainy Day Fund. And Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, is hosting a Facebook Live event this afternoon to talk about a four-year $1 billion expenditure to plug the liability in the system, as well as a true interim review of potential remedies.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 18, 2017      3:54 PM

Abbott, lawmakers hit the mail-in ballot fraud issue hard at forum

After years of pursuing voter ID, which does nothing to crack down on mail voting fraud, Republican leaders turn to emphasize this

Gov. Greg Abbott brought what seemed like genuine passion to the issue of mail-in ballot fraud at the TPPF Policy Orientation yesterday, suggesting additional reprisals and even felonies for those who cheat the election system.

Mail-in ballot fraud is one of Abbott’s 20 for 20 reforms in the special session. The governor had plenty of applause points during his question-and-answer session yesterday, but he hit the mail-in fraud issue particularly hard, noting his tough stance as attorney general.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 18, 2017      12:53 PM

Without taking up Sunset, Texas Senate adjourns until 1pm tomorrow

July 18, 2017      11:40 AM

As expected, Sunset is on the fast track in the Senate

Bills already in B&C with the Senate coming back onto the floor at noon to vote; Abbott could be on the spot within the day to open up the call further

July 17, 2017      6:20 PM

Gov. Abbott plans to scorecard lawmakers during special

“I’m going to be establishing a list. You all or other organizations may be establishing a list. We all need to establish lists that we publish on a daily basis, where we call people out”

Gov. Greg Abbott left no doubt he was no fan of the current “Sunset and Sine Die” movement at this morning’s TPPF Policy Orientation and instead favors publishing a daily list of which lawmakers are with him and which are against him during the special.

In a series of questions Abbott clearly appeared prepared to answer, Abbott said he was sorry he would disappoint those who want the Texas Legislature to pass the necessary agency sunset bill and then adjourn for the special session.

“That is not going to happen, and I think the reason that’s not going to happen is because of what has happened over the last 30 days,” Abbott told TPPF’s Kevin Roberts. “We didn’t call it a special session, call it a day and then decide to come back 30 days later.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

July 17, 2017      6:19 PM

SB: Patrick meets Straus on the Speaker's preferred battlefield

Public education dominates the narrative for now, but the legislative combatants should not underestimate Patrick’s ability to undermine the speaker in the lower chamber

Throughout his ascendancy at the Texas Capitol, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has proven time and again the ability to adapt to the political environment. Unlike many in the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party from which he derives his support, Patrick comes to government to govern, not to protest.

Last week as Patrick rolled out his education plans, we saw him adapt because the environment had indeed changed ahead of the special session set to start tomorrow.

Speaker Joe Straus has all year invited Patrick to a debate about public education – the issue that represents Straus’ surest political footing with his members – and Patrick has finally shifted his rhetoric accordingly. The Speaker reset the landscape in recent weeks by focusing on public education and publicizing his concerns about suicides among transgender Texans as a consequence of passing restrictions on public restrooms based on gender.

Patrick quickly learned in his first session as a senator, back in 2007 when he entered government as a protester, that he wouldn’t get everything he wanted all at once.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

July 17, 2017      6:18 PM

Business ramps up fight against bathroom legislation as special session looms

A “bathroom bill, or any discriminatory legislation that targets the LGBT community [which] hurts our ability to recruit and maintain talent in Texas.”

The day prior to the start of the special session, business leaders and tourism officials from around the state gathered on the South Steps of the Capitol to speak out against “bathroom bill” legislation.

“Faced with overwhelming risk, we have no choice but to oppose the legislation that introduces discrimination into Texas,” said Jeff Moseley, CEO of the Texas Association of Business.

IBM, which has major locations in Austin, the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Houston and San Antonio, has been one of the more vocal corporations opposing “bathroom bill” legislation.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Lyanne A. Guarecuco

July 17, 2017      5:08 PM

Answering Patrick, Speaker Straus likens bathroom bill to a state income tax

Spokesman says "Speaker Straus doesn't support a state income tax because it would be bad for Texas and harm our economy, just like the bathroom bill."

July 17, 2017      5:05 PM

Press Releases: Special prep, Obamacare repeal, privacy, SB2, endorsements, campaign announcements, and more

Click the Press Releases button above for the latest

July 17, 2017      4:18 PM

On eve of special, TMA urges swift action on Sunset legislation

"The health, safety, and lives of our fellow Texans depend upon your swift action."

The letter to lawmakers from the Texas Medical Association is available here.

July 17, 2017      2:50 PM

Hegar releases revised revenue estimate ahead of special

Here’s the note from Hegar to lawmakers this afternoon.

July 17, 2017      2:44 PM

Sen. Burton to report more than $350,000 cash on hand

Tea Party darling raised about $200K

July 17, 2017      1:26 PM

Greenfield: Good News and Not So Good Revenue News

Our resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield breaks down the revue picture as legislators settle in for the next 30 days in Austin

As legislators gear up with anxious anticipation for the special session starting tomorrow, they can cap their Valium/Xanax containers. 

On July 5, Comptroller Hegar released a press release indicating substantial growth in sales tax revenue for June. Also noted was a 31.5 percent increase in monthly severance tax collections,  The substantial increases in both these taxes resulted in the growth rate (3.1 percent) in General Revenue-Related (GRR) receipts now exceeding (see Figure 1) the BRE estimated growth rate (1.7 percent) in FY17 GRR revenue.  This 1.4 percentage point increase in GRR is the good news for our legislators.

The full column by Dr. Stuart Greenfield is in the R&D Department.

By Dr. Stuart Greenfield