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August 24, 2016      4:13 PM

Speaker Straus says Nelda Laney took care of the Texas House family for many years

"We knew Nelda as a devoted wife and mother and an enormously proud grandmother, and we will forever be grateful for her service to her fellow Texans.”

This statement was released by Texas House Speaker Joe Straus Wednesday afternoon:

“The Texas House is a family, and Nelda Laney took great care of that family for many years. Julie and I are deeply saddened to hear that she has passed away. Nelda was a woman of incredible wit and spirit who was completely committed to the Texas Capitol and all who work there. It is largely because of her dedication that today the Capitol is more beautiful and welcoming than ever. We knew Nelda as a devoted wife and mother and an enormously proud grandmother, and we will forever be grateful for her service to her fellow Texans.”

August 24, 2016      3:23 PM

AN ODE TO NELDA LANEY AND HER CAPITOL CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS

This was originally submitted to QR and published thirteen years ago, on Februay 21, 2003. Speaker Craddick had just been elected and the State Preservation Board took responsibility for Nelda's cherished Christmas ornaments away from her

Last week, the State Preservation Board under Governor Rick Perry and Speaker Tom Craddick withdrew its support of Nelda Laney's seven year involvement with the Capitol Christmas ornament project that was her brain child.

One of our readers sent the following tribute:

"Throughout the years, the people who have committed their time, talents and effort to our state have blessed Texas. Far too often, when we count our blessings, we in the political arena think of our elected leaders. We sometimes tend to forget the spouses of those that made the commitment to serve their spouse, their family and Texas. Just as great leaders have blessed us, we have been blessed by their spouses.

In this time of change, it is only appropriate that we take the time to recognize one who has served and continues to serve this great state. She never ran for public office, though she has been through a number of campaigns. She never introduced or passed a bill, though she has sat through many a committee hearing and a floor vote. She never said the words "Mr. Speaker" from the back mike, though she has heard many say those words to her spouse in public and in private.

Nelda Laney is a special lady and a blessing to Texas. She has come full circle in her political life. From the wife of a freshman, to the wife of a Chairman, to the wife of a Speaker, to the wife of a member. In all those roles, she has served and continues to serve her husband, her family and Texas.

Let me give you just one example of how Texas is a better place because of her service. Christmas and our Capitol are all a little more special because of Nelda Laney. When your son, daughter, mother, father, uncle, aunt or old college roommate puts that Texas Christmas ornament on the tree, all of us can?t help but feel good about Texas.

No one thinks about how they got started. No one thinks about how much money those ornaments have raised to make our Capitol the best in the Nation. No one thinks about the thousands of Texans, out of state visitors or the people from foreign countries that have visited our Capitol that are all having the same memories about that special day at the Capitol. Nelda Laney, through her work, determination and love, gave all of us this gift that we can celebrate for years to come. Something we can pass on to those that come behind us.

She has touched all of us around the Capitol in some way. She has hugged us. She has teased us. She has told us to "get to work" when we needed to "get to work". She has in some way made all of us part of her family and we are better for that. I am confident she will keep doing that in her new role.

So, this Christmas honor her service and Texas. Buy a Texas Christmas Ornament. Heck, buy the whole set if you don?t have them. A great lady started this tradition. Honor her by continuing it. If you can?t do that, then buy a poinsettia and give it to someone in her name. We understand she loves to give them as gifts at Christmas."

August 24, 2016      2:42 PM

Nelda Laney funeral to be held at 2PM Saturday, First United Methodist Church in Lubbock, burial service at Texas State Cemetary sometime next week.

August 24, 2016      1:21 PM

Nelda Laney has passed

Former Speaker Pete Laney's wife; no more gracious woman of many accomplishments, who welcomed all to the Texas House

Details to follow

August 23, 2016      4:39 PM

Sunset picks up ERS contracting issues as new benefits contract goes out for bid

Sen. Taylor of Collin raised concerns about a recommendation to provide more transparency around alternative investments, Chair Flynn acknowledged actuarial soundness was a continuing concern

The review of Sunset Commission recommendations on the Employee Retirement System veered into investment strategies far more than contracting reforms.

ERS is not an agency in the rotation for Sunset review. It’s constitutionally created. Lawmakers added the agency to the queue after the State Auditor’s Office raised concerns about the selection of United Healthcare as a vendor and whether it represented the “best value.” That audit, completed at the end of 2014, can be found here.

Last night’s discussion, which came at the tail end of a lengthy hearing on the Railroad Commission, tended to focus more on the agency’s investment strategy than anything else.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

August 23, 2016      4:37 PM

Press Releases: TWIA rate decision, County Affairs roadtrip, bathroom outrage, and more

Click the Press Release button above

August 23, 2016      4:37 PM

HK: Has alpha-male Donald Trump actually met his equal in alpha-female Kellyanne Conway?

After promising not to pivot, what influenced Trump to do just that?

Not two weeks after GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump forcefully told interviewers that he was not going to pivot, it appears he has pivoted. Backtracking on the wall, mass deportations and even quasi-apologizing for hurting feelings, this “reset” has so far lasted longer than any other.

So what is different this time?

Well, plummeting polls in battleground states and converting once safe Republican states into new potential battlegrounds with constant background chatter of the RNC cutting back on presidential expenditures in order to double down on holding the Senate and reduce the casualties in the House must have certainly broken through, even in Trump land.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Harvey Kronberg

August 23, 2016      4:00 PM

Texas Education Agency moves forward with controversial ETS testing contract

But not without a long list of sanctions for the vendor

Editor’s note: A copy of the memo outlining the sanctions is available to our subscribers in this story – SB

Texas will hold onto its $280 million four-year testing contact with ETS, but force the vendor to spend $15 million of its own money to shore up its infrastructure.

The Texas Education Agency calls the $5.7 million penalty it slaps on ETS “liquidated damages.” Those can be found in this email to ETS Vice President John Oswald. Then, under separate cover, a memo instructs ETS to spend its own money to address a laundry list of concerns.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

August 23, 2016      12:35 AM

In Texas Energy Report: Railroad Commission gliding along a kinder, gentler sunset path?

Lawmaker equates 12-year review to an angry “attack” on agency

The state’s powerful oil and gas industry and its obscurely named regulators might be in for a kinder, gentler sunset bill next spring, based on industry-friendly questions posed by members of the Sunset Advisory Commission on Monday.

The Texas Railroad Commission underwent two failed sunset reviews in a row (2011 and 2013) to reform and reauthorize the agency for 12 more years. But, if first-blush impressions are a reliable guide, it could find the third time in five years the charm.

At the Railroad Commission’s first formal hearing before the Sunset Commission, charged with adopting or rejecting reform-minded recommendations, the staff conducting the review appeared more under the gun than the target agency itself.

Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, told sunset staffers that when he read their report recommending good-government-type changes, “I thought to myself, why are you so angry at the Railroad Commission? They’ve done a pretty good job.”

“The oil and gas industry is the heart and soul of Texas. For us to go and attack an agency that’s done a pretty good job, for us to change something that’s been working pretty well, that just doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

Sunset Commission Executive Director Ken Levine said he felt obliged to respond to Flynn.

The rest of the story is in the Texas Energy Report.

By Polly Ross Hughes

August 22, 2016      5:44 PM

Emmert: Tortured Logic, How the Left Is Highjacking the Voter ID Debate

Former Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Emmert writes “How would the left, the media, or anyone for that matter, know how pervasive in-person voter fraud is? The answer is they don't, nor do they want to.”

I've grown weary of hearing how infrequent in-person voter fraud is nationally and particularly in Texas. I have a simple question for the people spinning that tale: How would you know?

I've heard the left's talking points for years now. They say, "Well, so few people are getting prosecuted for it, so it must not be happening." Then, recognizing the failure of logic in that statement, they throw in a few racial arguments about how minorities usually vote Democrat, and since minorities apparently cannot get a picture ID, this all must be a scheme by Republicans to keep them from voting.

Geez, give me a break.

The mainstream media is complicit in this fable. They write stories parroting those talking points and using the same tortured logic all while lamenting Texas' efforts to disenfranchise voters at the ballot box.

The complete column by former Dallas County GOP Chairman Wade Emmert is in the R&D Department.

By Wade Emmert

August 22, 2016      4:35 PM

Press Releases: Honoring vets, bathroom ruling, best lawyers, etc

Click the Press Release button above

August 19, 2016      5:09 PM

HHSC passes milestone in consolidation efforts

Executive Commissioner Charles Smith said “What matters is how we leverage this new structure, working together as a team.”

The Health and Human Services Commission reached an informal milestone today: the transition from the oversight council of House Bill 2292 to the pending executive committee that will be created under House Bill 200, passed last session.

Both current executive commissioner Charles Smith and former executive commissioner Chris Traylor were on hand this morning for the last meeting of the oversight council that guided the implementation of HB 2292 in 2003, which consolidated HHSC from 12 to 5 agencies. This morning’s meeting was brief and somewhat dry, including Smith’s recognition of board members, some of whom have served on the council since 2004.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

August 19, 2016      5:07 PM

Statesman: Trump coming to Texas with Dan Patrick at his side

Newspaper report says the Lite Guv is the only top elected Texas Republican committed to appearing with the party’s nominee next week in Austin and Fort Worth

Here’s the story by Jonathan Tilove and Sean Collins Wash in the Austin American Statesman.

