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January 31, 2015      1:19 PM

Former state Rep Dean Cobb passed today; served from 1969-1975

Details and arrangements to follow

January 30, 2015      6:34 PM

House GOP Caucus objects to AgendaWise saying female lobbyists and reporters are whores

“The Texas House Republican Caucus does not condone the recent disturbing comments that were made on a political blog that depicts women working in the fields of media and governmental affairs in a derogatory fashion and strongly insinuates that they regularly trade sexual favors for access to state lawmakers and key staff persons."

Here is the full statement.

January 30, 2015      5:59 PM

Press Releases: People on the move, tuition dereg, high speed rail, LNG exports, and more

January 30, 2015      12:01 PM

Smith: It is the fear mongers we should fear most

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that this week’s disruption at the Capitol is indicative of other underlying discrimination in Texas.

Last summer we learned that Houston had become the most racially and ethnically diverse city in America, making Texas one of the most diverse states. But among the diverse are some who hate the diversity, and two dozen of the bigots came to the Texas Capitol on Thursday to snarl and scream at some peaceful Muslims there to promote peace, tolerance and understanding.

The bigoted idiocy became national news when freshman state Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, instructed her staff to disrespect any of the Islamic faithful who might stop by her office on “Muslim Day.” White demanded her staff make them say the pledge of allegiance. I like the pledge. But White’s demand wasn’t honoring America. It was bullying and it dishonored Texas and America. As the late Molly Ivins might say (and I wish she was here to say it!), “Beloveds, we gotta find more flattering ways to make national news in Texas.”

House Speaker Joe Straus was clearly embarrassed by White’s stunt. He said, pointedly, “…legislators have a responsibility to treat all visitors just as we expect to be treated.”

I’d like to remind readers in distant lands that not all Texans are like Molly White or the ugly band of bigots screaming at the Muslims. The protestors carried signs indicating they were Christian. Jesus wept.

We are, generally, a tolerant bunch here in Texas. We have to be to put up with ourselves.

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

By Glenn W. Smith

January 29, 2015      6:43 PM

Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri resigns effective March 7; Joining Rand Paul as adviser

Munisteri had been talking about resigning soon. Vying to replace him are Wade Emmert, Jared Woodfill, Tom Mechler, and Robin Armstrong

Per the Wall Street Journal, Munisteri is the team of Sen. Rand Paul as an adviser.

January 29, 2015      5:08 PM

HK: The present quandary of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

Picking and choosing when to be visible is no longer an option for Governor Patrick. To the inflamed, he is the Texas Senate.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick this week reiterated that he did not have the votes to pass “Open Carry” out of the Texas Senate. On cue, talk radio and social media exploded with cries of “recall” and “impeachment.”

And therein lies the great question of the session: As a newly-minted part of the political establishment, can Governor Patrick sidestep or defuse the political inflammation that talk radio – of which he has been a part – has spent more than two decades igniting.

The Lt. Governor has two conflicting constituencies. The first is the inflamed Tea Party-style Republican primary voter who wakes up every morning certain that they have been betrayed or sold out by government and the institutions of civil society. They may not know the specifics of how they have been betrayed, but that does not reduce their certainty.

Talk radio and Fox News (and yes, MSNBC) all play to that sense of certitude. Their mission is to inflame, not inform. 

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Harvey Kronberg

January 29, 2015      5:02 PM

Press Releases: Condemnations of bigotry, Blue ribbon honors, financial security of Texans and more

January 29, 2015      4:34 PM

AgendaWise blogger under fire after saying female lobbyists and reporters are whores

Longtime lobbyist Bresnen calls for Weston Hicks to be fired from AgendaWise, MQ Sullivan denies any involvement despite being listed as a director of the website

Quite a few women who work in and around the Texas Capitol have taken note this week of what can only be described as a sexist and bizarre blog written by Weston Hicks of the website AgendaWise. Hicks described women in the lobby and female reporters as “whores,” legislative staffers as “oxen,” and suggested there is lots of sex going on between them for information and favors.

From the post:

“Believe it or not, Austin has actual political whores. They don’t think of themselves that way, but others do, and that is what they are. They may be a disgrace to their families, but they are rife in Austin. In their minds they are just being ‘liberated women,’ only they are professionally rewarded for being ‘liberated’ in the vicinity of men with crucial intelligence or strategic access to power. It is especially important to find weak links to access in the Austin clan who don’t pledge allegiance to the current special interest regime – conservatives – and this caliber of woman can do this job uniquely well.”

