Vol 29, Issue 11 Print Issue

Gov. Rick Perry in his Capitol office on Feb. 21, 2012.
Gov. Rick Perry in his Capitol office on Feb. 21, 2012.

A States' Rights Strategy

Gone are the deer-in-the-headlights “oops” moments, the campaign blooper reels. They’ve been replaced with the familiar Texas governor beating his drum against the federal government, this time on women’s health and voter fraud. 

The House chamber below a mostly empty gallery during the final days of the special session on June 27, 2011.
The House chamber below a mostly empty gallery during the final days of the special session on June 27, 2011.

The Freshman 30

No matter how the elections swing, one thing is certain about the 83rd legislative session: There will be a lot of new faces.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

As Austin played host to the South by Southwest interactive conference, a marketing agency trying an innovative idea for the gathering found itself the subject of criticism. BBH Labs introduced the idea of so-called homeless hotspots for festival-goers who needed wireless access, hiring 13 homeless volunteers to go to venues and offer wireless services in exchange for donations. Bloggers slammed the program, saying that it took advantage of the homeless, but the sponsoring agency, Front Steps, and the participants seemed satisfied with the outcome.

Federal auditors looking at the management of hurricane recovery grants have criticized the Texas Department of Rural Affairs and are recommending that the state come up with $9 million in funds to reimburse the federal government. The inspector general’s office at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that the contract between the state and engineering firm HNTB was improperly entered into, expanded without authority and inadequately monitored, leading to overbillings by the Kansas City-based firm. The state outsourced work on hurricane recovery programs, and although the contract with HNTB has been canceled, the company is still working with the state under a separate contract.

The Texas Department of Transportation had some good news for drivers in the state this week: The agency has $2 billion to spend on projects that it hadn’t counted on. The extra money came from unanticipated federal dollars, increased borrowing capacity and cheaper construction costs. The money will be available to be spent on projects throughout the state, although the way the money will be apportioned still has to be determined.

A bioethicist from the University of Minnesota has filed a complaint with the Food and Drug Administration over Celltex Therapeutics Corp., a Houston company involved in adult stem cells. Leigh Turner alleges that Celltex is not complying with FDA regulations in its operations and poses a threat to patients. The company, which opened last year, stores and processes adult stem cells, which doctors then reinject into their patients. Texas is in the process of setting up review committees that would oversee new and experimental therapies, like adult stem cell therapy. The Texas Medical Board is set to approve the new policy in April, and Celltex has registered with one of the oversight committees.

A report commissioned by the Houston Endowment shows some discouraging figures on Texas’ higher education results. A study of eighth graders in the public education system in Texas from 1996-98 revealed that only about 20 percent of them went on to receive higher education certification within six years of their expected high school graduation. The national average was almost 30 percent, and the only state that fared worse than Texas was Florida.

Citing irregularities in previous voting cycles, Latino activist and congressional candidate Carlos Quintanilla has requested federal monitors for the upcoming primary. Quintanilla is running against two Republicans and 10 other Democrats for the new congressional district in North Texas. He’s facing criticism for asking the Justice Department to send observers but has defended his request, saying he wants to avoid specific problems with ballots he’s seen before in Dallas County.

Texas led the nation in job creation in January. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that from December to January, Texas added more than 67,000 nonfarm jobs, making it the top job creator of the 37 states that added jobs during the month. Over the course of a year, Texas tied with Utah for second place in job creation; North Dakota led the nation with a 5.7 percent increase.

Political People and their Moves

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appointed A. Charles Fischer to the Texas Emerging Technology Advisory Committee. Fischer served as president and CEO of Dow AgroSciences and as a member of Dow Chemical Company's Executive Management Team until his retirement in 2004.

Kyle Janek, a practicing anesthesiologist and former member of the Texas Senate, will join the new Lakeway Regional Medical Center as chief of staff and director of anesthesia services when the hospital opens April 16. Janek served in the Texas House from 1994 to 2002 and the Texas Senate from 2003 to 2008.

Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C. announced the addition of Benette L. Zivley as a shareholder in its Austin office. Zivley previous served on the Texas State Securities Board as the Texas securities commissioner.