State, Drug Company at Odds Over Pre-Term Birth Therapy

The distributor of a drug designed to prevent pregnant women from delivering premature babies has sued a number of states, and Texas could be next. 

The drug, Makena, which is marketed by St. Louis-based KV Pharmaceutical, is the only version of 17-alpha hydroxyprogesterone caproate, or “17P,” FDA-approved to treat women at high risk of premature delivery. But its high cost — especially compared with an unbranded drug produced by “compounding pharmacies” that customize medications — has prompted some state Medicaid programs to refuse to offer it.

KV, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last summer, has sued state Medicaid officials in Illinois, Georgia and South Carolina to get those states to offer and pay for Makena. (A Georgia judge ruled in the company’s favor; the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services settled its suit.) In September, a federal judge threw out KV’s suit alleging that the FDA had not cracked down on pharmacies that were compounding 17P.

No suit has been filed in Texas — yet. But the company says Texas’ Medicaid policy is unacceptable as written; it approves Makena for poor pregnant women who have had a previous pre-term delivery only if there is no compounding pharmacy within 50 miles of their doctor’s office, and none that will deliver.

“As a practical matter, the vast majority of the population in Texas either has a compounding pharmacy within 50 miles or one across the country that will deliver,” said Scott Goedeke, senior vice president over KV’s commercial arm. “We view that candidly as a de facto barrier to getting Makena. We certainly haven’t seen any Medicaid patients in Texas get Makena.”

State health officials say doctors have safely compounded injectable versions of 17P for years, and that they have not received any complaints from Texas women about the drugs. Asked if the state Health and Human Services Commission was worried about potential litigation from KV, spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman replied, “Should we be worried about the tactics of a company trying to sell a product that has $10 in ingredients for $1,500 a dose?”

KV says it has made a “very fair and compelling supplemental rebate offer,” one that would bring the price to the joint state-federal Texas Medicaid program down to “well below $300” per injection. (A routine course of 17P, which costs just $10 to $15 per injection when produced by a compounding pharmacy, can reach up to 20 injections.)

While an FDA analysis of compounded 17P did not identify any major safety problems, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a memo in June reminding states that they must cover FDA-approved drugs that provide such rebates, and that “approved drug products, such as Makena, provide a greater assurance of safety and effectiveness than do compounded products.”

The company says it has not heard back from Texas since an August in-person meeting with state health officials and a subsequent conference call — despite the news this fall that a national meningitis outbreak was linked to a compounding center.

“We don’t want high-risk pregnant moms to be the next patient group tragically affected by a problem with a compounded drug when an FDA-approved one is sitting on the shelf ready to ship,” Goedeke said.

Goodman said an FDA review "found no safety concerns" in samples of the compounded drug from several sources. Until the FDA takes action to “limit the availability of compounded versions of this drug,” she said, HHSC doesn’t have any plans to change course.

KV has its own history of drug mistakes; in 2008, the company came under fire for producing oversized doses of morphine and other drugs and failing to report some of its errors to the FDA. The company was forced to halt production and lay off much of its staff, and its former chairman and chief executive was banned from working with federal health care programs for two decades.  

In 2011, when KV first put Makena on the market, it priced the drug at $1,500 per injection, a number that sparked public outrage from health providers, elected officials and the March of Dimes. Under pressure, the company cut the price by 55 percent, and offered additional rebates to state Medicaid programs — including Texas.

“We don’t comment on litigation,” Goedeke said, “but our desire and our hope is to work this out in an amicable way.” 

A Show of Strength, Either Way it Goes

Rep. David Simpson and Rep. Joe Straus are running for Speaker of the House.
Rep. David Simpson and Rep. Joe Straus are running for Speaker of the House.

If you go with the prevailing forecasts, Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, is comfortably on his way to a third term as speaker of the Texas House, and the groups outside the Legislature that have been promoting his opposition — Empower Texans and the Texas Eagle Forum, to name a couple of loud ones — could be on their way to a significant write-down of their political power. It could be the moment when Toto pulls the curtain back to reveal the wizard as a regular guy using a small machine to make scary pictures and loud noises and lots of smoke.

