Vol 29, Issue 41 Print Issue

Pete Gallego and Francisco "Quico" Canseco.
Pete Gallego and Francisco "Quico" Canseco.

More Than $5 Million In Outside Money In CD-23

Voters in Congressional District 23 are getting a taste of what folks in swing states are seeing in the presidential contest: a real nailbiter of a race. Each side claims it's winning, but the amount of money and the tenor of the attack ads suggest the race is a tossup.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

A district court in Austin this week was the scene of opening arguments in the lawsuit challenging the state's school finance system. School districts banded together to sue the state for cutting funding in the last legislative session while raising standards districts say strain their resources. State attorneys blamed the districts' woes on bad decisions made at the local level. A charter school group that joined the lawsuit accuses the state of inadequately funding public education, but also has its own goals of eliminating the state’s cap on charters and gaining facilities funding. And a sixth group, Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, wants to do away with what it calls the monopoly the state has on education and the resulting inefficiencies and unfairness. The trial is expected to last until January.

So far this year, early voting appears to be more popular than ever with Texans. Both Harris and Bexar County reported marked increases in the number of people who turned up on the first day of early voting. Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart reported a 20 percent increase in first-day totals over 2008. Bexar County’s total outpaced the 2008 first-day turnout, and Tarrant County also shattered its first-day record. Officials speculated that voters were opting for convenience ahead of Election Day, when they would be required to find their specific precinct’s location. Early voting runs through Nov. 2.

Texas’ controversial voter ID law has spurred an international group to send observers to the Lone Star State on Election Day. But Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is not rolling out the red carpet for them, warning the U.N.-affiliated Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that its observers would be required to maintain a distance of 100 feet from the entrance to a polling place. The group earlier this year met with organizations in Texas that are concerned about the effect voter ID could have on minority voting, though the Texas law is currently on hold in court.

A group advocating the separation of church and state is protesting the message on the marquee of a church in Leakey. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a national watchdog group, complained to the IRS about the sign, which reads “Vote for the Mormon, not the Muslim.” Churches are exempt from taxes, but as a result are required not to advocate for any particular candidate. Ray Miller, who was responsible for the sign, did not respond to questions from the press, although he said it was his idea because of his strong feelings about the upcoming election.

The Teachers Retirement System announced that it’s investing $200 million in Delta Topco Limited, a holding company for the Formula One Group. The stake gives the teachers group a 3 percent stake in the fortunes of the company, although it’s only 0.18 percent of the TRS portfolio. A statement from TRS clarified that the investment is with Formula One and is not connected to any particular facility, such as the one in Austin where a race is scheduled next month.

As issues with refineries and gas supplies ease, AAA reports the price of gas has dropped substantially since the end of the summer driving season. The national average tumbled 12 cents in one week, although other parts of the country felt more relief, as the average price in Houston dropped about 8 cents. AAA predicts that falling prices will be a trend through Thanksgiving.

Texas continues to collect increasing amounts of sales tax. For the 30th month in a row, collections of the tax were up, and the state is on track to collect over $24 billion this year, which will set a revenue record.

Political People and their Moves

Rep. Jim Murphy, R- Houston, will serve as chairman of the new House Interim Committee on Manufacturing, and Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, will be vice chairman. The committee was formed by House Speaker Joe Straus to "recommend ways that the Legislature can strengthen the manufacturing sector in Texas."

Bill White, the former chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, former Democratic candidate for governor and former Houston mayor, took to the Letters to the Editor section of the Houston Chronicle to tell readers to split their tickets. He wants the Republicans to cross over and vote for Democratic Sheriff Adrian Garcia and wants Democrats to cross over to vote for Republican Mike Anderson, who’s running for district attorney.

The Railroad Commission has named Gil Bujano as the director of the commission’s Oil and Gas Division. Bujano has been serving as the acting Oil and Gas Division director since March and is a 28-year veteran of the Commission.

The University of Texas System Board of Regents has named Giuseppe N. Colasurdo president of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Colasurdo has served as the interim president since last year.

Linda T. Hummel has been named president of the Employer Group Division for Humana Inc. in Texas. Hummel has been with Humana for 22 years.