Jan 23rd - 11:17 am
The state’s highest court will rule on whether the way Texas pays for public schools is unconstitutional. The Texas Supreme Court announced Friday it will hear the state’s sweeping school finance case.
More than 600 school districts sued the state back in 2011 after the legislature cut more than $5 billion in education funding. They argued budget cuts left them without the resources to meet academic standards, and said the gap between property-rich and property-poor school districts was too great. An Austin-based district judge ruled the cuts unconstitutional, but that ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court last year by then-Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Friday’s court advisory also set up the timeline for the next step in the case. In all, there will be about six months for both sides to file briefs and replies before a date for an oral argument is set. That means the decision won’t come until after the end of the legislative session. If the Texas Supreme Court upholds the unconstitutional ruling, the Legislature will have to come up with a new funding formula. That would require Governor Greg Abbott to call a special session.
Jan 14th - 12:19 pm
Gov.-elect Greg Abbott has announced an independent review of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission as criticism mounts against the agency’s contracting policies. Abbott says his “strike force” will conduct a “comprehensive performance review of management, contracting and operations” within the department.
Gov.-elect Abbott’s team will be led by Billy Hamilton, executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer of the Texas A&M University System, and Heather Griffith Peterson, chief financial officer of the Texas Department of Agriculture.
The announcement follows a meeting by the Sunset Advisory Commission Wednesday. The committee, which is in charge of reviewing the efficiency of state agencies, slammed the department’s awarding of a $110 million contract to software company 21CT. The HHSC is accused of securing that contract outside the competitive bidding process required by law.
The department’s top attorney, Jack Stick, and Inspector General Doug Wilson have both resigned in the wake of this scandal, and a criminal investigation is ongoing. Lawmakers are also considering consolidating the HHSC with the state’s four other health-related agencies this year.
Abbott released this statement:
“In the wake of recent revelations at the Health and Human Services Commission, my transition team has taken steps to ensure there is a full and thorough outside review of management, operations, and contracting at the agency. Consequently, I have asked former Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton to lead an independent performance review of HHSC operations. We have coordinated with HHSC Commissioner Kyle Janek on this initiative and he has pledged his agency’s full cooperation with Hamilton’s performance review.”
Dec 12th - 2:04 pm
Despite ruling that the ban is unconstitutional earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio declined a request to lift the stay on his ruling, effectively continuing enforcement of the ban.
When Judge Garcia ruled in February that Texas’ same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, he also issued a stay on that ruling pending the state’s appeal. The plaintiffs in the case asked Garcia to lift that stay last month, but Garcia officially declined that request on Friday.
Garcia wrote in his ruling, “Such action would only be temporary, with confusion and doubt to follow. The day for finality and legal certainty in the long and difficult journey for equality is closer than ever before.”
The case will go before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals next month, along with other same-sex marriage cases from Mississippi and Louisiana.
Dec 12th - 1:11 pm
The Texas Democratic Party has announced Executive Director Will Hailer is stepping down at the end of the year.
Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa made the announcement in a press release Friday, marking the end of Hailer’s nearly two-year tenure in the position. Hailer is joining the public affairs firm BerlinRosen in Arlington, Virginia as its new vice president of the Campaign and Creative Services Division. BerlinRosen specializes in “strategic communications, public affairs, campaign consulting and creative services to leading companies, non-profit organizations, philanthropies, progressive political candidates and labor unions.” Party officials say Hailer will assist in the transition as they conduct a nationwide search for a new Executive Director. Hailer released the following statement:
“It has been a pleasure for me to work with some of the most devoted and hardworking Democrats Texas has to offer. This year we built an outstanding organization on the idea that Democratic values are Texas values. We accomplished more than anyone thought was possible thanks to the Texas Democratic Party staffers who worked across the state with candidates, partner organizations, party leaders, elected officials, donors and volunteers.”
Dec 3rd - 3:06 pm
Governor Rick Perry has reversed his stance on E-Verify.
He’s now ordering state agencies to use the system to make sure those applying for state jobs or working for contractors are in the country legally. Four years ago, Perry criticized the federal E-Verify system, saying it “would not make a ‘hill of beans’ difference when it comes to what’s happening in America.”
