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May 29, 2015      10:14 PM

TER reporting RRC obtains 8 year reprieve from sunset in HB3132 conference agreement

Texas Energy Report notes that provision appeared in either House or Senate

May 29, 2015      5:38 PM

Updated: Texas House passes HB 1 on a vote of 115 to 33

"Show the speaker voting aye"

A handful of Texas House members on Friday afternoon made passionate last stands against House Bill 1, the $209 billion biennial state budget before the lower chamber passed it 133 to 15. The Senate had already approved the conference committee version, so it now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

There were loud cheers as Speaker Joe Straus, who rarely votes, said from the dais “Show the Speaker voting aye.”

While the last several days were filled with Tea Party sturm und drang, it was largely Democrats who lined up at both mics today to rail against things done and undone.

Most of those who spoke objected to the $800 million allocated for border security through the Department of Public Safety, a $300 million bump over the original House budget and one that lawmakers said came with no accountability measures or meaningful oversight.

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By Emily DePrang

May 29, 2015      5:04 PM

Press Releases: Budget, budget, budget, and more budget

May 29, 2015      5:01 PM

Big media campaign on education issues lays out gaps in ethics law

Texans for Education Reform denies relationship with group that filled the airwaves with commercials during the legislative session.

Education groups are frustrated there is very little talk, if any, about the broad-scale mass media efforts they believe are tied back to Texans for Education Reform this session.

In television markets across the state, Texans Deserve Great Schools, has run wall-to-wall ads touting changes it considers to be crucial to fix schools.

“Every Texas parent wants better schools,” the narrator says in the commercial. “Here are steps we can take now to make a difference.” Then the ad goes on to suggest the achievement district and “A” through “F” grading system would be positive changes any parent could support.

“Why isn’t anyone talking about these ads?” one lobbyist groused this week, noting how much effort was being put into what many consider to be an education reform movement that is anti-public schools. “We’re getting nothing passed. We have to spend all our time beating back these bad ideas.”

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 29, 2015      4:43 PM

Wake celebrating the life of Bob Strauser will be Tuesday, June 16 at 5PM at Headliners Club

May 29, 2015      3:09 PM

Updated: Texas Senate signs off on budget on a vote of 30 to 1

Sen. Eltife says he’s proud of this session because leadership has finally admitted the state has serious problems that need to be addressed; Sen. Sylvia Garcia was the lone "no."

After impassioned speeches hailing new the state’s new leaders as willing to address some of Texas’ critical needs, the Texas Senate on Friday signed off on a two-year spending plan. The vote on final passage was 30 to 1.  

Before moving to adopt the conference committee report on HB 1, Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said she was particularly proud because the budget stays well below the state’s constitutional spending constraints.

Nelson became teary-eyed as she thanked her staff and said “I loved being the chair of Finance.” Acknowledging that “we weren’t going to all agree,” the first-ever female chair of the Senate’s most powerful committee said “it was my goal to listen to everybody.”

"This budget meets the needs of our growing state and makes smart investments in our future, including increased funding for education, transportation and border security,” Nelson said. “It also invests in our economy with over $4 billion in tax relief that will provide a much-needed break for homeowners and help Texas businesses grow.”

Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, was the most fired up about the fact that there has, in his estimation, been a substantive shift in the Capitol conversation about addressing the state’s challenges.

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By Scott Braddock

May 29, 2015      3:07 PM

Lt. Gov. Patrick's spokesman says no senator his given written notice of intent to filibuster open carry

Despite some talk of filibustering the bill, that has not materialized as of Friday afternoon. The conference committee report on HB 910 is eligible at 3:52pm Saturday.

May 29, 2015      2:50 PM

Smith: It is the Democrats Who Are Champions of Economic Freedom

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the 84th legislative session makes it clear that it's the Democrats and not Tea Party Republicans that are the true champions of economic freedom

As the curtain begins its descent on the political burlesque known as the 84th session of the Texas Legislature, some obvious if impertinent questions need asking.

How, for instance, does the Tea Party-dominated Legislature justify turning down billions in federal Medicaid dollars and condemning millions of Texans to unnecessary illness and death because of lack of health care?

About all you ever hear by way of an excuse for this callous and cold-hearted failure is something like, “Medicaid is broken.” Well, not quite as broken as the backs of Texas’ poor and middle class, you know, the people that actually do the work of building Texas’ future.

Another question:  Why was this extremist Legislature so determined to grant itself de facto immunity from criminal prosecution? Lawmakers dismantled the centralized Public Integrity Unit in Travis County and created a new scheme where lawmakers can be investigated only by their brothers-in-law back home (I exaggerate, but only slightly).

