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May 5, 2015      5:16 PM

Despite rumors he was dropping it, Aycock pushes forward with school finance plan

Central Texas school districts along with HISD plan a push at the capitol starting Wednesday

As Texas House lawmakers prepare to debate a school finance plan as soon as this week, school districts are rallying in favor of the lower chamber’s proposal and the court case on the issue continues to simmer in the courts.

Public Education Committee Chairman Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, broke with the early House strategy and negotiated an additional $3 billion in new funds for school districts. On Wednesday, a number of Central Texas school districts – plus the Houston Independent School District – will issue a call for action for House and Senate budget conferees.

“We believe in our students, we believe in our staffs, we believe in public education, and we believe the Texas Legislature should do the right thing,” according to a news release sent out by Austin Independent School District on Monday. “Encourage your superintendents, your school board trustees, and your local business leaders to participate. We need a broad group from across Texas to make an impact on Budget Conference Committee Leaders.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

May 5, 2015      5:04 PM

Press Releases: Hazlewood reactions, appointments, anti-abortion bill clears Senate, and more

May 5, 2015      4:51 PM

House appoints SJR 5 conferees

Conferees are Pickett, Otto, Davis, Simmons, and Harless

May 5, 2015      4:09 PM

Houston Chronicle: Group targets Texas lawmakers with secret videos

"It's one thing to have a political dialogue. It's another issue if they are they stalking people."

From the Houston Chronicle report by David Rauf and Lauren McGaughy:

“Several House Republican lawmakers already have expressed concerns with some of the group's tactics, saying they aggressively were approached last week – inside and outside the Capitol – by men who used hidden cameras to secretly videotape a series of encounters that has raised alarms for Capitol security.

John Beria, spokesman for Austin-based nonprofit the American Phoenix Foundation, said the group has 16 staffers working on the project and has amassed more than 800 hours of covert footage of lawmakers, including ‘guys confessing to pretty serious criminal acts.’

The group intends to begin releasing the information in the next several weeks and months, a key time frame as the legislative session comes to an end and lawmakers begin to plot for the primary season.”

The full report, which you can find here, also notes that the group doing this has ties to disgraced conservative activist James O’Keefe, who has a history of manufacturing evidence, ambushing his targets, and pleaded guilty to the entering the New Orleans offices of Sen. Mary Landrieu under false pretenses.  

May 5, 2015      3:55 PM

Bearse: Imposters in the Temple

From the Right: Quorum Report's conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues the term "conservative" has been hijacked by libertarian absolutists and that must be challenged.

It occurred to me, as I was watching the debate about Rep. J.D. Sheffield’s immunization transparency bill, HB 2474, that there is a certain movement within the Republican Party that has redefined conservatism without ever really being challenged on it. Rep. Jonathan Stickland is viewed as the loudest, most brash conservative, Tea Party voice in the Texas House. As Rep. Myra Crowner might say, “I challenge that.” At least the conservative part.

Leading a flanking movement against Sheffield’s immunization bill, alongside Rep. Bill Zedler, Stickland asked Sheffield how much privacy he was willing to sacrifice “in the name of public health.” Perhaps the proper retort would have been, “how many lives, Rep. Stickland, are you willing to sacrifice in the name of privacy?”

Here is a conservative principle for you: your right to privacy ends where my harm begins. Here is a second, more over-arching conservative philosophical principle: government doesn’t exist to protect me from myself, but from you.

Stickland and company would have us believe conservatism means an absolute right to not vaccinate your children, and more importantly, to not allow schools to report to the state the number of children that are not vaccinated. This requirement itself protects confidentiality, and therefore privacy, but that is not good enough for the absolutists.

The absolutists also think open carry of a firearm limited to people who are licensed to carry is not good enough. There must be a de facto, constitutional right to carry. This absolutism has the practical effect of giving convicts barred from owning or carrying a weapon a presumption that they are legally doing so. This is not conservatism. It is nonsense.

The complete column from Eric Bearse is available in the R&D Department.

By Eric Bearse

May 5, 2015      12:18 PM

Sources: Patrick tells business groups he is doubling down on property taxes, has no interest in compromise with House

Meantime, business groups float compromise tax cut plans of their own

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the Senate is "doubling down" on property tax relief and in no way intends to bargain with Texas House leaders and find middle ground on the tax cut plans put forth by the two chambers, sources in the business lobby told Quorum Report on Tuesday.

The “property tax relief” contained in SB 1 – in the form of an increased homestead exemption – along with SB 1760 will amount to lasting property tax relief that Patrick is completely committed to, sources said. That bill passed by the Senate last week would, among other things, require a 60 percent threshold for passage of tax increases by local governments.

The Lt. Gov. has been holding stakeholder meetings and in one of those meetings on Monday, Patrick showed absolutely no interest in even talking about the House’s plan to cut sales taxes. That's according to one of the people familiar with the talks.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

May 4, 2015      6:52 PM

Senate State Affairs approves so-called Pastor Protection Act

Progressive groups were potentially going to drop their objections, but a compromise was not worked out

After it at first appeared that groups like the ACLU and Equality Texas were going to drop their opposition to a “religious liberty” bill, bill author Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, backed away from compromise language.

The bill, up in Senate State Affairs Committee Monday morning, appeared to be headed for early agreement as long as the language mirrored the companion bill in the House. Chair Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, appeared eager to see agreement around the bill, especially if the clarifying language was still true to Estes’ intent to protect clergy that do not want to be sued for refusing to perform a marriage that “violates a sincerely held religious belief.”  

“It would probably be inaccurate to say we thought we had a deal,” said Bee Moorhead of Texas Impact, representing one faction of clergy. “I do think they thought it was possible to get to a deal.”

Once a quorum was reached in committee, the bill was sent to the full Senate on a vote of 5 to 1.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

May 4, 2015      6:51 PM

Press Releases: Reactions to Garland shooting, urban drilling, an army of faithful, and more

May 4, 2015      4:51 PM

Ahead of House investigation, Stickland denies any wrongdoing

“It was what I can only characterize as an ambush by a political opponent”

Following last week's late night blowup in the Texas House Transportation Committee in which he was escorted out, Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, said on Monday that he did nothing wrong.

In a statement posted on his website, Stickland blamed the media, at least in part, who he said “jumped to make accusations that crimes had taken place before they had any facts about the situation whatsoever.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

May 4, 2015      2:46 PM

Senate appoints conferees on SJR 5

Conferees are Nichols, Nelson, Whitmire, Eltife, and Hall

May 4, 2015      2:19 PM

Texas Senate passes urban drilling bill 24 to 7

Bill goes to Abbott's desk now

May 4, 2015      1:03 PM

Anti-toll road efforts fail to gain traction in the House

Moves that might have previously led to heated debates barely amount to a whimper these days

Opponents of toll roads continue to be thwarted in the Texas House despite a coalition of North Texas Tea Party lawmakers who continue to push bills and amendments.

If Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, had even a shred of credibility with his colleagues, it is possible he might have gotten further with an amendment last week that struck local match requirements as a metric to prioritize state transportation projects. But only a handful of his colleagues joined Stickland in his efforts to ban toll roads.

“In recent years, local match requirements have meant tolling,” said Stickland, who has the North Tarrant Expressway in his district. “Local government can rarely cobble together the effort to leverage state funds for state highway projects.”

Transportation plans are measured in 5-year increments on a 30-year horizon. That means, for instance, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization in Central Texas is on track to approve CAMPO 2040, which would lock initial choices for tolled, transit and road projects for the next 25 years. Those choices give local government certainty to pursue right-of-way purchases and beginning planning.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

May 1, 2015      5:12 PM

Senator Hancock withdraws support for his Tesla bill

Absent support by author, SB 639 looks dead

May 1, 2015      5:03 PM

Following Stickland episode, House Investigating Chairman says no specific member is the target of probe

"No individual member is targeted by the investigation at this time. The committee's goal is to ensure that witness information provided to members and to the public is accurate and reliable."

Here is the statement from the Chairman of the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics, Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin.

May 1, 2015      5:01 PM

Press Releases: SOS Mexico visit, fallen officers memorial ride, real-world energy solutions

May 1, 2015      4:12 PM

Smith: Once More Unto the Breach

From the Left: Quorum Report's liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith suggests that pandering to extremists has gone beyond pandering. Texas is held hostage by the most extreme amongst us

Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to put the Texas Military on alert because federal troops will hold exercises in 17 counties is comical, but it is also sad, troubling evidence that our state is now held hostage by the most extreme, deluded and paranoid among us.

The story has received a good bit of embarrassing national media attention. The U.S. Army this summer will hold training exercises dubbed Operation Jade Helm. Locals in Bastrop and elsewhere – assisted by extremist websites – freaked out. This was clearly a case of black, Kenyan Commie usurper Barack Obama launching the first phase of a military takeover of Texas, they claimed.

Okay, there are always the crazy and the paranoid among us. But why in the world would a governor pander to them? What’s next, I told one national reporter who called about the incident. Will Abbott call out the troops to protect us from Big Foot or an invasion of Big Feet?

Well, one reason for Abbott’s pandering is obvious. For years the Republican Party has manipulated these folks, stoking all kinds of fears to win elections. Creating fears that Obama is launching a military takeover of Texas is not that much more ridiculous than alleging a war on Christianity or freedom of religion. More on that in a moment.

The complete column from Glenn W. Smith is available in the R&D Department.

By Glenn W. Smith

May 1, 2015      10:21 AM

Allegations of Stickland falsifying witnesses referred to General Investigating Committee

Video of last night's meeting has been turned over to Committee

Quorum Report has learned that the allegation of Rep. Jonathan Stickland having a role in falsifying witness affirmation forms before the House Transportation Committee has been referred to the House General Investigating Committee.   The video of last night’s hearing which includes Stickland’s ejection has reportedly been turned over to the Committee.

We will continue posting as events develop.

By Harvey Kronberg

May 1, 2015      9:28 AM

Prayer Service today for Nelson Salinas

3pm in the Capitol Auditorium

Via the Texas Association of Business:

There will be a Prayer Service today for Nelson Salinas. It will be at 3pm in the Capitol Auditorium.

There will also be a reception at the Legislative Conference Center from 3:30 to 5:00 pm.

April 30, 2015      5:33 PM

SJR 5 passes the House 138 to 3

Will dedicate $3.6 billion more for TxDOT in 2017 and forward

April 30, 2015      5:27 PM

Senate votes for new controls on college tuition

Texans “expect affordability. It’s critical to the future economy of Texas.”

After a back and forth over turning back the clock on deregulation of tuition, the Texas Senate on Thursday did vote to put new controls in place on rates that people across the political spectrum have criticized.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, failed in his effort to really turn back the clock.

As Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, told his colleagues on the floor, student loans are now the second highest debt college graduates are carrying, right behind a home mortgage. Many in the Senate, including some of the freshman members, lay that at the door of veteran lawmakers, who decided to leave tuition rates to colleges and universities during a state budget crunch in 2003.

Seliger’s bill would stop universities from raising tuition if they failed to meet yet-to-be-defined performance metrics. Then the amount of the tuition increase would be limited to inflation, plus a percentage of growth.

Ellis made his statement through amendments he knew would fail. First, Ellis suggested financial aid should be indexed to inflation, just as funding was. Ellis called Seliger’s approach novel and untested. That vote went down 19-10.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

April 30, 2015      5:26 PM

Press Releases: Teacher pay, hail storms, appointments and more

April 29, 2015      6:51 PM

TAB Family suffers a huge loss-the passing of Nelson Salinas

Statement from TAB CEO and PresidentBill Hammond

The following is a statement from TAB CEO Bill Hammond on the loss of TAB Governmental Affairs Manager, and our friend, Nelson Salinas.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Nelson Salinas. I, along with my wife Deborah and all the employees of the Texas Association of Business as well as our members are stunned by the loss. Nelson was one of the best-loved people in the Capitol. He was the embodiment of love. Everyone who came in contact with him had a better day because of his love. His loss is incomprehensible. Our condolences go to his family and friends. We will miss him.”    -Bill Hammond, CEO, Texas Association of Business

April 29, 2015      4:42 PM

Straus: The Texas House Puts a New Limit on Budget Growth

In a Quorum Report Op-Ed, Speaker Joe Straus says the House has just passed the best proposal on the table this session to keep state government spending in check.

The Texas House has just approved what I believe is this session’s most meaningful and lasting effort to control government spending.

The House gave unanimous passage on Monday to Representative Drew Darby’s House Joint Resolution 111. This proposal would not only help keep spending in check, but it would bring needed transparency to the budget process.  And it would do so by enshrining a fairly simple concept in our state Constitution: Legislators shouldn’t spend money that they don’t really have.

Our state budget is full of hundreds of special accounts funded by charges that Texans pay throughout the course of their daily lives. There is the fee tacked onto vehicle emissions tests in order to help reduce air pollution. And the extra amount you pay to get a copy of your birth certificate in order to help the state manage such records. And the fee on renewing a motorcycle license, which is supposed to help pay for safety programs.  

But in the early 1990s, legislators decided they could start using that money for something else. Specifically, they found that if they didn’t spend all of those fees on their stated purpose, the money would pile up and they could instead count it to justify spending on other programs. It’s not that the money actually gets spent, but it is counted as General Revenue when the Comptroller certifies the budget. And if the money is counted to, say, justify spending on Medicaid, it can’t actually pay for its original purpose.  

The complete column from Speaker Joe Straus can be found in the R&D Department.

By Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives

April 29, 2015      4:41 PM

El Paso Chamber slams state border security plans and the DPS

“Throwing funds at this problem when it cannot be defined is, at best, wasteful, and at worst, irresponsible.”

In another sign of tension between Texas border communities and The Legislature over the politically charged issue of border security, the El Paso Chamber of Commerce said the approach lawmakers are considering this session is “at best, wasteful, and at worst, irresponsible.”

Border business leaders want lawmakers to “include accountability standards in any appropriations for border security to the Texas Department of Public Safety or any other state actor.” The Chamber passed a strongly worded resolution, signed by Chairman Gary Borsch and President Richard Dayoub, in which they argue the Department of Public Safety is set to reap a windfall over the issue with no accountability attached to the hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.

The resolution is similar to a letter from the McAllen Chamber of Commerce last summer, in which that group expressed concern about the economic impacts of “political theater” surrounding border security.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

April 29, 2015      4:40 PM

Senate sends Gov. Abbott a plan to allow some students to graduate even if they did not pass all EOCs

Sen. Seliger's SB 149 creates graduation committees for some students and will take effect immediately

April 29, 2015      4:35 PM

Press Releases: Appointments, anti-LGBT bills, payday lending reform, tax cuts, and more

April 29, 2015      3:55 PM

Services for Connie Hegar, Mother of Comptroller Glenn Hegar

The family will host friends for a visitation Friday, May 1, 2015, 6pm-8pm at Klein Funeral Home, 1400 W. Main Street, Tomball, TX 77375

The memorial service will be Saturday, May 2, 2015 at 2pm at Klein Funeral Home, 1400 W. Main Street, Tomball, TX  77375 In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Connie Hegar to:  Upbring, the new Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSS), a 501©(3), one of the largest child welfare agencies in Texas and committed to breaking the cycle of child abuse by empowering children, families and the community through innovative programs, new partnerships and an expanding network of services.To make a secure one-time donation, https://secure.upbring.org/To donate by check, please mail to Upbring, 8305 Cross Park Dr., Austin, TX 78754.

April 29, 2015      3:25 PM

In TER: Former TIPRO chair disagrees with his group -- says legislation limiting cities power to protect its citizens goes too far

Check out Texas Energy report for Rex White, Jr's comments about legislation currently on the table

April 29, 2015      12:02 PM

Senate passes bill to eliminate ETF and establish governor's university research initiative

Vote was 30 to 1; Sen. Burton was the lone "no."

On her “no” vote, Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, issued this statement:

"I voted against SB 632 because it moves tax dollars from one corporate welfare fund to another equally wasteful corporate welfare fund, the Texas Enterprise Fund. It also moves tax dollars to a grant program that will subsidize the recruitment of Nobel Laureates and National Academy members to public universities. The University Research Initiative Fund, created in this bill, is touted as a "catalyst for economic development". However, wealth redistribution via government grant programs is never an efficient use of our state's finite available capital. I believe the best approach to achieve that goal would be to return these funds to the taxpayers of Texas who will make the most efficient use for them in our market economy.”

April 29, 2015      10:02 AM

Doctors groups share concerns with budget conferees

In letter a letter from TMA and others, doctors ask conferees to focus on a healthier Texas

As House and Senate budget conferees get down to the real work of negotiating what will ultimately be the state’s two-year spending plan, they heard late Tuesday from groups representing nearly 50,000 doctors who are concerned about several big ticket items.

Those concerns were expressed in a letter signed by the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Pediatric Society Texas Academy of Family Physicians, the Texas Chapter of the American College of Physicians Services, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Texas Chapter, the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Federation of Texas Psychiatry.

"Of primary importance to physicians is ensuring our patients have access to effective, timely, and high quality health care — the same goals we know you share," the groups wrote and then outlined recommendations they said would help "ensure Texas remains an economically prosperous and competitive place to do business."

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

April 28, 2015      4:53 PM

Heavily amended ethics reform bill passes the Texas Senate

Senators voted unanimously to adopt Watson’s language that requires disclosure even when lobbyists split the check

After a lengthy and sometimes heated debate, the Texas Senate on Tuesday passed an “ethics reform” bill that had been watered down in committee and was then loaded up with amendments on the floor.

As announced by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick from the dais, the vote on final passage of Senate Bill 19 by Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, was 30 to 1. The vote count after that was unanimous, however.

Among other big changes, the Senate unanimously approved amendments by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, requiring disclosure of lobbyists paying for legislator meals of at least $50 – even if they split the check.

"The goal of the amendment is to support meaningful disclosure," Watson said, noting that the language was similar to a bill that he’s not had any luck passing. “They (lobbyists) can still split the bill," Watson said, but added that under his amendment a detailed report would still be required about what was spent.

Before the bill came to the floor, it had been significantly weakened in several ways.

For instance, a provision was cut that would have barred lawmakers from participating in the public debt business. That’s been a top priority of Gov. Greg Abbott, who originally proposed it. This proposal would not prevent lawmakers from doing public debt work, but they would have to disclose it.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

April 28, 2015      4:52 PM

Press Releases: Budget reform, appointments, conspiracy theorists appeasement, and more

April 28, 2015      4:22 PM

Bearse: Breakfast-gate

From the Right: QR’s conservative Republican columnist Eric Bearse says the Tea Party attacks on Gov. Abbott’s pre-k initiative are “ shortsighted, ignorant, and so poorly written that they actually made the case for more funding for Pre-K – starting with the authors.”

It used to be what was said at breakfast stayed at breakfast. But we are in a new era of mistrust. We literally had a baseball owner leak that one of his star players had a drug relapse, and later express his dismay that Major League Baseball didn’t suspend him for any games. Note to kids: sometimes authorities give you a break when you tell on yourself, which is what Josh Hamilton did. Also, I am told no kids read this column, except for adults that act like kids at leadership breakfasts. And there is absolutely no confirmation that they read this column either, just as there is no explicit evidence Hillary Clinton gave away 20 percent of American uranium just to get her husband out of the country for a Moscow speaking engagement.

But I digress.

Fighting at leadership breakfasts is not new. Talking about it to reporters is new. Now we have Breakfast-gate. It doesn’t bode well for the future of this trio (I guess I should say quartet because the Comptroller gets a free invite too – somebody has to pick up the check) if closed door sniping is finding it’s way onto Burkablog and then to the state’s major newspapers.

But as long as we are discussing confidential breakfast material, I am told one time Dewhurst was reprimanding Strayhorn, who shall now be referenced as One Tough Monogram, concerning spending, or the revenue estimate, or some other fiscal matter and literally broke out the Mansion Equal packets to make his point.

The complete column from Eric Bearse is in the R&D Department.  

By Eric Bearse

April 28, 2015      1:27 PM

Updated: Texas House passes its tax cut package

Members cheer as Speaker Straus joins in key votes on the business tax cut

As expected and with little drama, the Texas House on Tuesday voted unanimously to cut the state’s sales tax rate and overwhelmingly to slash the business tax by 25 percent across the board.

In a rare move, Speaker Joe Straus joined in key votes on the business tax bill. Typically, of course, the Speaker does not vote. Several House Republicans began to cheer as Straus joined in the vote to table an amendment that would have raised the business tax exemption from $1 million up to $4 million. Straus also voted for passage to engrossment of the business tax cut.

That amendment about the exemption, offered by Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, was the most hotly debated of any of the amendments on either tax bill.  

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

April 28, 2015      1:01 PM

PPP: Walker leads in Iowa, Texans tank

Walker-23%, Bush-12%, Paul-10%, Cruz-8%, Perry-4%

From the Public Policy Polling analysis:

Ted Cruz's 8% standing suggests that whatever bump he might have gotten following his official candidacy announcement has already worn off. We were finding him in double digits in most of the polls we conducted across the country before Rubio and Paul joined the field as well. Cruz was at 15% when we last polled Iowa in May so if anything he might be losing steam.”

April 28, 2015      12:56 PM

Texas House passes business tax cut 116 to 29

Speaker Straus joins in vote to pass it; "Show the Speaker voting 'aye'"

April 28, 2015      12:48 PM

House rejects amendment to raise business tax exemption to $4 million

In rare move, Speaker Straus joins with nearly all other members to table the amendment on a vote of 120 to 16

April 28, 2015      12:01 PM

Correction: Texas House passes sales tax cut on vote of 141 to 0