Vol 29, Issue 15 Print Issue

Honey, Who Shrunk the Primary?

Rick Santorum getting out of the race for president presents two interesting problems in Texas. First, he'll be on the Republican primary ballot anyhow — it's too late to get off. Second, without a fight at the top of the ticket, turnout will probably slide.

Sen. John Whitmire D-Houston listens during an October 4th, 2011 business and commerce committee meeting.
Sen. John Whitmire D-Houston listens during an October 4th, 2011 business and commerce committee meeting.

Taking a Bite Out of Crime Victim Funds

Lawmakers used money from the Crime Victims Compensation Fund to balance their budget, and now the fund is short of money.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Texas toddlers being held in restraints as dentists at corporate-run clinics performed unnecessary root canals were among the dental horror stories told this week at a House Public Health Committee hearing at the state Capitol. Witnesses accused the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners, which regulates dental licensing in Texas, of ineptitude, a pattern of withholding or obscuring negative information about dentists, and failure to act against corporate-run dental clinics committing Medicaid fraud and harming patients. Others came to the board’s defense, saying that the new leadership is trying to fix mistakes from the past and that the board lacks the resources to do its job well.

Before Texas’ leading Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate joined in a live television debate (set for Friday night), a text message from one candidate to another brought about accusations of cheating. Former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz texted former ESPN Analyst Craig James on Wednesday afternoon suggesting a question setting up another candidate, David Dewhurst. Now they'll probably talk about the texting; Cruz wanted James to ask about Dewhurst skipping candidate forums around the state. 

Planned Parenthood branches in Texas have filed a federal lawsuit in an effort to block their exclusion from the state's Women's Health Program. After Texas' Republican leaders indicated their intent to start enforcing a state rule that bans "affiliates" of abortion providers from participating in the Medicaid-funded contraception and cancer-screening program, the Obama administration pulled federal financing from the program. Gov. Rick Perry has vowed that the state will find the money to continue the program without federal help — and that the rule banning Planned Parenthood clinics will stand. No clinics participating in the program have performed abortions. The lawsuit asks the court for an injunction to stop enforcement of the rule so that the Planned Parenthood clinics would be able to remain in the program past April 30.

A group of Texas lawmakers recently sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk asking him to consider including Mexico, whose five largest trading destinations include the trade districts of Laredo, El Paso and Houston, in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They argue that including Mexico could add to the 6 million jobs supported by the current trade relationship. But others have reservations, citing how expanded free trade agreements like NAFTA could lead to lower wages in partnering countries and a loss of jobs in the U.S.

Even as the presidential field narrowed with Rick Santorum’s exit from the race, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's chances of winning the Republican nomination don't appear to be any stronger. But the longtime Texas congressman isn't slowing down, and on Tuesday night — after Santorum suspended his campaign — Paul started a three-stop Texas town hall tour with a visit to the Texas A&M University campus.

Kerry Max Cook will get access to the DNA testing that he hopes will help bolster his claims of innocence in the 1977 murder of Linda Jo Edwards and force the court to exonerate him of the crime more than a decade after he was released from prison. But Cook will have to continue his quest in the same county where he had been found guilty twice before, though both convictions were overturned. Cook, who was released from prison more than a decade ago after spending about 20 years on death row, was convicted at age 22.

Political People and their Moves

Buddy Garcia, a former aide to Gov. Rick Perry who has been serving on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, will take the empty seat at the Texas Railroad Commission until a new commissioner is chosen in the elections. Perry could have waited until after the May primaries (0r the July runoffs) and named the winner of the GOP contest between Warren Chisum, Christi CraddickRoland Sledge, and three others. Or he could have appointed one of them, effectively making an endorsement in that race. This appointment dodges that bullet, gives Garcia another notch on his resume, and clears the way for Perry to name someone new at TCEQ.

Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, appointed Charles Matthews and Andrew Card Jr. to serve on the Select Committee on Economic Development.  Card, former chief of staff to President George W. Bush, is Acting Dean of The Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University, and serves on the Advisory Board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Matthews, an attorney, served as Vice President and General Counsel for ExxonMobil until 2010.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Stephen Bristow of Graham as judge of the 90th Judicial District Court in Young and Stephens counties. Bristow is an attorney in private practice, former Young County attorney, and former district attorney for Young and Stephens counties.

Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson named Lubbock County’s court administration director, David Slayton, the new administrative director of the Texas Office of Court Administration. Slayton was previously the court services supervisor for the U.S. District Court in Dallas.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst appointed Jan Newton to the Sunset Advisory Commission. Newton is currently serving on the Northeast Power Coordinating Council.

Kim Bonnen re-joined the Locke Lord Texas Public Law Group. Most recently, she was an associate with Vinson & Elkins. She's married to Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton.

Lidia Agraz has been named executive director of the Texas Book Festival. She is a former vice president of government relations and public affairs for Time Warner Cable in Central Texas. 

Press corp moves: Dave Montgomery, late of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which closed its Austin bureau earlier this year, is joining the Fort Worth Business Press. He'll report from Austin for that publication, which is run by a former Startlegram publisher, Richard Connor.

Deaths: Bernard Rapoport, former chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents, a generous philanthropist and a liberal stalwart who helped finance Democratic candidates and causes for decades. He was 94.

Carlos Truan, a Corpus Christi Democrat who started in the Texas House in 1969 and in the Senate, where he later became dean, in 1977. He was instrumental in establishing bilingual education in Texas public schools. Truan was 76.