At a Wednesday news conference, the governor said the system has been improved. Under E-Verify, employers can enter in names and Social Security numbers of new hires. That will let them know whether they are citizens or have proper visas for employment.
At the news conference, Perry also took time to blast President Obama’s executive order on immigration. He says it will trigger a new flood of people illegally entering Texas from Mexico.
Dec 3rd - 2:56 pm
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced legal action Wednesday challenging President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Southern District of Texas, is part of a 17-state coalition.
Abbott, the governor-elect, issued the following statement:
“The President’s unilateral executive action tramples the U.S. Constitution’s Take Care Clause and federal law. The Constitution’s Take Care Clause limits the President’s power and ensures that he will faithfully execute Congress’s laws – not rewrite them under the guise of ‘prosecutorial discretion.’ The Department of Homeland Security’s directive was issued without following the Administrative Procedure Act’s rulemaking guidelines and is nothing but an unlawfully adopted legislative rule: an executive decree that requires federal agencies to award legal benefits to individuals whose conduct contradicts the priorities of Congress.”
Nov 20th - 11:41 am
After months of speculation, Democratic State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte says she’s running for San Antonio mayor.
The announcement comes just a couple weeks after Van de Putte suffered a huge loss to Republican Dan Patrick in the Lt. Governor’s race. But although she lost big to Patrick two weeks ago, Van de Putte won more than 50 percent of the Bexar County vote. The city election is May 9th.
Meantime, Van de Putte’s decision to run sets up a political “domino effect” among state lawmakers from San Antonio. State Rep. Mike Villarreal (D, District 123) is also running for mayor — and has resigned from the House.
And two other Texas House members from San Antonio have expressed interested in running for Van de Putte’s Senate seat. Today, State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D, District 116) officially declared he is a candidate. And State Rep. Jose Menendez (D, District 124) has already publicly indicated he would be interested.
Van de Putte plans let Gov. Rick Perry know today her intention to resign from the Senate, so he can call for a special election.
Nov 18th - 5:26 pm
In an 18-page ruling Tuesday, District Judge Bert Richardson refused to throw out two felony indictments against Gov. Rick Perry. The motion involved in Tuesday’s ruling dealt with a technicality over whether or not special prosecutor Michael McCrum was properly sworn in. Another argument in this particular motion was that some paperwork was not properly filed.
Perry was indicted in August. He’s accused of threatening, then carrying out, a veto of funding for public corruption prosecutors after DA Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat leading the unit, wouldn’t resign following her DWI conviction.
The governor’s defense team has also questioned the case’s constitutionality. Judge Richardson, a Republican, has not yet ruled on those motions.
Nov 18th - 3:43 pm
Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus have signed an agreement to extend the border surge through the end of August 2015.
Perry and other state officials said in a statement Tuesday that the’ll now await the approval of the Legislative Budget Board, which meets next month.
If members give the $86 million plan the go ahead, the move allows enhanced patrols by the Department of Public Safety, the Texas National Guard and other personnel to continue their response to a surge in immigrants entering illegally into the U.S. through the Rio Grande Valley.
Officials want to divert nearly $48 million in general revenue bonds and other monies to help cover the cost.
“Texas has proven beyond any doubt that this border can be secured, even if the federal government refuses to take the steps necessary to do so as required by the Constitution,” Perry said in a press release. “This agreement will ensure the hardworking men and women from DPS, the Texas National Guard and Texas Parks and Wildlife, who have been working with local and federal partners, have the resources they need to maintain a robust law enforcement presence along the border until the Legislature can act.”
According to the Governor’s Office, funds for DPS would include the addition of new shallow-water boats and other technological capabilities, “which would be used to extend tactical capabilities as well as the surge footprint beyond the Rio Grande Valley Sector.”
Oct 23rd - 12:29 pm
With fewer than two weeks until Election Day, a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll shows Republican Greg Abbott leading Democrat Wendy Davis by 16 points in the race for governor. The poll shows Abbott with 54 percent to Davis’ 38 percent.