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January 18, 2017      10:06 AM

Rep. Dawnna Dukes indicted

Charged with Abuse of Official Capacity, Tampering with Government Record

Details from Spectrum News.

January 18, 2017      7:43 AM

Rep. Chris Paddie(R-Marshall)to have emergency appendectomy this morning

January 17, 2017      5:15 PM

Updated: Texas House budget is released with a focus on public education; increases spending by less than 1%

Child protection & mental health also get more funding; Speaker Straus said “We keep overall spending low while making investments in children and our future."

In contrast with the Texas Senate’s initial spending plan released earlier in the day that would cut spending 1.5 percent across-the-board, the Texas House rolled out a budget Tuesday afternoon that slightly increases spending by just under 1 percent without raising taxes. Bottom line: the two chambers are about $8 billion apart in their plans.

“We keep overall spending low while making investments in children and our future,” said Speaker Joe Straus as his office unveiled the lower chamber’s version of the budget.

The initial House plan appropriates $108.9 billion in general revenue, Straus’ office said. It would also cut administrative costs and discretionary programs across state agencies and eliminate one-time funding approved last session like capital and information technology projects.

This spending plan includes cost-containment efforts to rein in Medicaid spending by $100 million, the Speaker’s office said.

Unlike Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s list of more than 30 must-pass bills, Speaker Straus is keeping his priority list tight.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

January 17, 2017      5:12 PM

Press Releases: Planned Parenthood case, more bill filings, protecting taxpayers, and more

For all the latest, click the Press Releases button above

January 17, 2017      3:23 PM

Updated: Senate budget bill is filed with “1.5% across-the-board budget reduction, exempting the Foundation Schools Program"

Adds $2.65 billion to cover student enrollment growth, $260 million additional for CPS, maintains the additional $800 million for border security

Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, filed the Texas Senate’s budget proposal, Senate Bill 1, Tuesday allocating $103.6 of the available $104.9 billion and calling for a “1.5 percent across-the-board budget reduction, exempting the Foundation School Program,” according to Nelson’s office.

Chair Nelson said the base budget is a starting point and earlier in the day said that the Finance Committee would begin meeting on Monday.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Eleanor Dearman

January 17, 2017      3:22 PM

Charles Butt contributes $100 million for school and leadership training

“So often today we get interested in policies and curricula and buzz words and ideas that have very little to do with the children sitting in the seats of our schools…We need to come back to square one.”

Grocery store magnate Charles Butt has provided Texas with the largest single gift for public education since the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation committed $130 million in 2007.

Butt’s $100 million gift will create The Holdsworth Center, a non-profit organization based in Austin to provide continuing support for school district improvement. Unlike the Gates Foundation money, which was rolled into the public-private Texas High School Project, The Holdsworth Center will function independently of state agency oversight.  

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

January 17, 2017      3:04 PM

Seana Willing formally announced as new TEC Executive Director

Chairman Untermeyer said "“As much as we regret losing the superb services and deep knowledge of Natalia Ashley, the Commission welcomes Seana Willing."

The full announcement about Seana Willing, who now served as executive director of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, can be downloaded here.

January 17, 2017      2:43 PM

Lt. Gov. Patrick reports $13.6 million cash on hand after raising nearly $5 million

January 17, 2017      1:46 PM

Nelson plans to file Senate budget bill today

Also plans to start Finance Committee meetings on Monday.

Sen. Jane Nelson told reporters that she plans to file Senate Bill 1, the Senate budget bill, Tuesday afternoon, calling the legislation a “starting point” and saying she wouldn’t spend more money than what the state has.

Nelson was the Senate finance committee chair last session and is the likely pick for the spot this time around. Nelson said she plans to start finance committee meetings on Monday.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was expected to announce Nelson will chair the committee Tuesday after the Senate went to recess, but left the floor before doing so.