After quoting from the Bible, Hicks goes on to say:

“It is important for legislators to make sure they, and the oxen they hire, don’t go to slaughter behind a media or lobby concubine. Claiming this kind of thing is simply ‘a private matter’ is nothing more than a declaration of weak leadership. It is not only a private matter. It involves their political bride - their district.”

The full post is here.

AgendaWise Executive Director Daniel Greer did not respond to our request for comment.

Quorum Report readers may recall that Greer got into some hot water of his own back in 2013 for bigoted comments after he bizarrely tweeted about Democratic mega-donor Steve Mostyn while using the word “fag.”

On Thursday afternoon, longtime lobbyist Steve Bresnen said Hicks should apologize and be fired from AgendaWise for his words.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

January 29, 2015      4:07 PM

Senate budget on fast track to hit the floor

Fast learning curve for 8 new members of Finance

The Senate Finance Committee is on a tight four-week time frame to get the budget reviewed and out to the floor within Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s timeframe.

When the Senate budget was unveiled last week, Patrick said he did not intend to wait until the chaos of the last few weeks of session to pass the bill. And the budget, this time, is Senate Bill 2, while property and commercial tax relief is Senate Bill 1.

For those who like the quick read, the Legislative Budget Board presented an executive summary of the budget bill here. The all funds budget is $205 billion, including $3 billion in additional funds, or a 1.5 percent increase over the last budget. An additional $193 million was expended over budget funds in 2014-15.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

January 29, 2015      1:57 PM

Based on venue issues, Public Integrity Unit concludes investigation of AG Ken Paxton

Refers the matter to “appropriate authorities” in Dallas and Collin County

Note: As of 5:39pm, this story has been updated with comment from the Dallas County District Attorney’s office – SB

This afternoon the Travis County Public Integrity Unit announced that it was ceasing its investigation of whether or not Attorney General Ken Paxton committed any criminal offense related to his non-registration with the State Securities Board and providing false information during the Board’s investigation of the matter.

Paxton is also accused of not revealing a personal financial interest to clients to whom he was marketing securities.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Harvey Kronberg

January 29, 2015      11:55 AM

Gov. Abbott wants Emerging Technology Fund dissolved

Abbott wants the money left in the ETF divide evenly between the Enterprise Fund and recruitment of top scholars at universities

One of former Gov. Perry’s economic development funds would be done away with and the money left in it reshuffled if Gov. Greg Abbott’s proposal for the Emerging Technology Fund becomes reality.

Abbott on Thursday laid out a plan, which of course would need The Legislature’s approval, to dissolve the ETF and divide the money left in it between the Texas Enterprise Fund and efforts to recruit top scholars for universities.

The fund is expected to have a balance of around $32 million at the end of the fiscal year. The Enterprise Fund is expected to be right around $30 million.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

January 28, 2015      5:35 PM

Lt Gov. Patrick goes on offense on guns and moves forward with campus carry legislation

Patrick fast-tracks campus carry after open carry advocates blasted him for his assessment of the will of the Senate; Open Carry Tarrant County says “it’s time to hunt down the Republicans who don’t support the Constitution…”

After taking some heat from advocates of doing away with virtually all restrictions on firearms – the “open carry” crowd – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Wednesday moved to fast-track legislation that would allow people with CHL’s to carry their handguns on college campuses.

"I sent the Campus Carry bill to the State Affairs Committee for a full public hearing. The bill author already has 19 Senate co-authors which, because of last week's rule changes, is enough to bring it to the floor for passage,” Patrick pointed out. “Once passed we will forward the bill to the Texas House as quickly as constitutionally allowed.”

Meantime, advocates of what’s called “open carry” – there’s also a thing called “constitutional carry” – have expressed anger at Patrick because he said this week there are not enough votes in the Senate to bring “open carry” to the floor for a debate.

Second Amendment rights are very important, but open carry does not reach to the level of prioritizing at this point,” Patrick said in an interview.

Open Carry Tarrant County, a group that’s made national news by intimidating motorists in North Texas as well as patrons at restaurants, were instantly outraged. “What?!?!!? Not enough support for the Constitution? The job they swore to uphold? We have 20 Republican Senators. Are they listening to lobbyist and gun organizations who are pro money?…. or the people?” the group asked.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

January 28, 2015      5:34 PM

Press Releases: Auditing the fed, the Perry indictment, gun bills, and tax relief, tax relief, tax relief!