The complete column by Glenn W. Smith can be found in the R&D Department.

By Glenn W. Smith

May 29, 2015      2:11 PM

Texas House passes HB 1 on a vote of 115 to 33

"Show the Speaker voting aye"

May 28, 2015      4:21 PM

Open carry conference committee strips out Huffines language

The "backdoor Constitutional Carry" pushed by unusual coalition and strongly opposed by law enforcement groups is out, committee member Rep. Poncho Nevárez says

May 27, 2015      6:03 PM

The Texas House does not concur with Senate changes to open carry

Under pressure from law enforcement groups that say the Sen. Huffines' added language would put lives in jeopardy, the House votes 63 to 79 to send the bill to a conference committee

May 27, 2015      5:58 PM

A mini-war breaks out over the House Local and Consent Calendar

Anti-Straus Republicans fire the first shots; Dems fire back and engage in some vengeance of their own

A small group of Texas House Republicans on Wednesday morning hijacked the often rote Local and Consent Calendar because they wanted to exact vengeance on some of their adversaries they blame for the deaths of their bills. That is the way it played out on the floor, at least.

After killing several Democratic bills, Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, expressed disbelief that his motives were being questioned.

“People think that we're up here, that this whole thing today has been some kind of show!” he said. “That it's political retribution.” It’s not, Stickland assured listeners, just before essentially filibustering a measure aimed at reducing pet euthanasia in San Antonio.

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By Emily DePrang

May 27, 2015      5:17 PM

Press Releases: Disaster relief, oil and gas highlights, Relationship Privacy Act, and more

May 27, 2015      5:14 PM

Tensions between House and Senate cause tax repeal measure to die

“I’m not afraid to send this bill back to the Senate with an amendment. I’m not afraid of the Senate getting this back with an amendment,”

The Texas House thumbed its nose at the Senate on a tax bill that collapsed on Memorial Day after lawmakers buried it with dead and dying House bills.

Rep. Sefronia Thompson, D-Houston, already has made headlines for mocking the apparently dead Tesla Motors bill by suggesting “Mr. Tesla” maybe should have sat down with the automobile dealers before elbowing his way into the market.

Rep. John Wray, R-Waxahachie, made some attempts to keep Senate Bill 759 clean on its way back over to the Senate, but Thompson dismissed the effort, asking her colleagues how many House bills had returned with Senate amendments. That drew a roar of approval from Thompson’s colleagues.

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 27, 2015      4:52 PM

Anti-gay marriage bill appears to be blocked in the Texas Senate

Sources tell QR that the language slipped into the bill this week in committee means it won't have enough support to even be debated

Several Texas Senate sources told Quorum Report on Wednesday afternoon that Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville does not appear to have the votes to bring an anti-gay marriage measure to the floor for debate.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

May 27, 2015      3:39 PM

House gives final passage to tweaked campus carry bill 102 to 44

It heads back to the Senate with a form of an opt-out provision for campuses

May 27, 2015      3:27 PM

Texas House finally passes ethics reform bill 94 to 49

It will head to a conference committee, where it could die over the issue of dark money

May 27, 2015      1:28 PM

School districts fight to neutralize sting of local homestead exemptions

No good deed goes unpunished, and that certainly extends to school districts that offer local homestead exemptions

School districts that offer local homestead exemptions will be fighting hard to keep a Texas House amendment in Senate Bill 1 that will cost the state $400 million.  

As they say, no good deed goes unpunished, and that certainly extends to school districts that offer local homestead exemptions. A combination of government code and education code make sure the state bears the full cost of any such exemption. Even so, the estimated 250 or so school districts that offer some form of those exemptions are loathe to end them, even in the most dire of financial times.

School districts on the table include a slew of Harris County school districts, as well as the Houston and Dallas ISD’s. School districts offering tax breaks fall in both the property wealthy and property poor categories. It does not include Austin ISD.

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 27, 2015      12:14 PM

Anti-Straus representatives spending their day knocking bills off Local Calendar

Same unreasonable crowd as always: Stickland, Leach, Krause, White, Rinaldi, Shaheen, Spitzer, Tinderholt

May 26, 2015      8:36 PM

American Phoenix Foundation faces legal action if it will not produce tax records

Longtime lobbyist Steve Bresnen confronts the head of the group, Joe Basel, with legal documents in the House Gallery

The group that claims to have done hundreds of hours of covert surveillance on Texas lawmakers will need to cough up its tax records or they'll be hauled into court, its president was told on Tuesday evening.

Steve Bresnen, a longtime lobbyist and former aide to Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, confronted American Phoenix Foundation CEO Joe Basel with a written demand that the group disclose its 990's.

In the letter presented to Basel, Bresnen reminds him that "Federal law makes the federal tax returns of The American Phoenix Foundation, Inc. a matter of public record" because of its status as a nonprofit.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

May 26, 2015      8:34 PM

Texas House passes Cook version of Ethics reform 96 to 28

Chairman cook fended off attempts by Empower Texans-aligned lawmakers to strip out disclosure of dark money

May 26, 2015      6:15 PM

Decriminalizing truancy hung up on House concurrence with 70 pages of Senate amendments

Hammond: "“Far too many children enter the criminal justice system via truancy, thus harming their lives and hurting their chance to become a productive member of society."

Supporters are pushing hard for the House to concur on a bill to decriminalize truancy this session, which could be fated for conference committee tomorrow.

Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill to decriminalize truancy last session, Senate Bill 1234, saying the bill did not properly account for students who moved between districts. This session, the issue comes down to whether Rep. James White, R-Woodville, and the House will concur with the Senate’s version of the bill.

The Texas Association of Business underlined its support of the bill, which thrusts children whose families can’t pay fines into the criminal justice system. Texas is one of only two states that has criminalized truancy.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

May 26, 2015      5:03 PM

El Paso Times: DPS says it accidentally released interview with Pickett to Stickland's lawyer

DPS Director Steve McCraw apologizes for Texas Rangers screw up

Marty Schladen of the El Paso Times with another big scoop today:

“In a letter to Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, DPS Director Steve McCraw said that an investigator with the Rangers inadvertently gave a recording of an interview of Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, to a lawyer for Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford.

Pickett in April questioned whether Stickland's staff improperly registered witnesses to testify before the House Transportation Committee, which Pickett chairs.

Pickett was suspicious that scores of witnesses who had no intention of coming to the Capitol had been registered in favor of Stickland's anti-red-light-camera legislation. That would amount to improper manipulation of the system, Pickett said.”

May 26, 2015      5:02 PM

Press Releases: Countdown to sine die, a pension fix, Memorial Day commemorations, and more

May 26, 2015      4:47 PM

Updated: Senate Intergovernmental Relations re-votes on anti-gay marriage language

Sen. Menendez said would have voted “no” if he’d have known what was in the bill; Sen. Bettencourt says “sometimes the obvious is hiding in plain sight.”

After suspending “every rule in the book” – that’s the way one senator put it – the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee on Tuesday afternoon re-voted on a bill that now contains the same kind of anti-gay marriage language that was in a bill that died in the Texas House about two weeks ago.

Earlier in the day, Quorum Report had pointed out that Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, had quietly inserted anti-gay marriage language into the county omnibus bill, a “catch-all” bill for county governments, before it had been passed out of the committee he chairs on Monday.

The committee substitute for House Bill 2977 as offered by Lucio would prohibit state and local governments from using public funds to issue same-sex marriage licenses, just like the failed House Bill 4105 by Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia.

Under pressure from his fellow Democrats on the panel, Sen. Lucio asked the Senate to suspend rules so that he could bring the bill back to the committee for a do-over.  

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

May 26, 2015      4:44 PM

Bearse: Sense and Sincerity

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues that conservatives should be careful not to fall for delusional thinking when it comes to making sure foster kids are placed in loving homes

Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney has filed an amendment to Senate Bill 206, the Department of Family and Protective Services Sunset bill, that would allow child welfare agencies to refuse to place children in certain homes based on religious beliefs. It is widely understood that the amendment takes aim at gay couples trying to adopt a child or provide a foster home.

I believe legislators should tread carefully when exercising the awesome power of the state to so fundamentally impact or altar families. I have no doubt the amendment is offered based on a sincere belief. I suspect that belief has less to do with the conscientious and religious objections of child welfare workers as it does a widely held belief among some conservatives that children benefit most when raised in a family with a mother and a father. The amendment is tailored to the former, but the beliefs of child welfare workers are secondary to the health and welfare of children and families. It would seem this comes down to an argument about the health and welfare of children raised by gay couples.

I criticize liberals frequently for social engineering, and for policies steeped in idealism that ignore practical reality. A perfect example is the notion that gun laws will keep firearms out of the hands of criminals. It is an idyllic notion, and a false one. Conservatives should be careful not to fall for the same kind of delusional thinking.

The compete column by Eric Bearse is in the R&D Department.

By Eric Bearse

May 26, 2015      2:42 PM

Senate IGR re-votes on anti-gay marriage language and passes it, two Dems switch their votes to no

Sen. Jose Menendez said that if he had known that language was in the bill, he'd have voted no the first time

May 26, 2015      12:40 PM

El Paso Times: Texas legislators strike deal on transportation

“…If annual sales taxes exceed $28 billion, $2.5 billion of that will go for transportation”

El Paso Times Austin Bureau Chief Marty Schladen gets the transportation scoop:

“After weeks of hard negotiating, lawmakers have struck a deal on transportation funding, one of the principals said today.

If annual sales taxes exceed $28 billion, $2.5 billion of that will go for transportation, said Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso. The deal is similar to a proposal by Pickett, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, to put more than $3 billion a year in sales taxes toward transportation. ‘It's a good compromise,’ he said.”

May 26, 2015      12:08 PM

TER: Senate resuscitates bill pushing alternative-fueled vehicle fleets

Texas Energy Report posts that the Senate "Tacks bill that died in House Calendars to emissions reduction measure"

By Polly Ross Hughes

May 26, 2015      11:12 AM

Anti-gay marriage language that died in the House has new life in the Senate

With little fanfare, anti-gay marriage language was added in Senate Intergovernmental Relations and voted out

After a bill that would have barred state and local governments from using public funds to issue same-sex marriage licenses died in the Texas House, very similar language was rolled out in a Senate committee Monday. But, the language was slipped into a benign sounding bill and so far has caught the attention of very few people.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, laid out the omnibus county bill by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, in Senate Intergovernmental Relations. In Lucio’s committee substitute for House Bill 2977, the same anti-gay marriage language pushed unsuccessfully by Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, was inserted. Bell’s bill died because it wasn’t debated on the House floor prior to a key deadline.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

May 25, 2015      5:18 PM

Senate appoints conferees on SB 1

They are Nelson, Hinojosa, Huffman, Nichols, and Bettencourt

May 25, 2015      2:56 PM

Updated: Texas Senate tentatively passes bill to restrict judicial bypass for minors seeking abortions

Democrats go to bat with points of order; Capitol observers say they've not seen this many POO's in the Senate in more than a decade; Gov. Patrick concedes he is setting new precedent with a ruling on one of them

After more than 3 hours of a thorough but somewhat subdued debate, the Texas Senate on Monday passed one of the biggest pieces of anti-abortion legislation still on the table this session. House Bill 3994 would make it much more difficult for a minor to go to a judge and get the green light to have an abortion in cases when a parent either will not or is not available to grant such permission.

Judicial bypass, as it is known, was first passed in Texas back in 1999 when it enjoyed bipartisan support and was signed into law by then-Gov. George. W. Bush. Other than banning insurance from covering “elective abortions” – a proposal that has new life in the Texas House and is set for debate Tuesday – this judicial bypass “reform” is one of the biggest prizes anti-abortion activists seek from the 84th Legislature.

The Senate sponsor, Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, argued for hours that the bill would “protect” abused minors and give “clarity” to judges. The bill was passed to third reading on a vote of 21 to 10, with Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, joining with Republicans as he often does on anti-abortion legislation.  

Before Sen. Perry moved to bring the bill to the floor, Democrats unleashed two points of order, including one from Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, which ended up being precedent-setting in nature.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

May 25, 2015      1:54 PM

Texas House postpones PIU bill until Tuesday

May 25, 2015      12:16 PM

On eve of House debate, UT Chancellor McRaven outlines ways to change campus carry legislation

McRaven remains steadfastly against campus carry, but responds to questions about how to make it less bad than he believes it to be

As the Texas House prepares for a debate on campus carry scheduled for Tuesday, Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, released a written exchange between himself and UT System Chancellor William McRaven in which McRaven makes suggestions for changing the legislation.

The problem with suggesting changes, of course, is that Republicans will try to move the bill through the House with no changes so that it can be sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, who has said he will sign it.

In a letter dated April 20 and distributed around the Texas Capitol Monday morning, McRaven reiterated his staunch opposition to the proposal, arguing once again that campus carry will stymie efforts to recruit top-notch faculty and create new costs for campuses.