By Eleanor Dearman

January 17, 2017      1:43 PM

Sen. Schwertner reports $1.6 million on hand

Georgetown Republican's campaign raised $650,000

January 16, 2017      5:01 PM

Abbott letter to Congressional leaders fails to extend block grant concept

Experts in the field call Abbott’s letter ideological, rhetorical fluff with little basis in policy or reality for how those decisions will affect patients and those who serve them

Editor’s note: A copy of Abbott’s letter is available to our subscribers at the end of this story – SB

Gov. Greg Abbott has offered his advice to Congressional leaders on the future of Obamacare, and it doesn’t vary a lot from then-Rep. Lois Kolkhorst’s, R-Brenham, floor speech five years ago touting the flexibility and superiority of state block grants.

Abbott, in a letter to Congressional leadership dated January 10, insisted Texas was hamstrung by federal regulations, leaving the state to deal with ballooning costs.

“I encourage you and your colleagues to consider transitioning the Medicaid program to a block grant program. The block grants should ensure states retain maximum flexibility in designing their own program and provide some mechanism to account for fluctuations in population growth, the economy and the rising cost of health care,” Abbott said. “Those components are necessary to a sustainable Medicaid program that produces greater health outcomes and protects taxpayers.”

The letter has not been met with much enthusiasm by a number of health care lobbyists.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

January 16, 2017      4:59 PM

Greenfield: On the Backs of Our Children

Our resident number cruncher suggests that a fiscal note for bills isn’t sufficient, there should also be consideration given to the real costs in the lives of children when certain policies are enacted

Along with their oath of office, I hope every member of the 85th Legislature also swears to not vote on any bill that adversely affects the children of this state. 

Why would I make such a statement? Hasn’t every member of every legislative session been concerned with the children of the state?  While one would hope they were, as has been well documented the ultimate “costs” of many of the bills enacted during the 84th Legislative session were borne by the children of our state. 

What, you ask, are you out of your mind?  My response is a definite NO, I am not out of my mind, and this analysis will document how actions by members of the 84th Legislature continued to impose costs on the backs of the state’s children.

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

By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

January 16, 2017      4:49 PM

Press Releases: People on the move, spending cap, Cruz at TPPF, and more

Click the Press Releases button above for all the latest

January 16, 2017      4:48 PM

Texas clerks object to statewide court filing database

“Convenience is not a sufficient public policy rationale to take away local government control from clerks and commissioners' courts and certainly doesn't trump privacy concerns regarding confidential information.”

Texas county and district clerks are not happy about the development of the statewide court record database called re:SearchTX, according to a letter obtained by Quorum Report.

Last week, the County and District Clerks’ Association of Texas sent that letter, signed by association president Celeste Bichsel, to Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht.

The letter explains that since early last year, the database has collected and stored all filings submitted to county and district courts through the system E-file Texas, the statewide electronic filing system.

The documents are accessible for judges, though they’ll soon also be available for attorneys, according to the re:SearchTX website. The letter says the “intent is to ultimately provide access to attorneys and the public to view and purchase court records.”

Bichsel said this potential public access, and related privacy concerns, is one of the biggest problems for the association.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Eleanor Dearman

January 13, 2017      5:36 PM

Fort Bend ISD Board President to Patrick: I am not an "educrat." I am a parent and proud conservative

In open letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Fort Bend ISD President Kristin Tassin says “We must get beyond ideological rhetoric, get to the heart of the problem, and work together to find real solutions. But, it seems that some leaders at the state level are not listening.”

Dear Lt. Gov. Patrick,

With all due respect and contrary to what you may believe, not all of us who represent Texas public schools (the children who attend the schools, not the buildings), are liberals or “educrats,” as you referred to us in your speech to the Texas Public Policy Foundation on January 11.

Most of us are parents, many with conservative views and values, who ran for the school board or got involved in our local school districts in order to improve education and make a difference for the children in our communities and across the state of Texas.

As an elected official myself, one of the things I must do is take the time to listen to those who work in the trenches with our children every day and make an effort to understand what is really going on in education. We must get beyond ideological rhetoric, get to the heart of the problem, and work together to find real solutions. But, it seems that some leaders at the state level are not listening.

You said in your speech that you are listening to your constituents. But, I am your constituent and your message to me was to stay home – to “save [my] money” and “don’t bother to come to Austin to lobby” for what I believe is best for the students in my district and Texas.

Well, I am not going to stay home. Not only because I care too much, but also because it is my duty under the law to advocate for public education and the more than 5.2 million Texas children who attend our public schools.

The full open letter submitted by Fort Bend ISD School Board President Kristin Tassin is in the R&D Department.

By Kristin Tassin

January 13, 2017      5:33 PM

MQ Sullivan, frequent critic of perks for lawmakers, enjoyed complimentary A&M Chancellor suite seats

While the House seeks more disclosure of campaign finances and the Senate is more focused on perks, head of politically active nonprofit enjoys free tickets at Kyle Field in the Chancellor’s box

For years, Tim Dunn’s Empower Texans has bashed lawmakers for enjoying freebies, specifically things like tickets to UT Football, often making the argument that average citizens do not get to “rub elbows” with “powerful people.”

Dunn’s spokesman, Michael Quinn Sullivan, has often led the charge on this, tweeting and blogging his criticism of Texas House members for partaking in something Quorum Report has now learned he does himself.

Per records obtained by QR under the Texas Public Information Act, Sullivan was given free tickets to the September 13, 2016 Texas A&M football game against the University of California at Los Angeles, which he watched from Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp’s suite.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By James Russell

January 13, 2017      5:32 PM

Ethics Commission getting new Executive Director

Per Jack Gullahorn, longtime head of PAAT: Seana Willing, the ED of Commission on Judicial Conduct taking the executive director job at TEC starting next month

January 13, 2017      5:31 PM

Press Releases: Ethics, ballot integrity, Amber Alert awareness, and more

For all the latest, click the Press Releases button above

January 13, 2017      11:12 AM

Little outrage over proposal to extend individual graduation committees

“We’re trying to make sure we’re not holding a single student back who should not be held back,” Sen. Seliger said

A proposal to extend individual graduation committees – an effort to graduate students who are unable to pass high school STAAR assessments – was met with silence this week from the measure’s traditional opponents.

Bill Hammond’s retirement from the Texas Association of Business at the end of the year was felt as nary a word was offered in protest of continuing the exception. To some in the education community, Hammond is best known for his unconventional use of billboards to shame school districts and colleges for failing to meet higher graduation rates.

During a new conference, Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, said only 2 percent, or about 6,000 seniors, needed an individual graduation committee. Nor did the assignment to a committee guarantee the student would walk at graduation. To pick up credit for failed exams, students had to complete additional coursework that demonstrated course mastery.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

January 13, 2017      11:10 AM

Smith: This is No Chicken Fried Steak Story - All for Justice and Liberty

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that backwards and forwards, the final words of the Pledge of Allegiance are words progressives live by

Back in the 1980s, the Texas Capitol Press Corps produced the popular Gridiron Show, an annual ritual that raised money for scholarships and spoofed political figures. One bit in the 1988 Gridiron spectacular made fun of George H.W. Bush’s claim that his side that election year was more patriotic than the other side.

Although I was a mere alumnus of press corps by then, I was given a cameo role. The American-Statesman’s Larry Besaw, one of the quickest wits in Texas, played an MC calling for an audience volunteer who could say our Pledge of Allegiance forwards and backwards. I was that audience “volunteer.”

Besaw, by the way, once concocted out of whole tablecloth an origin story for the chicken fried steak, publishing it in the Statesman as a humor piece. He wrote that it was invented in 1911 in Lamesa by “unemployed draw bridge oiler Jimmie Don Perkins working as a short order cook.”  Is there any kind of draw bridge oiler other than an unemployed one?

This piece of steak-in-cheek fake news was soon picked up as fact. It made the Smithsonian. Rep. Tom Craddick even passed a resolution honoring Lamesa’s role in the culinary milestone. (Admit it, “milestone” is a good word for a chicken fried prepared by chefs of lesser skill than Jimmie Don, and there are a lot of them.)

I digress.

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

By Glenn W. Smith

January 12, 2017      5:33 PM

Ken Paxton trial set for May 1

"The order by state District Judge George Gallagher also set aside four days for jury selection to begin April 20 in Collin County," per the Statesman

Here’s the update from Chuck Lindell at the Austin American-Statesman.

January 12, 2017      5:32 PM

Following police shooting in Dallas, Sen. West files bill for bulletproof vests

Grants a top Senate priority in tight budget year, Patrick said

In light of the deadly shooting of officers in Dallas last year, Sen. Royce West, backed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, is proposing the state budget set aside $25 million to fund bulletproof vests for officers.

Senate Bill 12, filed Thursday, would establish a grant program for bulletproof vests that are higher powered than standard ones, making them more fit to stand especially high impact shots like those from rifles. Any state law enforcement agency can apply for the grant and would be required to prove the purchase.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Eleanor Dearman

January 12, 2017      5:20 PM

Democrats renew push for higher minimum wage in Texas

Rep. Thompson, who passed the state’s last minimum wage law, described it as so outdated that it’s “Stone Age”

Ruben Alvarado, a fast food worker in Austin, hasn’t always made minimum wage. But when Alvarado fell on hard times, he took the first job he got: working at a Popeyes for minimum wage.

“My eyes were kind of woken up when I had to take a minimum wage job,” said Alvarado, who’s now advocating for higher minimum wage. “And I don’t have any kids. It’s just me by myself. A single guy, and I struggle paying the bills. I’m working with people who have like eight children and stuff.”

Lawmakers gathered Thursday afternoon at a press conference hosted by Texas AFL-CIO to discuss increases to the state’s minimum wage for employees. There are already several proposals filed this session to increase the minimum wage, which is currently set at the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Eleanor Dearman

January 12, 2017      5:06 PM

O'Donnell: Some New Modest Proposals

QR’s Senior Curmudgeon Edd O’Donnell argues the kids can fend for themselves, and they better learn to, in today’s Texas

It is clear that one of the chief sources of Texas government’s fiscal shortfalls is an obsession with children. We spend millions upon millions annually on these urchins -- natives and foreigners -- feeding, clothing, educating, doctoring, controlling their behavior, or locking them up. The burden is so great that the Texas Legislature is faced with taking extreme measures to stem the loss of blood and treasure attributable to the feckless ingrates.

Texas is not the first great power to face this crisis.

The full column from Edd O’Donnell is in the R&D Department.

By Edd O'Donnell

January 12, 2017      5:01 PM

Press Releases: Border security costs, F-35S, Blue Ribbon Awards, and more

Click the Press Releases button above for the latest

January 12, 2017      1:33 PM

Gov. Abbott has $34.4 million on hand after raising $9 million

January 11, 2017      6:34 PM

Patrick expects revenue shortfalls to come out of health care and education, earning huge applause at TPPF

Patrick claims credit, along with Abbott, for keeping the Texas budget out of the red, omitting Straus: “There’s a difference between conservative leadership, and leadership that’s not so conservative.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick expects this session’s budget shortfalls – possibly up to $6 billion – to be covered by cuts to the spending plan’s two biggest drivers: health care and education.

That’s not going to be a message that’s well received by either set of stakeholders, but Patrick’s assessment won applause from the crowd at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Policy Orientation.

Patrick told the group gathered in downtown Austin that education and health care – all told, 90 percent of the budget – are ripe for cost containment rather than increases in revenue.

“We’re going to find ways in those two big areas of the budget – which are billions and billions and billions and billions, like the stars, of dollars -- to find areas that we can save money in and make sure we focus on all the needs and necessities of our education system and our health care system,” Patrick said. “So we’ll do it. We’ll do it.”