In case you got lost in the shopping mall since last week’s installment, here’s the catchup report:

Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, is running for speaker.

Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, dropped his challenge (just a couple of days after telling a reporter he was “in it to win it” after being asked if he was planning to bail). He’s supporting Simpson.

And the speaker is unworried, saying he’s got the votes he needs. He’s also not showing them, which leaves him to take the heat but also gives his supporters cover while they calm local conservatives who’d like to see Straus demoted.

Some of what might have been the opposition is fragmented. Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, who didn’t vote for Straus in 2011, told a group in her district this week that she’s on board with the speaker now.

Phil King, a conservative stalwart, was quoted in the Dallas Morning News questioning whether Simpson has the experience for the job and saying Straus appears to be in a very strong position for reelection. That's made him a target on AgendaWise, a conservative blog that previously held him in high regard.

The right is having a hard time finding something wrong with Straus that isn’t also a problem with people they support. He got elected with Democratic support; so would a challenger unless a bunch of Republicans change their minds. Straus helped balance the budget with accounting tricks. So did the governor and the lieutenant governor.

The speaker says he’s got the votes he needs, though fewer than three dozen members have put their names up for target practice. Simpson supporters say he’s “gathering momentum” — he has the public support of Hughes and himself.

The vote is on January 8.

At Texas Railroad Commission, a Flurry of Rulemaking

Chairman of the Railroad Commission, Barry Smitherman, talks with Evan Smith at TribLive on December 13, 2012.
Chairman of the Railroad Commission, Barry Smitherman, talks with Evan Smith at TribLive on December 13, 2012.

A veritable flurry of rulemaking is under way at the Texas Railroad Commission, involving everything from how oil and gas wells are drilled to the recycling of frack water.

The most immediate of these proposed rules pertain to “well integrity,” which covers the process of drilling a well, placing the pipe in it and cementing everything in place, as well as the hydraulic fracturing process itself. The well integrity proposals are “really big rules,” in the words of Barry Smitherman, the chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission. Their newest version was published this week and set out for public comment until January 2. A final rule should be adopted in the January-February timeframe, Smitherman said.

Scott Anderson, of the Environmental Defense Fund, reacted cautiously to the newest proposed version of the rules.

“For the most part, the revisions seem to do a good job of adequately dealing with industry’s objections without watering down the rule unduly," he said. However, he was still studying some of the changes before forming a complete judgment.

Debbie Hastings, of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, said that the new version appeared to be a “much better rule,” though some parts of it were not sufficiently changed for TXOGA's taste. The association still supports the rule-making process on well integrity, she said.

Among the changes are removal of language specifying that a certain piece of equipment (a “shear ram”) must be used in a blow-out preventer system in populated areas; the drilling industry had worried that “populated areas” was too vague a term. 

Another change: Removal of a sentence that specified that if fracking is to occur through a non-cemented well, the formation to be fracked must be separated from usable water by at least 1,000 feet. The significance of that change is still under discussion.

Other key rules, one of which would make it easier for companies to recycle frack water and another of which would adjust regulations for disposal wells (where post-fracking liquids are stored permanently in the earth), are in the early stages. The commission wants to “try to be pro-active,” Smitherman said, given the likelihood that the oil and gas fields are likely to be producing for a long time.

The frack water recycling rule is “getting very close to being released for additional comment,” Smitherman said. 

Smitherman also said he was focused on the Lesser Prairie Chicken, saying he was “really worried” about its potential classification as a threatened species by the federal government. The prairie chicken inhabits the oil and gas patch in Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Kansas. 

Another “overriding concern,” Smitherman said, was the federal government’s continued regulation of greenhouse gases. “We have to be very concerned about any attempts to unilaterally disarm the Texas economy,” he said.

Asked by the Tribune's Evan Smith whether he would run for attorney general in 2014, Smitherman responded that he had already begun his re-election campaign for railroad commissioner (because he is filling the unexpired term of Michael Williams, he must run for re-election in 2014).

He'll have to explain his job when he runs; at the Tribune event, Smitherman said that during his campaign for Railroad Commission, people were complimentary: "I’ve ridden your railroads, and your people are so friendly."

