Feb 10th - 1:59 pm
A day after public hearings were set for two bills governing the carrying of firearms, we now know the next step for a third controversial gun bill. The so-called “constitutional carry” bill, which would allow for the open carry of handguns without an additional permit as long as the gun owner is legally allowed to own the gun, was referred to the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee Tuesday.
The bill will see some opposition right away from Representative Poncho Nevarez (D – Texas House District 74), who is the co-vice chairman of that committee. Rep. Nevarez has been an outspoken critic of the constitutional carry bill after he received threats from gun rights advocates during a confrontation in his office that was video recorded. The incident made national headlines last month. Rep. Nevarez has since been assigned a security detail and House lawmakers passed new rules offering funding for any House office wanting to install panic buttons.
It’s all part of a larger debate on how to legalize the open carry of handguns, which has been banned in Texas for more than 125 years. Another bill, the so-called “open carry bill,” would allow gun owners to publicly carry handguns if they get a license and pass a background check. That will go to a public hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee Thursday along with the “campus carry” bill, which would allow concealed handgun license owners to bring firearms onto public university campuses. That plan has been criticized by UT Chancellor William McRaven, who has raised questions about whether it would make campuses less safe.
Feb 9th - 2:40 pm
The Texas Senate is wasting no time pushing ahead with two controversial bills governing the carrying of firearms in public. The Senate Affairs Committee has scheduled public hearings for open carry and campus carry, setting up the next step in the legislative battle that has dominated the early headlines of the 84th Legislature.
Senate Bill 11 would allowed concealed handgun license holders to carry their guns on college campuses. Senate Bill 346 would remove the state’s 125-year-old ban on the open carry of handguns, but would require those gun owners to pass a background check and receive a license to do so.
Gun rights advocates criticized Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick last month for not following through on campaign promises when he said open carry bills weren’t a top priority and didn’t have the votes to pass. He then walked back on those comments and fast-tracked these two bills. Governor Greg Abbott disagreed with Patrick last week, saying he did believe the support was there for open carry. Then, UT Chancellor William McRaven voiced his opposition to campus carry, saying it would make college campuses more dangerous.
Many gun rights supporters are pushing for a different bill, constitutional carry, that wouldn’t require a license or background check to be eligible to openly carry handguns in public. But their efforts were hurt last week due to perceived threats from a member of Open Carry Tarrant County, who likened opposing constitutional carry to treason, which is punishable by death. Earlier this session, the Legislature installed panic buttons in lawmakers’ offices due to confrontations with gun rights advocates. So far, no action has been taken on constitutional carry.
Right now, it is legal to openly carry rifles, shotguns and other long arms without a license. But gun owners have to pass a background check and pay to get a concealed carry license hold a handgun in public.
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.”
Feb 4th - 4:19 pm
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has named his leadership for the new legislative session. He announced the House Committees and Committee Chairs Wednesday.
In all, there are 27 Republicans and 12 Democrats leading the 39 committees, with thirteen minorities and nine women in chair positions. Republican John Otto, who has served in the house since 2005, will lead the House Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for outlining the chamber’s budget.
Straus also launched a new committee, Juvenile Justice and Family Issues, and two new select committees: The House Select Committee on Emerging Issues in Texas Law Enforcement and The House Select Committee on State and Federal Power and Responsibility.
This means both chambers have established leadership. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick announced the committees for the State Senate a few weeks ago. Below is the list of committee chairs and vice-chairs. For the full list, click here.
Agriculture & Livestock:
CHAIR: King, Tracy (D)
VICE-CHAIR: Anderson, Charles “Doc” (R)
CHAIR: Otto, John (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Turner, Sylvester (D)
Business & Industry
CHAIR: Oliveira, René (D)
VICE-CHAIR: Simmons, Ron (R)
CHAIR: Hunter, Todd (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Lucio III, Eddie (D)
CHAIR: Murphy, Jim (R)
VICE-CHAIR: White, James (R)
CHAIR: Coleman, Garnet (D)
VICE-CHAIR: Farias, Joe (D)
CHAIR: Herrero, Abel
VICE-CHAIR: Moody, Joseph
Culture, Recreation & Tourism
CHAIR: Guillen, Ryan (D)
VICE-CHAIR: Dukes, Dawnna (D)
Defense & Veterans’ Affairs
CHAIR: King, Susan (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Frank, James (R)
Economic & Small Business Development
CHAIR: Button, Angie Chen (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Johnson, Eric (D)
CHAIR: Laubenberg, Jodie (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Goldman, Craig (R)
CHAIR: Darby, Drew (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Paddie, Chris (R)
CHAIR: Morrison, Geanie (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Rodriguez, Eddie (D)
General Investigating & Ethics
CHAIR: Kuempel, John
VICE-CHAIR: Collier, Nicole
Government Transparency & Operation
CHAIR: Elkins, Gary (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Walle, Armando (D)
CHAIR: Zerwas, John (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Howard, Donna (D)
Homeland Security & Public Safety
CHAIR: Phillips, Larry
VICE-CHAIR: Nevárez, Poncho
CHAIR: Geren, Charlie (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Márquez, Marisa (D)
CHAIR: Raymond, Richard Peña (D)
VICE-CHAIR: Rose, Toni (D)
CHAIR: Frullo, John (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Muñoz, Jr., Sergio (D)
International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs
CHAIR: Anchia, Rafael (D)
VICE-CHAIR: Lozano, J. M. (R)
Investments & Financial Services
CHAIR: Parker, Tan (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Longoria, Oscar (D)
Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence
CHAIR: Smithee, John (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Farrar, Jessica (D)
Juvenile Justice & Family Issues
CHAIR: Dutton, Jr., Harold (D)
VICE-CHAIR: Riddle, Debbie (R)
Land & Resource Management
CHAIR: Deshotel, Joe (D)
VICE-CHAIR: Thompson, Ed (R)
Licensing & Administrative Procedures
CHAIR: Smith, Wayne (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Gutierrez, Roland (D)
Local & Consent Calendars
CHAIR: Thompson, Senfronia (D)
VICE-CHAIR: Clardy, Travis (R)
CHAIR: Keffer, Jim (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Ashby, Trent (R)
CHAIR: Flynn, Dan (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Alonzo, Roberto (D)
CHAIR: Aycock, Jimmie Don (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Allen, Alma (D)
CHAIR: Crownover, Myra (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Naishtat, Elliott (D)
CHAIR: Lozano, J. M. (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Davis, Yvonne (D)
Rules & Resolutions
CHAIR: McClendon, Ruth Jones (D)
VICE-CHAIR: Kacal, Kyle (R)
Special Purpose Districts
CHAIR: Miller, Doug (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Alvarado, Carol (D)
CHAIR: Cook, Byron ((R)
VICE-CHAIR: Giddings, Helen (D)
CHAIR: Pickett, Joe (D)
VICE-CHAIR: Martinez, Armando (D)
CHAIR: Alvarado, Carol (D)
VICE-CHAIR: Hunter, Todd (R)
Ways & Means
CHAIR: Bonnen, Dennis (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Davis, Yvonne (D)
House Select Committee on Emerging Issues in Texas Law Enforcement
CHAIR: Fletcher, Allen (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Dukes, Dawnna
House Select Committee on State and Federal Power and Responsibility
CHAIR: King, Phil (R)
VICE-CHAIR: Workman, Paul
Feb 3rd - 12:40 pm
State Representative Molly White (R – Texas House District 55) responded Tuesday to mounting criticism to her comments and actions on Texas Muslim Day last week. In a written statement on her website, White did not back down from her actions, saying her statement about a “serious problem facing Texas” has been been wrongly construed by “political correctness” into something bigoted and anti-American.
The freshman state representative made headlines last week when she posted this on her Facebook page about the planned Texas Muslim Day rally at the State Capitol:
Today is Texas Muslim Capital Day in Austin. The House is in recess until Monday. Most Members including myself are back in District. I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office.
Rep. Molly White (R – Texas House District 55)
That post drew more than 11,000 comments and was featured on national media outlets like CNN. White says she didn’t expect her post to get that kind of attention, but insisted she was doing her job by informing the public about threats to First Amendment freedoms. White says the Council of American-Islamic Relations, which sponsored the rally, believes Muslim law is above the law of the United States. That argument has been disputed by leaders with CAIR. In an interview with The Texas Tribune Monday, Mustafa Carroll said “following the law of the land is part of Sharia law.”
Representative White says her post was directed at CAIR, not all Muslims, and adds the group is designated a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates. While this is true, the group is not considered a terrorist group by the American government.
Finally, Rep. White says she stands for the First Amendment and freedom of speech. Representative White says Muslims have sided with suppression of free speech, citing a recent poll in the UK where 78 percent of British Muslims believe publishers of the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad should be prosecuted.
Lastly, every one of my constituents, regardless of their faith, is always welcome in my office. When hearing other’s views, I also share where I stand on issues as it is only fair for all those involved in a conversation to know what each other believes on a topic. As it relates to upholding the 1st Amendment, terrorism and CAIR’s position on the rule of law, I will continue to stand for the protection and freedom of Texans, and as a result, all Americans.
Rep. Molly White (R – Texas House District 55)
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.”
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.”