January 28, 2015      5:09 PM

Gov. Abbott wants competitive bidding for state agency contracts whenever possible

New governor outlines reforms he wants implemented immediately while legislation is worked out

With the 21CT scandal and the resignation of former Health and Human Services Commission general counsel Jack Stick as the backdrop, Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday told the heads of all state agencies that they need to avoid no-bid contracts whenever possible. If agencies do approve a no-bid contract, they had better publicly state why from now on, Abbott said.

In a letter to state agency leaders, Abbott said he supports a bill by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, aimed at “strengthening oversight of state government contracts through reforms that will also allow for greater transparency.”

“One simple, effective way state agencies can both maximize value for the taxpayers-and improve the public's confidence in their government-is to utilize a competitive bidding process to purchase goods and services whenever that is possible," Abbott said in his letter. "I must ensure that all state agencies are committed to maximizing value and utilizing open and transparent contracting processes."

The governor's office said that even though Nelson's legislation is "pending and remains a work in progress, state agency heads will be expected to comply with the reforms outlined in Governor Abbott’s letter.” Sen. Nelson said she was glad Abbott is treating this with urgency. "I appreciate his leadership in implementing these reforms as soon as possible to ensure fair and ethical contracts while SB 353 works through the legislative process," Nelson said.

Agencies are expected to start adhering to the following reforms next week:

The rest of the story, subscribers only

January 28, 2015      5:08 PM

HOUSE GOP Caucus confirms commitment to tax cuts

Chairman Tan Parker says proposed House budget left plenty of room

House Republican Chair Tan Parker today confirmed that his fellow Republican members were committed to using unspent in their budget blueprint for tax cuts. 

In a statement he said, “I am proud of the fiscally conservative budget blueprint that my colleagues have put forth in the Texas House of Representatives.  This approach has us starting at a place that accomplishes many priorities for all Texans, such as fully funding public school enrollment growth, strengthening our border security and taking another bold step toward fully meeting our public highway needs.  Moreover, we start at this strong point by keeping spending flat and leaving billions of available revenue unspent with the clear intention that the Texas House will make a strong investment in tax relief for hardworking Texans.  Tax relief is a critical component to strengthening the Texas Model, and the Texas House will be hard at work this session on delivering the tax breaks that Texans deserve.”

By Harvey Kronberg

January 28, 2015      4:47 PM

Disruptive technologies mount major lobby effort

Uber currently has 21 lobbyists registered; Tesla a mere 16...Yellow Cab has 1, Texas Taxi Group has 4

By Harvey Kronberg

January 28, 2015      12:39 PM

Perry legal teams says there is still hope for a swift resolution to his felony case

Botsford says Third Court of Appeals could deal with their appeal within a couple months

Former Gov. Perry’s legal team on Wednesday said despite a Republican judge’s refusal to dismiss felony charges against their client, hope remains that the case could be resolved in fairly short order. That assessment, however, differs from the analysis of many in the legal community who say the last real hope Perry’s team had of quickly resolving his abuse of power case faded dramatically on Tuesday.

That’s when Judge Bert Richardson said the case could proceed after he denied defense attorneys’ requests to dismiss the two-count felony indictment.

Richardson’s order is here.

During a morning news conference at the Omni Hotel in downtown Austin, attorney David Botsford said the appeal they’re filing with the Third Court of Appeals will be, in his opinion, dealt with in a “minimum period of time.” When asked by Quorum Report what that meant exactly, Botsford said he believed it could be as quick as a month to two months before a decision is made.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

January 27, 2015      9:21 PM

Education Commissioner Williams willing to walk away from No Child Left Behind waiver

TEA is acting out of the ordinary in that the agency has spent decades doing specific work assigned – no more and no less – and now its willing to think about school district concerns and come up with out-of-the-box solutions.

Education Commissioner Michael Williams’ willingness to compromise with school administrators and board trustees on accountability issues was not always apparent in an informal question-and-answer session at Tuesday afternoon’s Texas Association of School Administrators’ Midwinter Conference.

Williams talked about gathering stakeholders to address the Education Department’s recent rejection of the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver. He talked about the addition of parents to advisory committees. And while Williams wasn’t necessarily enthusiastic about returning to an accreditation model that left accountability in the hands of school districts, he was open to change.

“I am committed to get the accountability system right, no matter what that system might be,” Williams told an auditorium of superintendents and trustees. “There is no doubt education is front and center in this session.”

But Williams also is a lawyer, and he offered some carefully weighed answers.