August 19, 2016      4:53 PM

Smith: Nincompoopery, The Political Rise of the Ridiculous

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that what were once viewed as juvenile excesses and errors are now the commonplace standard in campaigns

Early in Ann Richards’ 1990 primary campaign for governor, we (meaning I) engaged in a juvenile back and forth over taxes with operatives of the Kent Hance GOP primary campaign. This was primary season; we weren’t even running against one another.

That didn’t stop us.

We were on friendly terms with the Hance operatives. It was, at least, a far more congenial time in Texas politics. Anyway, the Hance campaign accused Ann of wanting to raise taxes. We shot back that Hance was in “over his head” and, ridiculously, sent along a swimmer’s mask and snorkel to emphasize the point. The Hance folks replied that it was Ann who was drowning, and they sent along some swim fins to emphasize their point.  

Ann, as she should have been, was contemptuous of the entire episode. Asked by a reporter about the issue, she shook her head and said, “Boys and their toys.”

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

By Glenn W. Smith

August 19, 2016      4:52 PM

Press Releases: VRA concerns, Reimagining the Alamo, State Trooper graduation, and much more

Click the Press Releases button above for all the latest

August 19, 2016      3:46 PM

In Texas Energy Report: Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton responds to Public Citizen

‘We are the biggest and the best’ oil & gas producing state

Early next week fans, foes and maybe a few ordinary Texans plan to testify before the Sunset Advisory Commission about how to improve – or not – the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency.

It’s called the Texas Railroad Commission, but it hasn’t regulated railroads in decades. Transparency is just one issue that lawmakers will tackle again next spring as they try for a third time in five years to improve, reform and shed more light on what the agency does to protect natural resources, public safety and the environment.

This week an advocacy group called Public Citizen – Texas released a comparative study showing how the commission and its counterparts in other states compare when it comes to exploiting oil and gas reserves while watching out for the public interest. The study found Texas, the nation’s leading oil and gas producer, lacking.

Ryan Sitton, one of Texas’ three elected Railroad Commissioners had this to say about that:

The full story is in the Texas Energy Report.

By Polly Ross Hughes

August 18, 2016      5:10 PM

Texans for Education Reform merges with Texas Institute for Education Reform

The two groups join forces to become Texas Aspires

Texas Aspires was announced today, the merger of the Texas Institute for Education Reform and the well-funded Texans for Education Reform.   

The merger gets rid of the frequent question – which one is TIER and which one is TER? – but it also shifts the deck to create a more conciliatory education reform effort in Texas. Courtney Boswell, who currently leads TIER and formerly led TER, has been named executive director.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

August 18, 2016      4:52 PM

Press Releases: Transparency, CPRIT grants, hurricane tour, and more

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August 18, 2016      4:38 PM

Attorney Mikal Watts acquitted in Gulf oil spill fraud case

Prominent San Antonio attorney and Democratic donor Watts is cleared

Mikal Watts and six others faced charges of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and identity theft. Here is the latest via KRIS TV in Corpus.

August 18, 2016      3:38 PM

Texas Education Agency releases new organizational chart

You can download the Texas Education Agency’s new organizational chart by clicking here.

August 17, 2016      4:48 PM

Elections expert dubs 2016 "The Year of Weed"

At NCSL, expert said “I thought it was the year of Pokemon, but that just wasn’t on the ballot.” Notably not on ballots is marriage or reproductive rights

CHICAGO – Tim Storey has dubbed the upcoming election cycle the Year of Weed.

Storey is the well-known and well-versed elections expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures. As one of the final sessions at last week’s NCSL Summit in Chicago, Storey and analyst Wendy Underhill presented an overview of initiatives and candidates in the upcoming election cycle, excluding a prediction on the presidential race.

The theme Storey floated for 2016 – so to speak – was the dominance of marijuana on state ballots. Eight states will put marijuana before the voters this year. According to NCSL’s numbers, half of states now have passed either medical or recreational marijuana initiatives.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

August 17, 2016      4:47 PM

Press Releases: Secretary Castro rated true on economy, cleaning up tires & electronics in El Paso area

Click the Press Releases button above

August 17, 2016      4:46 PM

Coalition of foundations and organizations launches to support extension of CPRIT

“…born out of the recognition that cancer is a complex and devastating disease and it cannot be overcome by any one individual or organization or even industry.”

There is now a coalition to advocate for the continuation of the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas after state funding has ended, bringing together six of the state’s larger cancer and science-related organizations under one umbrella.

Cam Scott, speaking on behalf of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, addressed the CPRIT Board Wednesday morning at its quarterly meeting. Scott said ACS-CAN neither requests nor receives grants from CPRIT, but considered the organization a vital partner. A decade of $3 billion in funding, approved by voters in 2007, will soon run out.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves