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April 15, 2014      9:23 PM

SB: Patrick and Castro clash in heated immigration debate

Patrick: "I'm the only candidate the Democrats fear." Castro: "Actually you're our meal ticket back in."

In an hour-long exchange that shed nearly zero light on policy but did give both sides plenty of heat to try to exploit with various constituencies, Sen. Dan Patrick and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro talked past each other in perhaps the oddest debate we've seen since Patrick debated another elected official he wasn't running against. But, the two did earn plenty of applause from a small audience in Univision’s studios in the Alamo City.

QR readers will remember that Sen. Patrick similarly debated State Board of Education Vice Chairman Thomas Ratliff in Tyler about an issue that, like immigration, had inflamed some on the right: The CSCOPE lesson plans that had been criticized as “un-American” by some but that educators have said are a necessary tool. That, of course, is a fringe issue compared to immigration and border security, which will shape the state's economy and political reality for decades to come.

In Tuesday night’s debate in San Antonio, Sen. Patrick started off by saying he is compassionate and added that it should concern Democrats like Castro to see women being raped by those engaged in human smuggling and to likewise see communities savaged by those in the drug trade.

"You can get emotional about this and political about this, but your job is to protect the safety of the city," Patrick said. The frontrunner for the GOP Lite Guv nomination faulted members of both parties in Washington for not acting on immigration reform. He said that if legal immigration was expanded and the border was secured, “illegal immigration would stop.”

"Texas is not being invaded by Mexico," Castro said and pointed out that the US Senate has already passed a bipartisan bill to address both border security as well as create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who earn it.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

April 15, 2014      5:52 PM

Dan Patrick and Julian Castro square off in San Antonio on immigration this hour

The link to watch live right at 6pm via the Houston Chronicle is here.

April 15, 2014      5:32 PM

Press Releases: Everyone's calling out everyone it seems, tax returns released, a neck surgery and more

April 15, 2014      1:19 PM

New PPP poll says no change: Abbott-51%, Davis 37% with her negatives increasing

Patrick leads Van de Putte by 16

The summary for Public Policy Polling can be found here.

April 14, 2014      5:21 PM

Battleground Texas blasts the RPT for voter outreach and Republicans fire back

Battleground says they knocked over 55,000 doors; RPT chair says it’s not possible and irrelevant

The head of Battleground Texas and the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas each had harsh words for the other about their respective voter outreach efforts on Monday.

There has, of course, been a lot of chatter about how much difference it will make in the governor’s race between Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis and Republican AG Greg Abbott to have Battleground here working to create Democratic political infrastructure, which has been on par with water and transportation infrastructure in Afghanistan. For now, they seem to be making some inroads.

In an email to supporters, Battleground’s executive director Jenn Brown said the RPT had promised to knock on 60,000 doors in March, but ended up doing 10,000 instead. "They fell 50,000 doors short," Brown said. "While enthusiasm is waning for Republicans, it's never been higher for us. That same week, we set a goal of 100,000 phone calls for Wendy -- and made 145,287."

Brown said "the GOP is no longer the only game in Texas. We're proving every day that our grassroots volunteers are a force to be reckoned with." Battleground volunteers set out with the goal of knocking on 48,000 doors this past weekend and ended up with a total of over 55,000, Brown said.

The head of the majority party dismissed Brown’s claim out of hand.

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By Scott Braddock

April 14, 2014      4:40 PM

Press releases: Christi Craddick to chair GOP Victory; Davis ethical lapses, Ratcliffe endorsed by Senate Conservatives fund and more

April 14, 2014      4:25 PM

TER: House energy chief Jim Keffer sees Ryan Sitton facing conflicts at RRC

In Texas Energy Report: House Energy Resources chair says candidate holding onto energy interests ‘opens up this whole can of worms’

April 14, 2014      3:23 PM

Senate candidate Gordy Bunch releases TV spot: "Change Austin"

Some have called Bunch the "dark horse" candidate in the race to succeed former Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands

April 14, 2014      3:05 PM

Wallace Hall report officially referred to Travis County prosecutors

On another track, Coalition notes possible impeachable offenses, calls for Hall to resign

The report reviewing the conduct of UT Regent Wallace Hall prepared by attorney Rusty Hardin for the Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations has been formally referred to Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and County Attorney David Escamilla, QR has learned.

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By Harvey Kronberg

April 14, 2014      1:50 PM

HK: How many special sessions to pass the next budget?

Finding a governing coalition after previous budget maneuvers could be tough

Whether true or not, the endorsement of Dan Patrick by both incumbent Senator Bob Deuell and Texans for Lawsuit Reform have been taken by many in the capitol community as  the last word on the viability of a Dewhurst re-election.  Given the even longer-shot nature of the Democrats’ winning the Lt. Governor’s race, war-gaming for next session has already begun

The only thing the Legislature must do is pass a budget.  Call it armchair speculation, but even more than a year away, it is not unreasonable to speculate that it will take multiple special sessions to hammer out a budget.  Senator Patrick’s performance on state budgets has been erratic and while Tea Party interests may dominate a mid-term primary election runoff, they are minor players in the state’s trillion dollar economy and twenty-five million residents.

The state’s budget is perhaps the most daunting task facing any Legislature.  It requires good faith negotiation and buy-in from myriad constituencies. The appropriators have to negotiate competing interests – those both on camera and off.  

In his freshman session, Patrick angered his colleagues by handing out several pages of proposed cuts he claimed the Finance Committee could have made…as the bill was coming to the floor.  The anger was generated not because it threatened passage of a session’s worth of work but because it was seen as an effort to capture the narrative.   Civilians outside the Capitol would see the proposed cuts and remain clueless that they were introduced too late to be considered or had already been rejected. 

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By Harvey Kronberg

April 14, 2014      12:49 PM

Concerns about standardized tests are aired at Senate Education hearing

Despite deep cuts in standardized testing, senators still worry about standards and the amount of testing

A greater percentage of Texas high school students are on track to graduate under the STAAR testing system than had been under the TAKS, members of the Senate Education Committee were told on Monday. But lawmakers on the panel – about a third of whom are seeking statewide office this year – are still concerned that teachers are teaching to a test and that standards for passing it are low enough that they leave kids ill-equipped for college or a career.

For about an hour, senators grilled the Texas Education Agency’s Associate Commissioner of Assessment & Accountability Criss Cloudt. She told the panel that 76 percent of students in the class of 2015 have successfully completed 4 of the 5 tests they’ll need to graduate. It is the first class that has to pass the 5 assessments required under reforms to standardized testing.

Under questioning by senators, Cloudt said that when the state used the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, 28 percent were not on track to graduate because of their test scores. That number has fallen to 24 percent under the end-of-course exams called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR. However, it is not really an apples-to-apples comparison, Cloudt said, mainly because these are very different tests.

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By Scott Braddock

April 11, 2014      5:19 PM

School superintendent promises a reasoned approach in his first session as a House member - With extended audio interview

"We have to able to negotiate in some areas and compromise on some things.”

TYLER – The longtime educator who defeated two-term incumbent Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana, said this week he’s going to bring the ability to compromise with those he might not necessarily agree with in order to get things done in the Texas House. Gary VanDeaver is the Superintendent of the New Boston Independent School District and said that he’s going to take a reasoned approach to governing in Austin. He won 54 to 46.

When Quorum Report caught up with VanDeaver at an education conference at the University of Texas at Tyler this week, he was visiting with other superintendents and school board members about the challenges ahead for public schools in the 2015 session. "We have to able to negotiate in some areas and compromise on some things," he said. "Maybe we don't get everything we want but maybe we get some of what we need."

His experience working on a school district’s budget will help guide him in how he thinks about school finance after the courts weigh in, VanDeaver said. He and other observers expect The Legislature to be under court order to address how schools are financed. "The suit is going to dictate where we go as far as finance," he said.

VanDeaver also expects there to be much scrutiny of House Bill 5 when it comes to both the amount of standardized testing required by law and the multiple pathways that were created for a high school diploma. “That was a huge piece of legislation and as we implement it we're going to see some things that are going to need some attention," he said.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

April 11, 2014      5:18 PM

Check the Press Releases: Abbott presses the White House for details of Davis meeting and more pre-k attacks

April 11, 2014      4:31 PM

Texas Monthly to sue New York Times over hiring editor Jake Silverstein

Times calls decision inexplicable; says they had an understanding with Emmis Communications

Texas Monthly editor Jake Silverstein was hired to become editor of the New York Times Sunday Magazine..

The New York Times post about the lawsuit can be found here.

April 11, 2014      11:06 AM

Bresnen urges Ethics Commission to adopt proposed dark money rule

Longtime lobbyist and lawyer argues the new rule is constitutional, will not affect pending litigation, and the TEC has the authority to adopt it.

The man behind the sworn complaints against Michael Quinn Sullivan and Empower Texans says the Ethics Commission should make a move on a proposed rule for "dark money" in Texas and further argues he can see no reason why they should not. It's an issue that, as you know, was acted on by The Legislature last year but the bill to address it was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Perry.

In written comments to the TEC this week, lobbyist Steve Bresnen argues that the rule he's proposed is constitutional, the agency has the authority to adopt it, and it would not affect any pending litigation. That last one has been a concern of a couple commissioners.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

April 10, 2014      4:47 PM

Check the Press Releases for endorsements, Mexican American studies applause and a even a Cinderella story.

April 10, 2014      3:51 PM

Abortion providers ask the full 5th Circuit to reverse ruling on new restrictions

The story via the Statesman.

April 10, 2014      3:28 PM

Hardin passionately denies he leaked report on Wallace Hall to news media

Special counsel’s contract has expired; says he doesn’t know what the committee will do

In no uncertain terms, the former special counsel to the committee looking into articles of impeachment against UT System Regent Wallace Hall said that he had nothing to do with the publication of his report on the matter in the press.

"I passionately deny that we leaked that or wanted it leaked," famed attorney Rusty Hardin said on Thursday afternoon. “I just wanted the committee to have it so they can do their work.”

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April 9, 2014      7:58 PM

UPDATED: Texans for Lawsuit Reform Endorses Dan Patrick for Lite Guv

Dewhurst had their support in the first round; they've now switched allegiance to the challenger

In an email to supporters on Wednesday, TLR Chairman Dick Weekley and TLRPAC Chairman Richard Trabulsi thanked Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for his service to Texas and the nation and then said they are endorsing his challenger in the May 27 runoff.  They explained that they felt compelled in the first round of voting to support the incumbent because "as Lt. Governor he played pivotal roles at crucial times over the past decade in the passage of comprehensive tort reforms."

“In the runoff for Lt. Governor in the Republican primary, TLRPAC believes that Sen. (Dan) Patrick has earned the support of Republicans who want to retain the Lt. Governorship in conservative hands.   Sen. Patrick’s leadership on a broad platform of conservative issues, including lawsuit reform, has united Republican voters.  This was demonstrated forcefully on March 4th when Dan received a commanding 41.45% of the vote in a field of four strong candidates," Weekley and Trabulsi said.

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April 9, 2014      4:59 PM

House State Affairs is set for hearing on "Dark Money"

Chairman Cook says it’s a very important issue

Here is the notice of the hearing coming up on May 1, in which the House State Affairs Committee will “Study Title 15 of the Election Code, which regulates political funds and campaigns, including requirements for financial reports by campaigns, candidates, officeholders, and political committees. Specifically, study what types of groups are exempt from reporting requirements in the Election Code and make recommendations on how to make the political process more transparent.”

April 9, 2014      4:58 PM

Click the Press Releases for water news, endorsements, and paying respects at Fort Hood

April 9, 2014      4:11 PM

Sen. Deuell is loaded for bear

Veteran senator feels well-positioned to win his runoff; taking heavy fire from Empower Texans but getting support from other important conservative voices

TYLER – A veteran senator who wasn’t expected by many political observers to be in a runoff is barnstorming his district east of Dallas as he works to secure reelection against a candidate who doesn’t have many resources but has garnered significant support from third-party groups and has so far claimed the Tea Party mantle in the race. Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, traveled a bit outside his district on Wednesday to speak to educators from all over Texas who were gathered in Tyler for a conference.

Not long after his speech, QR broke the news that Deuell has now endorsed Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to preside over the Texas Senate in the May runoff.

Deuell, a family physician who’s been in the Senate since 2003, told members of the Texas Association of Community Schools about a sign that hangs in his doctor’s office that reads “Texas politics: Not for the squeamish.” He laughed and said "If ever that were true, it's now." He said “there are really good legislators being thrown out of office for no other reason than they are incumbents.” He was perhaps referring to folks like Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, who lost his primary to real estate developer Don Huffines, who ran a disciplined and particularly negative campaign against the longtime lawmaker.

The candidate who made it into the runoff with Deuell, Bob Hall, has come under fire for claiming both Texas and Florida as home, for decades of tax liens, and for accusations of past spousal abuse. While Hall has gotten support from Empower Texas – which we’re told has been sending as many as two mail pieces per week into the district – he has also been attacked by the influential conservative website Texas GOP Vote, which just last week published the original documents that support the accusations against Hall.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

April 9, 2014      4:00 PM

Veteran reporter Kate Alexander leaves Statesman; joins Sen. Watson staff

On board with Statesman since 2002, Alexander has distinguished herself with budget and education expertise

April 9, 2014      2:48 PM

Sen. Bob Deuell endorses Dan Patrick for Lite Guv

Statement from Deuell below

From Senator Bob Deuell:

"Today, I am joining Republican leaders across Texas in endorsing my friend and State Senate colleague Dan Patrick for Lt. Governor. Dan and I both currently serve as Republican State Senate Committee Chairmen and have worked together in the trenches for Texas conservative values and individual liberties. As a family physician, former school board member, and past Chairman of the Texas State Senate Republican Caucus, I commend Lt. Governor Dewhurst for his past leadership, but now endorse Dan in the runoff for Lt. Governor. The trench-savvy conservative convictions Senator Patrick and I both share will expand the horizon for a successful Texas."