For instance, Hutto ISD Superintendent Doug Killian challenged Williams on his personal, if not professional, support of vouchers. “I struggle with the idea that the Party of Lincoln would propose vouchers,” Killian told Williams, offering an invitation for the commissioner to visit Hutto if he wanted to talk in detail about the downside of vouchers. “I struggle with that idea.”

The untested piece of this that hung over the room is that a new governor now leads the state. School leaders were often frustrated, even stymied, by platitudes offered by education officials. In years past, the commissioner’s advisory committees were stacked, more often than not, with people expected to rubber stamp ideas.

But the rumblings inside the Texas Education Agency these days, more often than not, are aimed at pitching solutions rather than maintaining status quo.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

January 27, 2015      5:31 PM

HK: Initially far from efficient, Senate committee jurisdictions clear as mud

The new battleground is apparently bill referrals

Rick Perry indictments notwithstanding, the talk in the Capitol today was mostly about the muddy lack of jurisdictional guidelines for the new standing committees consolidated by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick in the name of greater efficiency.  Yet days later, there are no clear lines of authority indicating which committees have what jurisdictions.

For instance, last week, few noticed that the former Committee on Natural Resources had been expanded to include Economic Development.  In this brave new world, telecom and electricity are natural resources now heading to the expanded committee instead of Business and Commerce where they once resided. 

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Harvey Kronberg

January 27, 2015      5:30 PM

Gov. Abbott sets Feb 17 as the runoff date to fill House District 13

The runoff for the seat formerly held by Sen. Kolkhorst will be decided on the same day as SD 26, HD 17 and HD 123. Early voting the week of Feb 9.

January 27, 2015      4:41 PM

Press Releases: Campus carry, open carry, budget proposal reactions, Pre-K reform and much more

January 27, 2015      3:45 PM

Updated: Criminal case against Rick Perry will proceed after judge declines to dismiss charges

The case could now be seriously stalled; Perry’s lead attorney says there will be an immediate appeal

The latest on the story was first reported by Tony Plohetski at the Austin American Statesman.

Shortly after the news broke Tuesday afternoon, Perry’s lead attorney Tony Buzbee said Perry “acted lawfully and properly exercised his power under the law as Governor to protect the public safety and integrity of government. Continued prosecution of Governor Perry is an outrage and sets a dangerous precedent in our Democracy. America’s commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law is at stake in this case, which is why we will immediately appeal this decision to the Third District Court of Appeals.”

The group that filed the criminal complaint against Perry, Texans for Public Justice, took issue with Perry's "high priced legal team" and national pundits who have said the indictment is too flimsy to stand up in court. "Today a top GOP judge again refused to dismiss the case,” said TPJ director Craig McDonald. “The prosecutor and a grand jury have said there's compelling evidence against Perry. That evidence should be presented in court for all to see.  The chances of that happening improved today.”

A copy of the order from Judge Bert Richardson is here.

January 27, 2015      1:16 PM

Texas Senate leaders propose $4 billion in tax cuts

The Senate base budget slashes property and franchise taxes while investing in roads, border security, and funding enrollment growth for public ed

Texas Senate leaders on Tuesday offered up their vision for the state’s spending plan over the next two years and, unlike the House, the upper chamber is including “significant tax relief.” Under the Senate’s base budget unveiled Tuesday morning, Texans would see $3 billion in property tax relief and businesses would get $1 billion in franchise tax relief, said Finance Committee Chair Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound.

Calling the document both “responsible” and “compassionate,” Nelson said the Senate’s proposed budget “meets our growing needs while remaining true to the policies of fiscal discipline that have led to our economic success and created the Texas miracle.” During a morning news conference alongside Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Sen. Nelson said this proposal is very much a starting point.

There are also a slew of bills in the works designed to make this budget – or something close to it – a reality, Patrick and Nelson said. SB 52, for instance, is aimed at making permanent a 5% exemption in the franchise tax, Patrick said.

The $205 billion two-year spending plan appropriates $101.4 billion in general revenue, a 6.6% increase over the current biennium. In contrast, the House base budget essentially flat-lines new appropriations with a 0.2% increase in general revenue spending.

Both base budgets, as one would expect, spend less than the $113 billion in revenue estimated by Comptroller Glenn Hegar. The proposals also come in under the $107 billion cap created by constitutional constraints, though the House is significantly lower because it includes no tax cuts. And that’s the biggest difference between the chambers as they get to work on the only thing they’re legally required to pass – a budget.