Newsreel: Simpson for Speaker, Perry Backs Bill

This week in the Texas Weekly Newsreel: State Rep. David Simpson is officially running for House speaker, but some former opponents of current Speaker Joe Straus are now sticking with the incumbent. Gov. Rick Perry and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, meanwhile, are rolling out issues that could dominate the early weeks of the coming legislative session. 

Inside Intelligence: About Those Outside Activists...

Outside activists are influential during legislative sessions, according to most of our insiders, with 62 percent saying those third parties are somewhat influential and 19 percent saying they are very influential.

But not on everything.

Only 25 percent said the outsiders will have any effect on the race for speaker (the election for which will be on the first day of the legislative session in January), and only 29 percent said third parties will have any effect on efforts to change the Senate’s rules at the beginning of the session.

The insiders had a lot to say, though, and a full set of their verbatim comments is attached. A sampling follows:


How influential do you think outside activists will be during the 2013 legislative session?

• "They will make a great deal of noise but accomplish very little."

• "Because there are so many statewide elected officials positioning themselves for the upcoming 2014 elections, I expect they will be one-upping each other constantly on their pandering to outside activists."

• "Are lobbyists counted in this group?"

• "Some members can still be swayed by these outside groups representing a small, but vocal, portion of their districts on many of the 'hot' button primary election issues."

• "Degree of influence depends on issues and activists:  Pro-Life lobby?  Some.  Environmental Activists?  Less than none."

• "I think they hit their high-water mark last time around.  I say neutral because they'll be less influential on the House side, slightly more so on the Senate side."

• "No more or less than before."

• "Lots squawkin' from all sides of grassroots to no real effect.  Wait, are lobbyists considered outside activists?"

• "The freshmen will help us within--so that we'll be more influential."

• "When you had lawmakers ceding the legislative process to trial lawyers and businessmen last session, this cherry got popped."


Will outside activists have any effect on the race for speaker?

• "Yes.  They will make the halls on opening day even more crowded.  Other than that, none!"

• "It would be unanimous for Straus without outside agitation; as it is, he will win comfortably"

• "They will definitely cause a lot of noise and needless chatter, but no real impact on the actual outcome."

• "No one is paying attention to the Speaker's Race but the press, and lawmakers know it."

• "He will huff and oh my will he puff, but Michael Quinn Sullivan will not blow the House down."

• "Miller, Landtroop, B Keffer, Christian, Beck and a few others are not back for a reason."

• "Anyone who has served more than one term in the House knows that the members pick their Speaker. At least so far, outsiders just end up making members mad."

• "They will help drive rhetoric but probably won't impact outcome.... Straus wins going away!  This isn't a real race.  The spotlight won't help Simpson at all."

• "The minute Hughes got out and it became Chamber of Commerce R vs. Tea Party R, the race was over."

• "They had a chance to drive the media circus for a while until yesterday.  There was never a chance to elect someone other than Joe Straus. Hughes brain: This isn't going so well for me. Maybe I should bow out and let David Simpson make a fool of himself instead."


Will outside activists have any effect on efforts to change Senate rules?

• "The 2/3 rule protects rural Texas and the members who represent those good people won't lose sight of that fact."

• "They reached their high water mark when efforts were made to overturn the 2/3rds rule."

• "After his most recent electoral debacle, the Lt. Gov now sees conservative pitfalls around every corner.  This presents numerous opportunities for the Tea Party to gain ground in the Senate."

• "Given Dewhurst's craven need to re-ingratiate himself with those who've rejected him, this is the one spot where this angle might work."

• "Before the Rs get all jiggy with changing the 2/3 rule, they better look out to sea and see the demographic wave coming.  That rule worked to their benefit for decades; it will yet again."

• "Fear of activists is the only factor driving this proposed change, which almost all Senators privately oppose.   It will almost certainly fail."

• "The Lite Guv, trying to become a true conservative (haha), will be the one leading the charge to change the rules."

• "Debate over U.S. and Texas Senates rules are interesting to watch.  Dems trying to limit debate in Congress and Repubs trying to limit in TX."

• "I'm not hearing as much about the rules as I have in the past."

• "Who cares? Republicans ignore the rules when they feel like it."