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By Scott Braddock

May 24, 2015      11:35 PM

Calendars Committee reconsiders vote on anti-abortion bill, puts it on Tuesday calendar

SB 575 would bar insurance coverage for what Sen. Larry Taylor has described as "elective" abortions. Calendars previously in the evening rejected the bill, reconsidered the vote after 11pm

May 24, 2015      10:53 PM

Calendars Committee puts Campus Carry on the schedule for Tuesday

May 24, 2015      10:42 PM

House passes TWIA overhaul SB 900

May 24, 2015      10:15 PM

Rep. Stickland and Chairman Cook nearly come to blows on the House floor

Stickland upset because SB 575 to ban abortion insurance coverage died in Calendars

Security had to move to quickly to break up what almost became a fistfight on the Texas House floor between Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, and State Affairs Chairman Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana.

Stickland was upset with Cook after a bill that would have banned insurance coverage for abortion died in Calendars.

Earlier in the day, Stickland had agreed to pull down a controversial anti-abortion amendment during a discussion of a sunset bill. He had done so on the condition that SB 575 to ban insurance coverage for abortion procedures get a vote in the Calendars Committee. It did get a vote but it was not placed on the calendar.

Per Brian Rosenthal at the Houston Chronicle, Cook said he had promised Stickland that the bill would get a vote in Calendars, which it did receive. "You gave me your word," Stickland yelled.

"My commitment was to get the bill to Calendars,” Cook said. “What I can't do is interfere with other members' ability to vote their conscience."

May 24, 2015      9:40 PM

Senate passes HB 32 to cut franchise tax by 25 percent on vote of 24 to 6

Sen. Huffines loses another bid to try to phase out the franchise tax

May 24, 2015      7:23 PM

Texas House passes SB 1

Vote was 136 to 0

May 24, 2015      6:40 PM

House passes amendment gutting changes to Hazelwood that were made by the Senate

"We don't want to be messing with the veterans issue," Rep. John Zerwas said. "We need to protect the Hazelwood program." House leaders look forward to a conference committee with the Senate.

May 24, 2015      1:32 PM

Rep. Stickland will not force abortion vote in the House today

Stickland tells Quorum Report that he is pleased to see SB 575 is moving in the House now. That one would ban all insurance companies from covering abortion. What that means for today is there won't be an abortion showdown over the bill to restructure the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. He'll pull down his amendment, he said. Stickland is on his way to the House, by the way.

May 23, 2015      4:19 PM

Another long time Capitol hand, Bob Strauser passed last Thursday

Began as a Lege Council drafting attorney, helped form Texas Association of Taxpayers then moved on to lobby with Baker Botts

To have passings of two old Capitol friends in one week, especially during the home stretch of legislative process to which they were devoted forces one to stop for a moment and take a deep breath.

Strauser lost his battle with esophageal cancer.

Bob Strauser’s funeral will be at 10AM on Tuesday at St. Mark’s Episcopal on Barton Hills Drive.  His wife Teri wrote us, “Interment will be private, but we will have a reception at our house at noon.  Given that Tuesday is the last day for second reading of Senate bills in the House (and Bob would have been first in line to grouse about the inconvenience of a funeral at this time), we will be having a reception after session.”

Folks like Strauser and Doc Arnold didn’t just make a living in the legislative process.  Like most of us who spend any time at it, they became absorbed with this often oblique process and the depth and intensity of the community it spawns.  They always told it straight to this one time newbie and shed light on a process that never really stops. 

You can find Strauser’s obituary here.  It will also appear in tomorrow’s paper.

By Harvey Kronberg

May 23, 2015      11:39 AM

Former House member and lobbyist Doc Arnold passed away

Gordon "Doc" Arnold served in Texas House from 1983-1985; resigned to become aide to then Speaker Gib Lewis and subsequently lobbied

Long time participant in Texas politics, Gordon "Doc" Arnold passed away today. Originally elected to the Texas House, he represented Ellis and Kaufman Counties. He resigned during his second term to work for then Speaker Gib Lewis and later became a well regarded lobbyist.

As details about arrangements become available, we will post them.

May 23, 2015      10:43 AM

Anti-union bill is dead

Chairman Cook will not schedule a vote in State Affairs; he says the Senate sent it to the House in badly flawed form and there is simply not enough time left in the session to do it right

Texas House lawmakers will not vote on a bill that would weaken organized labor in the state even more than it already is, Quorum Report learned Saturday morning.

Today is the last day for Senate bills to be considered by House committees. House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, told us at Buzz Central that he will not schedule a vote on SB 1968 because it is badly flawed and the Senate sent it to the lower chamber for consideration way too late in the game.

The bill would outlaw the practice of government workers being able to have their union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.

“There are serious problems with this bill,” Cook said. “I have a problem with the teachers unions not being exempted,” he said and pointed out that police, fire, and EMS were exempt from the bill as it was drafted in the Senate.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock