Vol 29, Issue 26 Print Issue

Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Jan. 27, 2009, before Perry's State of the State address.
Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Jan. 27, 2009, before Perry's State of the State address.

Risks For Perry In Senate Race

Rick Perry, re-building his brand after a calamitious presidential campaign, is running some risk in the U.S. Senate race, where Tea Party darling Ted Cruz is stirring anti-establishment anger and where the governor has endorsed David Dewhurst.

Interactive Map: Texas House Committee Clout

Use this interactive to explore the geographic distribution of committee members in the Texas House, by committee, to see who's got what clout on what subject. Choose a committee and the map highlights the district of each member and, in a different color, the home districts of the chairs, vice chairs and co-chairs.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

With record heat taking hold, the state of Texas has to balance encouraging conservation to avoid rolling blackouts this summer and assuring residents and businesses that all is well. The Public Utility Commission is also debating how much reserve power the state should keep: the higher the reserve, the lower the chance of rolling blackouts — but the cost to consumers could amount to hundreds of dollars per year.

The Supreme Court's ruling against most of Arizona’s controversial immigration law created some openings for conservatives otherwise disappointed with the outcome. Gov. Perry’s official statement decried the federal government for depriving the states of their sovereign power. But he said later that the ruling bolsters his resolve to pass legislation banning sanctuary cities, something he was unable to accomplish in the last legislative session.

Texas officials who hoped to circumvent Environmental Protection Agency rules on greenhouse gases were handed a defeat this week by an appeals court in Washington. The three-judge panel validated the agency’s authority to use existing federal law to regulate the gases blamed for global warming. Industry groups and several states challenged the regulations in court, protesting that the rules would hurt businesses and ultimately consumers. But their arguments about the science of the rules got no traction with the court. Environmental groups hailed the ruling.

A Supreme Court ruling on mandatory sentences could impact some Texas prisoners. The high court ruled against mandatory life sentences for juveniles under the age of 18 as a violation of the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Texas changed its law in 2009 to prohibit mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for anyone under 17. The one-year age gap allowed 27 people to receive a life without parole sentence. But it’s unclear what the state will do to address the provisions of the ruling. Gov. Rick Perry’s office is working with state legal and justice officials to determine what the state will do with the affected individuals.

Law enforcement officials in the coastal town of Portland are trying to determine whether the shooting of a lesbian couple in a public park was motivated by their relationship. One of the girls was pronounced dead at the scene, and the other was hospitalized for her injuries. Investigators hope she will be able to provide information about the attacker.

Texas A&M announced plans to expand its footprint with the addition of a law school in downtown Fort Worth. The system will pay Texas Wesleyan about $25 million for its law school, which will be renamed the Texas A&M School of Law at Texas Wesleyan University. The proposal still needs to be finalized, but if it is approved in its current form, the handover would happen in June 2013.

A proposed rule requiring more extensive questioning of women seeking abortions has drawn the attention of some Democratic senators. In its original form, the rule was House Bill 1602, which failed to even get out of committee during the 2011 legislative session. Its author, Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, then tried to tack it on to Senate Bill 7 as an amendment on the health reform bill, which did not pass in the session. It’s now being floated as a rule that requires clinics to collect more detailed information about the women it’s serving, including their birth year, race, marital status and level of education. Ten Democratic senators banded together to send a letter of protest to Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs asking him to kill the rule.

Following a call for the El Paso Independent School District to institute stronger internal controls, district trustees are calling for lawmakers to grant stronger investigative powers to the Texas Education Agency. The district has been grappling with former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia’s admission of fraud on state and federal testing, and has been criticized for not having stronger oversight in place. Garcia was investigated by both the internal auditor of the district and the TEA, but the board never saw the auditor’s report — Garcia kept it from them. And the TEA cleared the district in 2010 when it was accused of cheating. Charges against the former superintendent were detailed in the suppressed report.

Councilman Robert Rivera of Arlington has disclosed that he’s been helping the FBI gather evidence against a Grand Prairie man convicted of wire fraud. Halid Amer pleaded guilty for his role in a scheme to defraud banks and was due to be sentenced by a Dallas federal judge. Amer approached Rivera and asked for his help in bribing the judge, who is also Hispanic. Amer has now been charged with public corruption in the attempt, and Rivera testified in federal court this week, revealing that he’s been working undercover with FBI agents seeking to charge Amer in the bribery scheme.

Political People and their Moves

University of Texas at Arlington President Jim Spaniolo announced his retirement after eight years. He will stay on until a search for his replacement has been completed.

The University of Texas at El Paso has selected Cheryl Torsney as its new senior vice provost. Torsney most recently served as interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Jeff Moseley, former head of the Greater Houston Partnership and of Perry's own economic development division, to the Texas Transportation Commission. Moseley was Denton County Judge before joining the state's economic development agency.

The University of Texas at Arlington has announced the appointment of Shakeela J. Hunter, formerly of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as the university’s first director of student financial literacy.

Whitney Brewster is the new executive director of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. She was previously head of Alaska's DMV and held a number of other posts in that state's government. She's a Houston native and starts in early August.

Mark Eidman is joining Ryan Law, where he'll be senior partner in the Austin office of that tax litigation firm. He'll remain as a principal in Dallas-based Ryan LLC, a tax consultancy. Eidman had been with Austin-based Scott Douglas & McConnico. 

J.D. Salinas joins Advent GX as managing partner. He's a former Hidalgo County Judge and most recently was regional administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration.

Jeff Clark is the new executive director of The Wind Coalition. He's been the chief lobster for TechAmerica for more than five years, working a 13-state region that includes Texas.

Theresa Lucas is leaving the Texas Legislative Service after nearly 28 years there. She's been putting up with us for a long time, and we hope she has a very happy retirement.

The week's endorsements include:

• Former Rep. David McQuade Leibowitz for Tina Torres, who faces Philip Cortez in the HD-117 Democratic runoff. The winner will face Rep. John V. Garza, R-San Antonio, in November.

• All of his former opponents endorsed Barry Smitherman for Railroad Commission over his runoff opponent, Greg Parker. Elizabeth Murray-Kolb and Al Lee combined for 28 percent in the first round.

• The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association PAC for Roger Williams in the CD-25 runoff against Wes Riddle.

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, hosted a Dallas fundraiser for Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, who's in a runoff with Donna Campbell in that SD-25 race. Campbell won an endorsement from Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.

• Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, for Jamaal Smith in the HD-137 runoff against Gene Wu. Smith is Ellis' former policy advisor.

• Conservative Republicans of Texas for Stephanie Klick in her HD-91 runoff with Ken Sapp.

• The Texas Farm Bureau's AGFUND threw in with Smitherman for one railroad commission seat and Warren Chisum over Christi Craddick for the other; with Supreme Court Justice David Medina over John Devine in that runoff; and David Dewhurst over Ted Cruz in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

Married last weekend: Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, and Margaret Lleanna Elizondo, a Realtor and public school counselor.