Are there particular issues or votes where outside activists have significant influence on lawmakers, and if so, who has the most influence?

• "Teachers"

• "Vouchers and taxes - tea party"

• "Probably no tax increases."

• "Primary hot button issues...a lot of which are social or pocketbook."

• "It really varies, doesn't it? Sometimes it's just the money talking, and then other times a moral position, consumer experience or local perspective captures lawmakers' imaginations and ends up winning the day."

• "The influence of outside activists is primarily isolated to social issues."

• "Education reforms. More anti-abortion legislation."

• "Although waning, the influence of the xenophobes (there are other, less charitable appellations, one supposes) is likely to remain a factor when it comes to issues relating to those pesky brown people."

• "Social issues.  Far right has the most influence."

• "Advocates on gun rights, schools, life and tort reform will continue to have significant influence on lawmakers.  All of these are equally hot."

• "Yes.  Tea Party Activists and Trial lawyers."

• "New taxes.  Taxpayers."

• "Tort Reform--TLR."

• "‘Hot button' Republican primary issues--such as vouchers, women's issues, immigration issues."

• "Guns. The National Rifle Association has made this the issue that dare not speak its name."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Cathie Adams, Brandon Aghamalian, Jenny Aghamalian, Jennifer Ahrens, Victor Alcorta, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, David Anthony, Jay Arnold, Charles Bailey, Walt Baum, Dave Beckwith, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Hugh Brady, Steve Bresnen, Chris Britton, David Cabrales, Kerry Cammack, Marc Campos, Thure Cannon, Snapper Carr, William Chapman, Elna Christopher, James Clark, Harold Cook, Beth Cubriel, Randy Cubriel, Denise Davis, Hector De Leon, June Deadrick, Nora Del Bosque, Tom Duffy, Scott Dunaway, David Dunn, Jeff Eller, Jack Erskine, John Esparza, Tom Forbes, Wil Galloway, Neftali Garcia, Norman Garza, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Kinnan Golemon, John Greytok, Jack Gullahorn, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Adam Haynes, Ken Hodges, Billy Howe, Laura Huffman, Shanna Igo, Deborah Ingersoll, Richie Jackson, Cal Jillson, Bill Jones, Mark Jones, Robert Jones, Lisa Kaufman, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Pete Laney, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Leslie Lemon, Myra Leo, Ruben Longoria, Homero Lucero, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Luke Marchant, Phillip Martin, Bryan Mayes, Scott McCown, Mike McKinney, Robert Miller, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Steve Murdock, Craig Murphy, Pat Nugent, Sylvia Nugent, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Robert Peeler, Bill Pewitt, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Richard Pineda, Allen Place, Kraege Polan, Gary Polland, Jay Propes, Bill Ratliff, Patrick Reinhart, Jeff Rotkoff, Jason Sabo, Andy Sansom, Jim Sartwelle, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Robert Scott, Steve Scurlock, Bradford Shields, Jason Skaggs, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Larry Soward, Dennis Speight, Jason Stanford, Bill Stevens, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Sherry Sylvester, Jay Thompson, Russ Tidwell, Trey Trainor, Ware Wendell, Ken Whalen, Darren Whitehurst, Woody Widrow, Seth Winick, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Tuesday, Dec. 18:

  • Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing (10 a.m.)
  • Senate Transportation Committee hearing (9 a.m.)
  • Interim House Manufacturing Committee hearing (1 p.m.)

Thursday, Dec. 20:

  • House Appropriations Committee hearing (2 p.m.)

Guest Column: Pleasing Some Lawmakers Some of the Time

Mark P. Jones
Mark P. Jones

The start of Texas’s biennial regular legislative session is only a few weeks away. In spite of being assailed from the left and right, or perhaps because these attacks come from both flanks, there is little doubt Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, will be re-elected in January.

Straus has been criticized from the left for not continuing his 2009 arrangement with Democrats under which they exercised a profound amount of influence over the legislative process. Instead, in 2011 Straus ran the House as a partisan Republican, pursuing a legislative agenda more in-line with the policy preferences of the members of the GOP’s moderate and centrist wings than with those of Democrats. However, for Straus’s detractors on the right, the speaker’s 2011 policy agenda was still notably to the left of their ideal position in many salient areas.


