Mar 11th - 11:58 am
We’re getting a glimpse at how Senate leaders plan to tackle Governor Greg Abbott’s fifth emergency item: ethics reform. The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony Wednesday on Senate Bill 20, which aims to regulate the use of cooperative contracts.
Cooperative contracting is the controversial program that allows companies to bypass the usual bidding process for state contracts. The program, which was designed for smaller purchases, made headlines last year when Austin-based software company 21CT received a $20 million contract for Medicaid fraud detection software through that process. Subsequent accusations of corruption within the department led to several high-level resignations at HHSC, and a legislative push for more oversight in the state’s contracting process.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson (R – TX Senate District 12) filed Senate Bill 20, and dedicated Wednesday’s committee meeting to her legislation. It would require agency heads to approve the use of a cooperative contract for anything over $1 million and would prohibit any conflicts of interest with high-ranking department officials. It would also mandate an increasing number of competitive bids depending on the size of the contract, and would require agencies to develop an online database to post their contracts online.
“The recent reports of irregularities in contracts at our health and human services agencies have revealed what I perceive to be gaping holes in our laws on contracting,” Nelson said. “Those gaps need to be addressed across state government. Senate Bill 20 strengthens accountability, increases transparency and ensures the fair competitive bids in awarding of state contracts.”
The Finance Committee heard testimony from several departments, including the HHSC, but left the bill pending. The committee is expected to vote on the legislation next week.
Feb 20th - 12:04 pm
Governor Greg Abbott has paved the way for the Legislature to start considering certain legislation. He officially issued proclamations for his five emergency items he announced in his State of the State address earlier this week, allowing lawmakers to take up the bills within the first 60 days of the session. The five items, which Governor Abbott called his top priorities for the session, include early education, higher education, border security, transportation and ethics reform.
In his address earlier this week, Abbott called for more than $4 billion per year to build Texas roads without raising taxes, tolls or debt. He says he wants to offer incentives to adopt high-quality pre-K programs, expand community colleges and raise the profile of the state’s research universities. And Governor Abbott says he wants to double state spending on border security.
With the legislature now able to consider bills relating to these topics, it will be up the the state’s two chambers to craft bills accomplishing those goals while heeding the governor’s call to start reducing the state’s debt.
To view the proclamation on early education, click here.
To view the proclamation on higher education, click here.
To view the proclamation on border security, click here.
To view the proclamation on transportation, click here.
To view the proclamation on ethics, click here.
Feb 5th - 1:02 pm
Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar have announced another new effort to reform the state’s financial incentive policy. They announced a new proposal Thursday to restructure the oversight of the state’s four major events trust funds. They want the Legislature to approve moving control of the funds from the comptroller’s office to the governor’s office, which also oversees other economic incentive funds like the Texas Enterprise Fund.
It’s another move by Governor Abbott to reign in the state’s incentive programs, which have been plagued by controversy recently over accusations of lack of oversight. Last month, the governor proposed shutting down another controversial program, the Emerging Technology Fund. The former comptroller, Susan Combs, was criticized for using the major events fund on projects that were already likely to come to Texas. Questions have also been raised as to whether investors of the Formula One racing track in Austin ever submitted a formal application for funding they received to help pay for construction.
Governor Abbott released this statement:
“As part of our broader efforts to maximize efficiency and accountability in state government, Comptroller Hegar and I have identified weaknesses in Texas’ economic development programs and provided a roadmap for reform that will optimize our state’s economic development strategy. The transfer of these programs to the Governor’s Economic Development and Tourism Division will leverage our existing economic resources and promote Texas as a world-class commercial destination nationally and globally.”
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.
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.”
Oct 14th - 12:11 pm
Republican Greg Abbott is hitting back against Democrat Wendy Davis — and President Obama — in his latest TV ad. The new spot started airing statewide Tuesday.
“President Obama may not be on the ballot in November, but his failed policies are reflected in Sen. Wendy Davis’ agenda for Texas,” said spokesman Matt Hirsch. “It’s clear that President Obama has no better ally in Texas than his ideological twin, Sen. Davis.”
Abbott’s new ad comes as fallout continues from Sen. Davis’ controversial ad released Friday. The ad accuses Abbott of collecting millions from a lawsuit after an accident left him paralyzed from the waist down — while blocking similar lawsuits in court.
Davis defended the ad Monday at an event with several disability rights activists and supporters. She said the ad is not about Abbott’s disability, it’s about his hypocrisy.
Democrats are also demanding that Abbott campaign apologize for a statement from a campaign adviser calling one of Davis’ supporters a ‘prop.’ “Greg Abbott’s hypocrisy extends to his staff,” said Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailer. “Referring to a courageous young man as a prop because you don’t like what he has to say is disgusting.”
Oct 10th - 2:24 pm
Attorney General Greg Abbott is firing back after Sen. Wendy Davis released a new TV ad calling Abbott’s legal work with accident victims into question. Davis’ ad started airing in major markets Friday. It accuses Abbott of collecting millions from a lawsuit after an accident left him paralyzed from the waist down — while blocking similar lawsuits in court.
“It is challenging to find language strong enough to condemn Sen. Davis’ disgusting television ad, which represents a historic low for someone seeking to represent Texans,” an Abbott spokesman said. “Sen. Davis’ ad shows a disturbing lack of judgment from a desperate politician, and completely disqualifies her from seeking higher office in Texas.”
The Abbott campaign is also disputing accusations made in the ad accusing Abbott of defending a surgeon accused of operating while under the influence of drugs. Abbott has argued he was defending the state’s medical malpractice laws, not the surgeon himself.
Oct 10th - 1:44 pm
Sen. Wendy Davis is criticizing her Republican opponent for collecting a settlement following the accident that left him paralyzed — and then fighting in court against similar cases for other Texans. In a press release, the Davis campaign accuses Attorney General Greg Abbott of “seeking justice for himself” and then spending a “career denying justice to other victims.”
Sep 29th - 12:46 pm
Sen. Wendy Davis is calling for an independent investigation into Attorney General Greg Abbott’s role in the Texas Enterprise Fund. The call comes on the heels of a scathing audit that revealed more more than $170 million was awarded to businesses that never submitted an application.
The Davis campaign is accusing Abbott of using his office to cover up the transition of the funds by hiding documents and denying open records requests that would have proven Abbott knew the applications never existed.
“Greg Abbott has been Attorney General throughout the entire existence of the Enterprise Fund, and he was responsible for acting as its watchdog, monitoring its accounts and recovering misspent money,” Davis said. “For that entire time, Mr. Abbott did not recover one dime of taxpayer dollars for the Enterprise Fund.”
Davis is also demanding that Abbott return the $1.4 million in campaign contributions he received from grant recipients.
According to the Dallas Morning News, the Attorney General’s office maintains Abbott was following state law because releasing confidential applications could put companies at a competitive disadvantage.
Sep 18th - 12:12 pm
Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott is attacking Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis’ ethics in the Senate in a new television ad. The ad renews accusations from the Abbott campaign that Davis abused her position in the Senate to profit in the private sector. Abbott also alleges that Davis’ legal work is subject to an open investigation by the FBI.
The Davis campaign was quick to respond, calling the ad a ‘desperate attack.’
“It is the clearest sign yet that Greg Abbott’s lead is steadily eroding and that they are forced to distract from his unethical record, such as using his office to side against patients maimed and killed by a sadistic surgeon after accepting $250,000 from the hospital’s chairman,” said spokesman Zac Petkanas. That claim was the subject of Davis’ most recent TV ad.
The campaign also points to a PolitiFact Texas finding that rated Abbott’s claim that Davis is currently under investigation by the FBI ‘False.’