Archive for January, 2015
Jan 30th - 11:44 am
Governor Rick Perry’s legal team is taking another shot at having his criminal indictments thrown out. His lawyers filed a third motion Friday asking a judge to void both abuse of power charges against him.
A judge ruled earlier this week to uphold the indictments, but also asked Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum to correct vagueness in the description of both counts. Perry’s motion said the abuse of official capacity charge is too vague and fails to allege an offense. They say the second charge, coercion of a public official, fails to mention the manner and means of the alleged threat; whether it was spoken, written or delivered through a third party.
Friday’s motion read:
“Both counts against Perry should be voided for violating the U.S. and state constitutions’ requirement that defendants be given adequate notice of the ‘nature and cause’ of the allegations so they can prepare a defense.”
Perry faces charges of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant over accusations he threatened to veto funding for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s drunk driving arrest and conviction. He then followed through on that threat with a line-item veto of Public Integrity Unit funding.
In addition fo Friday’s filing, Perry’s lawyers have also appealed Tuesday’s decision to the all-Republican third court of appeals in Austin.
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.”