The three figures presented here for the 2003, 2009 and 2011 legislative sessions provide a partial explanation for these critiques as well as for why Straus will be re-elected in January. In each figure, the x-axis locates the representatives from left to right on the liberal-conservative dimension along which most voting takes place in the Texas House. It is crucial to keep in mind that just because a Republican representative is in the moderate wing of the party does not mean the representative is not a conservative; it simply signifies that he/she is less conservative than a majority of his/her colleagues. Every single Republican representative in 2011 was more conservative than the most conservative Democrat. The y-axis provides the proportion of final passage votes (FPVs) where the representative (Democrats identified by blue bars and Republicans by red) voted and was on the winning side, referred to in the figures as the FPV win rate.


One reason Straus is taking heat from both ends of the political spectrum is that the House under his leadership in 2011 was neither the House of 2009 where Democrats played a prominent role in shaping the legislative agenda, nor the House of 2003 where the Republican delegation under the firm — too firm for some —leadership of Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, used the full weight of its majority to pursue an ideological and partisan agenda, generally riding roughshod over the House’s Democratic minority.


Texas Democrats would like to return to the 2009 scheme under which they enjoyed the power of negative agenda control. As a result of this power granted to the Democrats by Straus in exchange for their support for his effort to unseat then-Speaker Craddick, and in recognition of the slim 76-74 Republican majority, the Democrats were able to insure that virtually no legislation reached the House floor for a vote which was not favored by a majority of Democrats.

In 2009 the Democrats’ roll rate (the percentage of votes where the majority of their representatives were on the losing side of a final passage vote) was a mere 3 percent. The roll rate for Republicans in 2009 was 32 percent.

In a similar vein, the average representative FPV win rate for Democrats in 2009 was 95 percent, significantly higher than the mean FPV win rate for Republicans in 2009 (65 percent). Furthermore, the 2009 FPV win rates of Democrats varied little as one moved from the right to the left, with the mean FPV win rate for the most liberal quintile of Democratic representatives (94 percent) scarcely different from that of the most conservative quintile (96 percent). In contrast, the least conservative quintile of Republican legislators had a mean FPV win rate (78 percent) that was significantly higher than that of the party’s most conservative quintile (50 percent).

If his critics on the left would like to return to their 2009 arrangement with Straus, many Straus critics on the right long for the halcyon days of 2003. In 2003, the Republican Party FPV roll rate was a mere 4 percent, while the Democratic Party’s was 47 percent. By the same token, the mean Republican representative FPV win rate in 2003 was 91 percent, substantially higher than that of the mean Democratic representative (53 percent).

In the 2011 House, Democrats no longer enjoyed the power of tacit negative agenda control (as in 2009), but neither did the speaker pursue a purely partisan conservative ideological agenda (as in 2003) where a unified Republican delegation consistently steam-rolled the minority Democrats. In 2011, the party FPV roll rates were roughly equal (18 percent for Democrats and 19 percent for Republicans), while the mean FPV win rates of the Democratic (78 percent) and Republican (82 percent) representatives also were very comparable.

In 2009, even the most successful bloc of Republican representatives had a lower average win rate than the least successful group of Democrats. In sharp contrast, in 2011, three quintiles of Republican representatives (the least conservative, second least conservative, and middle) had higher win rates than the most successful Democratic quintile. And, while in 2009 only six Republicans had higher win rates than the least successful Democrat, in 2011, 35 Republicans had  higher win rates than the most successful Democrat.

At the same time, in 2011 the most conservative bloc of Republican representatives had a lower win rate than any of the Democratic groups, including the most liberal Democratic quintile. Compare 2003, when the mean FPV win rate of the most conservative quintile of GOP representatives was substantially higher than that of the most liberal and most conservative quintiles of Democratic representatives.

It is unsurprising that in 2011 the highest FPV win rates were found among the representatives located within the two least conservative quintiles of the GOP Texas House delegation. Analysis of Speaker Straus’s roll call vote behavior, before he became speaker and ceased to regularly cast votes, indicates this is the general area along the liberal-conservative ideological spectrum where Straus is himself located. It is furthermore very likely that the ideological tenor and policy content of the 2013 House will be quite similar to 2011, with the locus of power located in the GOP’s moderate conservative and centrist conservative wings.

While virtually all Democrats would prefer to return to their 2009 arrangement with Speaker Straus, a repeat of 2011 is far more desirable from their standpoint than something approximating 2003, as would likely be the case under the speakership of a very conservative Republican like David Simpson, R-Longview (who filed papers signaling a challenge to Straus). Similarly, while a majority of the GOP’s most conservative representatives would prefer a more conservative speaker and a House which in process and policy, though perhaps not in leadership style, more closely mirrored that of 2003, for them, a repeat of 2011 is preferable to a return to the de facto Straus-Democrat alliance of 2009.

Over the next few weeks we can expect to hear some Democrats bemoan that Straus has marginalized them and some Republicans complain that Straus is insufficiently conservative. Nevertheless, Democrats prefer life under Straus to life under a much more conservative Republican speaker. And, even the most conservative Republicans prefer a speaker who governs from the Republican center relatively unfettered to one who is forced to share power with Democrats in exchange for their backing. As a result, it should come as a surprise to no one when Speaker Straus is re-elected in January by his peers to lead the Texas House of Representatives for a third term.

Mark P. Jones is the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy’s Fellow in Political Science and the chairman of the Department of Political Science at Rice University.


The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Bill Gimson, executive director of the embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, has submitted his resignation, which will take effect Jan. 17. The agency had been embroiled in controversy over its granting of $11 million to a Dallas company without sufficient scientific review, and is now facing an investigation by the attorney general’s office. Officials will try to determine whether any of the agency’s staff members benefited financially from the award to Peloton Therapeutics.

In the latest round of Race to the Top grants doled out by the federal government, two Texas charter schools were winners. IDEA Public Schools and Harmony Science Academy are both now eligible to receive almost $30 million in grants. Both schools were able to show concrete plans to improve student performance based on specific programs, including professional development for their staff and community engagement programs. Several other individual school districts applied for the money, but the state as a whole declined to participate.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women in Texas earned 84.8 cents on the dollar compared with their male counterparts in 2011, putting Texas women above the national average of 82.2 cents. But the figure dropped from its high of 85.6 in 2010. The percentage had been trending upward since 1997 before its slight drop this year.

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, outlined his priorities for the upcoming session in an interview with The Associated Press and stressed his commitment to restoring funding to public education. While he stopped short of promising to reverse funding cuts suffered by school districts in the last session — to the tune of $5.4 billion — he repeated his resolve to fund population growth in schools, which is estimated to cost the state about $2 billion. Straus pointed out that the state’s economy is much stronger than it was two years ago, giving lawmakers options for funding that weren’t available then.

A lawsuit against the Keystone XL pipeline forced a temporary halt of its construction, which was then temporarily lifted on Thursday. Landowner Michael Bishop sued to stop the building of the pipeline, after what he claimed was a mischaracterization of the pipeline’s intended contents. The suit alleges that crude oil was what landowners were sold on, but TransCanada, the owner of the pipeline, intends to ship tar sands oil through the structure. Bishop and other concerned landowners whose property would be affected in the event of a leak contend that the substance would contaminate their property.

A New York Times article detailing the extent of subsidies for business provided fodder for discussion between legislators and business leaders about how much is too much. Committees held hearings this week in light of allegations that dollars spent on tax incentives or subsidies for manufacturing don’t provide enough benefits to the state to justify the cost. Texas reportedly hands out more than $19 billion in economic development funds to businesses, outpacing every other state. Officials pointed to the need for transparency and accountability when the funds are awarded.

Against the backdrop of a business incentives debate, the city of San Antonio and the Brooks Development Authority continued their negotiations with Nexolon America, hoping to ink a deal that will bring a solar panel manufacturing facility to Brooks City-Base. The company has committed to bringing its U.S. headquarters to San Antonio and providing solar power to the municipal utility for 25 years, but is still negotiating its physical location. City officials have differing opinions on the incentives being offered, depending on how close they are to the proposed location.

