Vol 29, Issue 17 Print Issue

Gov. Rick Perry ceremonially signs Senate Bill 18, a piece of eminent domain legislation, on May 23, 2011, beside state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, and Rep. Charlie Geren, R-River Oaks.
Gov. Rick Perry ceremonially signs Senate Bill 18, a piece of eminent domain legislation, on May 23, 2011, beside state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, and Rep. Charlie Geren, R-River Oaks.

Campaign Chatter

The endorsements just keep on rolling in... 

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

A new analysis of official data from Mexico and the U.S. shows net immigration between the two countries to be close to zero. The Pew Hispanic Center reported that in the five years between 2005 and 2010, the net numbers actually showed more Mexicans going back to Mexico from the U.S., the first time that’s happened since the 1930s. Researchers speculated that the weak U.S. economy combined with stronger border enforcement and more deportations were responsible for the reduced numbers.

Following the negative public reaction to the Florida's Stand Your Ground law, an influential policy group that helps draft model bills for legislators has decided to disband a committee that focused on developing policies on crime. Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Plano, chairman of the Public Safety and Elections Committee, said he’ll be reassigned to another committee in the council, and will continue to work on the economic issues surrounding criminal justice.

A planned trial date of July 9 for Texas’ voter ID law may have to be pushed back, according to Justice Department lawyers. In a motion filed this week, the attorneys complained that state Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office is being uncooperative with their requests for information and that the trial will need to be delayed. Abbott’s office is hoping for a speedy trial to ensure resolution of the matter before the general election, and responded that it has been providing information in a timely manner. State officials hope to have a decision on the legality of the law by August so they can implement its provisions by November.

Now that the presidential primary race has cooled down, Texas voters can focus on the race to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison. A new poll shows Ted Cruz gaining ground on the front-runner in the race, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Public Policy Polling’s latest poll in the race shows Dewhurst leading Cruz by 12 percentage points, after leading by 18 points in its January poll.

After an impasse last year over sales tax collection, Amazon is in talks with the comptroller’s office in hopes of reaching a deal. Details of the current negotiations haven’t been made available, but in the past Amazon has offered to create thousands of jobs in Texas with an investment in facilities throughout the state. That deal failed to get legislators' approval when Amazon asked that collection of taxes be abated for several years. Amazon is in the process of working out similar deals in other states.

The Texas Department of Transportation suffered a cyber attack on its toll tag website, causing 1,600 of its customers to be overcharged. The agency reported that as customers were attempting to deposit money into their toll tag accounts, they received error messages, causing them to be charged multiple times. A total of $46,000 was overcharged. TxDOT announced that no action will be necessary for affected customers to receive refunds of the erroneous charges.

Following a successful five-year sustainability program, the city of El Paso is reaching out to local businesses, challenging them to become greener. The initiative provides businesses with a self-assessment scorecard, helping them develop a plan for reducing their energy, water use and waste generation. Part of the plan will be monthly seminars giving the enrolled businesses advice on how to reach the goals they set for themselves. The yearlong program will conclude with the city handing out awards to the most successful companies.

A former BP engineer was the first to be charged in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Kurt Mix, of Katy, is facing charges of obstruction of justice after being accused of destroying hundreds of text messages. Federal investigators have been looking into the causes of the blast, but their case against Mix involves information stemming from the aftermath of the explosion and an alleged attempt to interfere with the investigation. Mix’s attorney pointed out that although the text messages had been deleted from his phone, the content of the messages was preserved in other documents, and he expressed confidence that he would be cleared of all charges.

An investigation into expenses paid on behalf of former UT Southwestern Medical Center President Dr. Kern Wildenthal has led to his resignation. An outside firm was hired to analyze the travel and entertainment expenses submitted by Wildenthal and reported that his judgment was questionable in some cases and that the entire expense reporting system should be called into question. After the report was released, Wildenthal tendered his resignation as assistant to the president but will remain on staff at UT Southwestern as a tenured faculty member.

Political People and their Moves

The U.S. Senate confirmed Gregg Costa and David Guaderrama to fill the federal judicial vacancies for the Southern District of Texas in Galveston and Western District of Texas in El Paso, respectively.

Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, was elected president of the Board of Directors of the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute. She replaces retiring state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, who has served as president of TCCRI since the organization's inception.

U.S. Rep. Gene Green was inaugurated as president of the Texas State Society at the Texas State Society’s Annual Meeting & San Jacinto Day Celebration in D.C.

Diann Bayes will join the Texas Travel Industry Association in the newly formed position of senior vice president of member services. Currently, Bayes holds the position of executive director of the McKinney Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Gary D. Compton has joined Thompson & Knight LLP's Austin office as a member of the firm’s Oil and Gas Practice Group.

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas announced the selection of Melinda Tomerlin Navarro as interim executive administrator for the Alamo. Navarro has served as chairwoman of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Alamo Committee since last year.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Nelson Balido of San Antonio and Anne Keene of Austin to the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board. Balido is president of the Border Trade Alliance. Keene is president and founder of the Crossnore Group LLC.