Vol 29, Issue 46 Print Issue

State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, delivers a personal privilege speech at the end of the House session on June 29, 2011.
State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, delivers a personal privilege speech at the end of the House session on June 29, 2011.

Speaker Race: Simpson Praying, Hughes Staying

House Speaker Joe Straus has the votes to win reelection, according to his loyalists. But he's got a declared opponent and another in the wings, and they've got a month to work with.

Tax Incentives Could Prove Divisive For GOP

Republican leaders like to say government should just get out of the way and let the private sector do work its unfettered magic. But during the session, they may have a hard time squaring their stated philosophy with their support for tax giveaways to private industry.

Bill Hammond is the CEO of the Texas Association of Business.
Bill Hammond is the CEO of the Texas Association of Business.

Guest Column: Dropout Rates Too Good to Be True?

If the new graduation numbers released by the U.S. Department of Education are correct — that 86 percent of Texas students graduated high school in four years in the 2010-2011 school year — we all certainly have something to celebrate. But they're probably not correct.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Former President George W. Bush urged the nation’s leaders to debate immigration reform with compassion and kindness. In a brief appearance at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Bush did not advocate for a specific solution. But his statements indicated he supports policies similar to those he championed during his presidency, when immigration reform was last debated in Congress.

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced that he will strip the trustees of the El Paso Independent School District of their authority and that he is appointing a five-member board of managers to oversee the district for up to two years, including state Rep. Dee Margo, R-El Paso, who will leave office in January; TEA Monitor Judy Castleberry; El Paso's chief financial officer, Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria; and Public Service Board CEO Ed Archuleta. A fifth appointment will come from a list of suggestions provided by state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso.

University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced a major plan to consolidate its existing institutions in the Rio Grande Valley to create a new university that he referred to as the “University for the Americas in the Rio Grande Valley.” UT’s board of regents unanimously supported the idea. 

FreedomWorks and Dick Armey have split the sheets. The former U.S. House Majority Leader from Texas is leaving the Washington-based group that fashioned itself as an institutional arm of the Tea Party. Armey split with management — he didn’t detail the reasons — and several other top employees left in his wake. 

In spite of some warning signs, Comptroller Susan Combs issued a report this week saying the state’s employee and teacher pension funds are in “pretty doggone good shape.” She stopped short of joining calls for converting one or both plans from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans that are more dependent on investment outcomes. 

A new federal courthouse opened in downtown Austin this week, closer to the partying part of town than to the Capitol and most other government buildings. It was a federal stimulus project, built for $123 million. 

Political People and their Moves

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed J. Bruce Bugg Jr. of San Antonio as president and chairman of the Texas Economic Development Corp. Bugg is chairman and CEO of several companies, including Southwest Bancshares Inc. He also chairs the Bank of San Antonio.

Perry also appointed Michael K. “Mike” Griffiths of Austin and June Scogin of Cedar Park to the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board. Griffiths is executive director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, and Scogin is a former consultant for G4S Youth Services LLC and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

Perry appointed Michael Willson of Midland to the 11 Court of Appeals. Willson is a shareholder and vice president of a law firm, Cotton, Bledsoe, Tighe and Dawson.

With his successor, Christi Craddick, elected last month, Railroad Commissioner Buddy Garcia resigned this week. Garcia was appointed in April after Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones resigned to concentrate on a Texas Senate bid. 

Assembled under the new shingle “Texas Legislative Associates”: Former Reps. Kent Grusendorf and Bill Keffer, and lobbyists Brad Shields, Brad Shields II and Stephanie Gibson. Noble Strategic Partners, a public relations firm, is also in the fold.

Brandon Harris is the new chief information officer at the Texas Railroad Commission. He was most recently with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Deaths: Former U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks, D-Beaumont, a labor and LBJ ally swept out of office by the Republican surge in 1994. He was elected to the Texas House in 1946 and to Congress four years later. Brooks was 89.

Hilmar Moore, the mayor of Richmond from 1949, when he was appointed to fill an unexpired term, until this death this week at age 92.