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Scott Braddock

January 27, 2015      1:15 PM

Bearse: Searching for William Wallace

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues that one of the greatest personal freedoms is the freedom to contradict yourself

I have yet to hear anyone campaign on an anti-freedom platform. But at the same time, I’m not sure there are very many William Wallaces in The Legislature. The concept of personal freedom is a sticky wicket.  

I have written ad nauseum about the nanny state caliphate established by the left. They want to force you to take your groceries home in salmonella sacks. They want to take your gas-guzzling cars away by jamming up downtown traffic at 5:00 p.m. Yes, I believe traffic is a state-sponsored conspiracy as evidenced by the reduction in car lanes and the proliferation of compact parking spots in the People’s Republic of Travis County. They now have a city ordinance in Austin that prohibits people from holding their cell phone while driving because distracted driving statutes alone have not stopped accidents caused by those who text while driving. And we all know, if we pass another law to prohibit certain behavior, people will obey it. LOL!

But this stuff doesn’t always fall nice and neat along ideological lines. A lot of Republicans are in on the texting while driving bans. People in both parties want to rid the poor of the consequences of taking out a payday loan because no one should be forced to read the small print.

If the left wants to protect people from themselves, I suppose the right isn’t doing much better. We believe you should keep more of what you make so you can spend your money as you see fit, unless it is on blackjack, or liquor after 2:00 a.m.

The complete column from Eric Bearse is in today’s R&D Department.

By Eric Bearse

January 26, 2015      6:21 PM

Texas and the feds on a collision course over No Child Left Behind waiver

No guarantee of course, but GOP control of both houses of Congress could lead to a resolution over NCLB reauthorization

Texas seems destined to square off again with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Commissioner Michael Williams is making it clear he won’t blink.  

The animosity between Texas and the Obama administration’s education department is long standing, stretching back to Gov. Rick Perry’s refusal to compete for the Race to the Top grant. At the time, Duncan told Bloomberg television he felt “very, very badly for the children of Texas.”

Now Duncan has rejected the Texas Education Agency’s application to extend its waiver of No Child Left Behind and its ties to federal dictates around teacher evaluations. The Duncan administration apparently wants uniformity to teacher and principal evaluations. In the past, discussion around uniform evaluations has faltered, and the idea that teachers can be compared using a growth model has resulted in outright rebellion.  

“Well before this waiver, TEA’s work to develop new teacher and principal evaluation and support systems was under way with the clear intent of offering it to districts as a resource to improve instruction,” Williams said in news release. “I have always made it clear to federal officials that as part of the waiver process TEA could not exceed its current authority nor would we do anything to erode our state’s strong commitment to local control in public education. My position on this front has not, and will not, change.”

The rest of the story, subscribers only

By Kimberly Reeves

January 26, 2015      5:52 PM

Press Releases: Contract oversight, E-Verify, reactions to committee assignments and more

January 26, 2015      3:50 PM

Lt. Gov. Patrick announces grassroots advisory board

This is in addition to the group of business leaders already advising him - Tea Party leaders from around Texas will have the Lite Guv's ear

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Monday announced the creation of what he's calling the "Lieutenant Governor Grassroots Advisory Board." This is in addition to the advisory board made up of business leaders that he announced two weeks ago.

He's chosen Tea Party activists from around the state to advise him - folks like Dallas Tea Party Co-Founder Ken Emanuelson and Joann Fleming of Grassroots America We the People. “Governor Patrick has a reputation for valuing folks outside the capitol complex who ask tough questions and bring common sense solutions to the table,” Fleming said. “Our primary focus will be on border security, education reform, and tax relief legislation - serious issues important to a strong Texas."

Here is the full release from Patrick's office.

January 26, 2015      2:51 PM

MQ Sullivan hearing on residency in Denton County is postponed

Tim Dunn's spokesman and the TEC won't clash in court over whether he really lives in Denton County until February at the earliest

Here is the latest on the story from San Antonio Express-News reporter David Rauf, who made the trip up to North Texas from Austin today.

January 26, 2015      9:15 AM

In Texas Energy Report: Senate Natural Resources Committee oversees PUC, TCEQ, RRC

Patrick’s office officially releases assignments but not jurisdictions

The newly reconstituted Senate Natural Resources& Economic Development Committee named Friday by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has jurisdiction over the Public Utility Commission, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Railroad Commission, according to the office of committee Chairman Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay.

“We will have a great challenge in continuing the economic momentum that has resulted from the energy boom, and the committee will review all economic development legislation to move through the Legislature,” Fraser said in a statement.

The complete story can be found in Texas Energy Report.