This is not simply the difference between entertaining funding – or no funding – between the House and Senate. Nor is it forcing state agencies to take a 4 percent cut to their budgets. No, Patrick expects the Senate budget to be balanced by cuts to existing expenditures.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

January 11, 2017      6:31 PM

Press Releases: Immigration enforcement, Tillerson reactions, legislative agendas, and more

Click the Press Releases button above for all the latest

January 11, 2017      6:04 PM

Updated: Bathroom politics skirmish in the Texas House as business leaders decry direction of the Senate

Convention business leaders say “perception is reality in our business,” no matter what carve-outs the Senate has planned for restroom bill

The Texas House almost tested the waters for a so-called “bathroom bill” on Wednesday in an amendment to the housekeeping bill – a failed change that would have required people to use the bathroom of their “biological sex” in Capitol bathrooms.

Before the amendment, authored by Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, could be presented or voted on, the author withdrew it. If considered, the votes could have been an indicator of the fate of Senate Bill 6,  Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s “Texas Privacy Act.”

“In the view of every person’s fundamental interest in privacy while in a state of undress, the house of representatives shall continue to designate any multiple-occupancy facility under the jurisdiction of the house to be used only by a person based on the person’s biological sex,” the amendment read.

House Administration Chairman Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, author of the resolution, called a point of order when the amendment was filed, saying it was not germane and argued the Preservation Board oversees those restrooms, not the House.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Eleanor Dearman

January 11, 2017      5:52 PM

Regent Hall's arguments against McRaven to get to documents does not appear to sway Supreme Court

Justices question Hall’s case, including whether the authority to compel McRaven to release documents was an authority given to individual regents or to the board as a whole

Regent Wallace Hall’s strategy to compel the University of Texas to produce documents appeared weak in arguments before the Texas Supreme Court Wednesday morning.

Hall has been at the center of a firestorm during his six years on the University of Texas System’s Board of Regents, often at odds with university officials and occasionally vindicated, such as when an outside investigation revealed Hall was right to be concerned about legislative influence on admissions at the flagship university in the UT System.

Whether Hall was right or wrong, however, was not the argument before the state’s top court today.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

January 11, 2017      5:43 PM

Bill Hammond takes the reins of effort to reform title insurance in Texas

Hammond is the new Executive Director of Texans for Free Enterprise, funded by megadonors Bob Rowling and Doug Deason

The full announcement from Texans for Free Enterprise can be downloaded here.

January 11, 2017      5:42 PM

Pauken: Straus and Patrick will drive the legislative agenda this session

From the right: Former RPT Chairman Tom Pauken sizes up the big three this session, in which he expects Gov. Abbott to be largely asleep at the switch

Constitutionally, the office of the Governor of Texas is a weak one.  In my lifetime, the strongest Governor has been Allan Shivers who also served in the Texas State Senate and as Lt. Governor. 

In his position as Lt. Governor, Allan Shivers turned that office into a powerful one as he set the agenda for such basic issues as public education, higher education, and the development of our state highway system.  With the death of Gov. Beauford Jester, Shivers became Governor in 1949 and won election in his own right in 1950.  He served in that office until 1957 when he retired.  

A conservative Democrat, Shivers as Governor relied on his extensive experience in the Texas State Senate and as Lt. Governor presiding over the State Senate to wield enormous powers as Governor.  Under his stewardship, Texas had the reputation of developing the finest highway system in the nation and having an excellent educational system from elementary school through college.  He also fostered a positive climate for business.  

While Texas still maintains a pro-business climate when it comes to tax and regulatory issues, you can't say the same about our highway system or the state of education in Texas. 

The full column from Tom Pauken is in the R&D Department.

By Tom Pauken

January 11, 2017      12:21 PM

Texas Senate rejects Democratic bid to reinstate two thirds rule

West, Menendez and Rodriguez argued for it; rejected on partisan lines

January 11, 2017      11:03 AM

Bathroom drama unfolding in Texas House

Rep. Schaefer tries to amend housekeeping bill to restrict Capitol restrooms by gender; Geren calls a point of order, saying it is not germane and argues Preservation Board oversees those restrooms