El Paso school board members didn’t like the latest development in the cheating scandal that’s been overshadowing their district for more than two years. Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams appointed a conservator to manage the board’s actions and overrule the members if she thinks it’s necessary. Meanwhile, Williams will get approval from the Department of Justice for a board of managers to oversee the district. The cheating scandal led to the resignation and conviction of former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia, and public confidence in the school district’s operations eroded. Trustees were accused of poor oversight in the ensuing fallout from the scandal, which involved administrators from many El Paso schools.

Texas’ petition to secede from the U.S. has yet to receive a response from the Obama administration. Creators of the petition posted it on the We the People website, which the administration set up for the public to use with the promise that it would respond to petitions that gathered more than 25,000 signatures. Texas hit that threshold four weeks ago and is up to almost 120,000. It’s unclear when a response will be issued.

Political People and their Moves

Former Rep. Rick Noriega won’t run for Mario Gallegos’ Senate seat, leaving that race to former Harris County Commissioner, Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and Republican R.W. Bray, who lost to the late Gallegos in the November election. And to anyone else who wants to jump in before the filing deadline. “The time is not right to take on this race, and the fundraising needed, for the Noriega family,” he said in a speech written for delivery at an SEIU state meeting. Gov. Rick Perry chose a Saturday election for that open seat, setting January 26 as the date. Candidates have until closing time on December 27 to file.

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas announced the appointment of Dr. Margaret L. Kripke as the agency's chief scientific officer. Kripke, formerly of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, will oversee the agency's research portfolio.

Check the interesting language in the announcement of new management at the Employee Retirement System. That agency says Paula Jones, its general counsel and chief compliance officer, will be acting executive director “during the entirety of Ann’s temporary leave of absence.” The Ann in that sentence is Ann Bishop, who is serving as Gov. Rick Perry’s chief of staff. Temporarily, apparently. 

Buddy Garcia, who left the Texas Railroad Commission earlier this month, leaving government after 22 years, announced his entry into the lobby. He’ll hang a shingle of his own and partner with Eric Wright, Eric Woomer and Gregg Knaupe on some business.

Meanwhile, Garcia’s early exit made way for Christi Craddick’s early entry. Craddick, who won a term in last month’s election, is taking office a couple of weeks early, appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to fill what’s left of the term.

Austin adman David Weeks sold his political and corporate advertising and public affairs firm,  Weeks&Co., to R&R Partners, based in Las Vegas. Both he and Suzanne Hofmann Erickson will continue with the buyers, running the Austin offices for R&R.

Emily Fourmy Cutrer has been named sole finalist for the position of president of Texas A&M University-Texarkana. Cutrer is currently the provost and vice president for academic affairs at California State University San Marcos.

W. Bradley Parker of Fort Worth is the new president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. And the new president elect is Michael Guajardo of Dallas. They’re both Texas Tech law school grads.

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Robert Moore of Bryan and Ronald Poynter of McKinney to the Texas Commission on Fire Protection. Moore is director of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service Emergency Services Training Institute. Poynter is a regional sales manager at Sklar Instruments.

Quotes of the Week

AgendaWise, as far as I know, is some guy at a computer [with] kind of a caustic approach to politics which I reject and always have. 

House Speaker Joe Straus in response to the efforts of some conservative groups, like AgendaWise, to unseat him as speaker

We thank Speaker Straus for the plug, and are proud to have him as a reader. He should know, however, we don't just have computers. We have cell phones and a printer, too.

AgendaWise Texas writer Weston Hicks in response to Straus

Let me be clear. My goal and the goal of many of those joining me here today is to make abortion at any stage a thing of the past. 

Gov. Rick Perry at a press conference announcing his support for a measure that would ban abortions in Texas after the 20th week

Maybe I should have run right away after the lieutenant governor took over as governor, maybe I should have just run right then. But I thought, for the unity of the party… 

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to WFAA on her regrets about challenging Gov. Rick Perry in 2010

Crazy things will happen in the world, and politicians will do dumb things. Bad things will continue to happen, but on balance, I think the world is headed in the right direction. 

Former President Bill Clinton during his keynote address at the Dell World technology conference