Vol 29, Issue 19 Print Issue

U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz speaks at the Texas Tea party rally Sunday May 6, 2012 at the Texas Capitol.  Cruz is trailing frontrunner David Dewhurst in the race to replace current Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz speaks at the Texas Tea party rally Sunday May 6, 2012 at the Texas Capitol. Cruz is trailing frontrunner David Dewhurst in the race to replace current Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Campaign Chatter

Cruz has a big week. Dewhurst has some big numbers. News from the campaigns around the state. 

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

It’s looking increasingly unlikely that Texas will be able to enforce its new voter ID law by November. The controversial measure, requiring voters to show a valid form of photo ID at the polls, didn’t win the necessary approval from the Department of Justice earlier this year and is now being litigated in federal court. With the trial set to begin July 9, both sides are pointing fingers at the other for delaying the process. Justice Department attorneys are blaming Texas officials for dragging their feet in complying with subpoenas and producing requested documents, while Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office is charging that federal officials are asking for a staggering amount of unnecessary information.

Testifying before lawmakers who cut state Medicaid spending in the last budget, agency officials this week warned that the program will be facing a shortfall when legislators meet again next year. Cutting $15 billion in state spending and $12 billion in services, they said, is not enough savings to offset the growth of the program, which funds health care for poor children, the disabled and the elderly poor. That population has nearly doubled in the last decade, and in 2010 the number of poor children grew more than 10 percent.

This week, reacting to steep cuts in funding, the Texas A&M University system raised tuition and fees at most of its institutions around the state. Seven of its nine campuses will see tuition increases for the 2013 fall semester, though the flagship College Station campus and the San Antonio campus will remain the same. All of the universities in the system will be subject to increases in fees.

Comptroller Susan Combs released new sales tax numbers, saying collections in April were up almost 11 percent from April 2011. Increases came mainly from the oil and gas industries, but restaurants and retail stores also saw gains.

After getting the green light to begin accepting low-level radioactive waste on April 25, Waste Control Specialists LLC is facing another challenge to its operation in West Texas. District Judge Lora Livingston overturned a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality decision that kept two residents living nearby the dump from disputing the facility at a hearing. The decision won’t stop the company’s ongoing operations, and the company immediately indicated that it would appeal the decision. The two residents are concerned that the area’s air and water may be contaminated by the waste. They will now get a hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings and a decision from a judge, which TCEQ can accept, reject or modify.

A new billboard unveiled in San Antonio this week encourages atheists to band together. The Washington, D.C.-based United Coalition of Reason has been placing billboards across the nation since the group’s inception three years ago and funded the placement of the 14-by-48-foot billboard with the message “Don’t believe in God? Join the club.” Fred Edwords, national director of the coalition, said the intent of the billboard is not to attempt to convert believers into non-believers but to offer support to atheists who may feel isolated in their community.

Political People and their Moves

Jay Kimbrough is back at the state's Juvenile Justice Department — formerly the Texas Youth Commission — tapped by Gov. Rick Perry to try again to right that troubled agency. Kimbrough has been at the Texas Department of Public Safety, where he's second in command, after losing his job at the Texas A&M University System.

Ward Farnsworth, an associate dean at Boston University School of Law, will take over as dean of the University of Texas School of Law on June 1. Farnsworth clerked for Richard Posner on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. He'll replace former dean Larry Sager, who is still a professor at the law school, who was forced by UT President Bill Powers to step down last December.

Nobel Prize winner Dr. Alfred Gilman quit the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, where he was chief scientific officer, citing concerns about the way CPRIT awards grants.

After 27 years at the University of Houston System, Grover Campbell is leaving his post of vice chancellor to hang out a lobby shingle of his own. He jokes (kind-of) that he's looking for "large and underrepresented interests." He'll be with UH through the end of the month. Coming in: Darrin Hall, who has been at Houston City Hall for eight years, most recently working for Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

Jim Moore and Glenn Smith will be joining the Progress Texas PAC to help with communications. Moore, a former TV journalist, is co-author of Bush's Brain and other books; Smith, a former newspaper reporter, worked for a number of Democratic officials and candidates, including Bill HobbyAnn Richards and Tony Sanchez.

Gov. Perry appointed:

• Lynwood Givens of Plano and Sharon Carr of Katy to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Givens retired from Raytheon Co., where he was chief technology officer. Carr, who's being reappointed, is a retired librarian and administrator from the El Paso ISD.

• Fredrick "Rick" Rylander of Iraan and Lewis McMahan of Dallas to the Texas Water Development Board. Rylander is a rancher and former manager with National Oilwell Varco; McMahan, who's being reappointed, is an engineer and retired vice president of Texas Instruments.