Vol 30, Issue 16 Print Issue

Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen listens to HB5 debate in House on March 26th, 2013. There are currently 165 amendments to the bill and debate is expected to go well into the night
Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen listens to HB5 debate in House on March 26th, 2013. There are currently 165 amendments to the bill and debate is expected to go well into the night

Charter Bill Brings New Faces to Education Debate

As lawmakers work on charter school legislation, lobbyists better known for their work in other areas have been showing up regularly at education committee hearings.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

The George W. Bush Presidential Center opened at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University this week, with the five living presidents and a crowd of dignitaries on hand to mark the opening of the state’s third presidential library. It’s there to tell Bush’s side of the story, as noted by former President Bill Clinton, who has a library of his own and called this one “the latest, grandest example of the eternal struggle of former presidents to rewrite history.”

Texas senators hammered out a sweeping deal to increase state funding for water and transportation projects and schools, tackling some of the thorniest issues of the legislative session all at once. The senators voted 31-0 to put SJR1 on the ballot, asking Texas voters to approve taking $5.7 billion out of the state’s Rainy Day Fund. Of that amount, $2.9 billion would go to transportation, $2 billion to water infrastructure projects and $800 million to public education. Its prospects in the House are uncertain.

The Texas House killed the state lottery this week, broke for lunch, talked a while, and came back and revived it a couple of hours later. The surprising vote came on the lottery’s Sunset legislation and saw conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats banding together to mark their disapproval of state-run gaming. Putting it back in business will keep the lottery’s $2.2 billion contribution to the state budget flowing.

When Texas promised to protect a threatened lizard in the oil-rich Permian Basin, state officials entrusted the day-to-day oversight to a nonprofit that sounds like an environmental group: the Texas Habitat Conservation Foundation. What’s not advertised is the occupation of the board members who created it. They are all registered lobbyists for the powerful Texas Oil and Gas Association, also known as TXOGA.

Dozens of lawyers signed court filings in support of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, saying she deserves to serve out her full term in spite of going to jail after she was arrested driving drunk earlier this month. At least one of those attorneys suggested Lehmberg would retire at the end of the term, but Lehmberg is serving a 45-day sentence and her lawyer didn’t confirm that to the Austin American-Statesman

Political People and their Moves

Gov. Rick Perry withdrew his nomination of Annette Raggette of Austin to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, after senators raised questions about her family and business ties to Oliver Bell, chairman of that board. He was her boss, and also her brother-in-law.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst rejiggered his communications team, adding Andrew Barlow, who wrote speeches for Gov. Rick Perry and also worked last year for the Craig James for U.S. Senate campaign and Ryan Hecker, who most recently was COO of FreedomWorks. Still on board: Travis Considine, Enrique Marquez and Lauren Thurston. And there is this tidbit, too: Hecker is in line to be campaign manager for Dewhurst’s next campaign, whether he seeks reelection or something else. 

Gov. Rick Perry appointed:

* Milton Lee III of San Antonio to the University of North Texas board of regents. Lee is an engineer and retired CEO of CPS Energy and a graduate of the University of Texas.

Michael Landrum of Houston as judge of the 113th Judicial District Court. He’s an attorney in private practice. 

• James “Richard” Barajas of Fort Worth, Leon Leach of Houston, and Thomas Wheat of Dallas to the Health and Human Services Council. Barajas is an executive at Southwest Bank. Leach is executive vice president of UT’s MD Anderson Cancer Center. Wheat is owner of Pediatric Home Healthcare LLC.

• Raleigh White IV of Temple, a retired plastic surgeon, to the board of the Brazos River Authority. Perry also reappointed six others to that board, including Richard Ball of Mineral Wells, F. LeRoy Bell of Tuscola, Peter Bennis of Fort Worth, Bill Masterson of Guthrie, George “Dave” Scott III of Richmond, and Salvatore Zaccagnino of Caldwell. 

Deaths: Demetrio Rodriguez, the defendant in a landmark school finance lawsuit in Texas — Rodriguez vs. San Antonio School District — that set the stage for later lawsuits to equalize funding from one district to another in Texas. Rodriguez, who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, was 87.