Vol 30, Issue 17 Print Issue

A Waiting Game for UT's Regents

As time runs out on the legislative session, little action has occurred regarding the much-hyped "micromanagement" by University of Texas System regents. Meanwhile, other regent-watching groups are dealing with internal troubles.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

With about a month remaining in the legislative session, Gov. Rick Perry met with the Texas House GOP Caucus and talked to reporters about his support for a bill that would draw $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for water infrastructure needs. He said it was too early for talk of a special session and said the water bill was needed and was “one of the ways” to move the issue forward. Later in the day, the bill failed, leaving lawmakers to look for other ways to solve the problem.

The Texas Constitution prohibits government entities from recognizing domestic partnerships and offering those couples insurance benefits, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote in an opinion on Monday. He was asked about such benefits in places like Pflugerville, El Paso, Austin and Fort Worth.

The Texas Association of Businesses — a heavyweight in conservative lobbying circles — endorsed state Rep. John Zerwas’ proposal to negotiate with the federal government to find a palatable way to expand health insurance coverage to low-income adults. Gov. Rick Perry has said repeatedly that he is against expanding Medicaid in Texas.

Sixteen states haven't decided whether to expand their Medicaid programs, according to the Washington Post. That paper counts 20 states and the District of Columbia in the Expand category, Texas and 13 other states in the Decline column and the rest in something other than a final position on the issue. The Affordable Care Act — Obamacare, in the vernacular — is supposed to enroll millions of people on October 1. 

Plentiful state revenue and the short-lived death of the Texas Lottery last week probably spell the end of any chances for expanded gambling during the current legislative session. Promoters have been trying to legalize slot machines and casinos for years, but doing so would require a supermajority in both houses of the Legislature, and the appetite for new games seems pretty small.

The embattled district attorney of Travis County, Rosemary Lehmberg, apologized Saturday in an open letter to her constituents — and insisted she hopes to complete her term in office. The prosecutor in charge of public integrity cases for state officials is serving a jail sentence after she was arrested driving drunk.

Political People and their Moves

Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina fired up a website that can scoop up small donations for a run for statewide office. It doesn’t say this online, but in an interview she said she is still looking at a race for comptroller of public accounts. That could be a crowded race if enough of the tire-kickers decide to bid. At various times, that list has included Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy; Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville; former Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, among others, and — don’t forget — the incumbent, Republican Susan Combs. Her speculation about running for lieutenant governor has spurred some of this.

Ed Espinoza takes over as executive director of Progress Texas, replacing Matt Glazer, who started it.

Phil Adams of Bryan is the new chairman of the board of regents at the Texas A&M University System, and that board elected Cliff Thomas of Victoria as vice chairman. Adams owns and operates an eponymous insurance company. Thomas owns an oil company and a chain of convenience stores.

It is apparently the high season for appointments, and Gov. Rick Perry has been busy, naming:

Veronica Edwards of San Antonio, founder and CEO of InGenesis, to the Texas Lottery Commission.

• Former Rep. Glenn Lewis of Fort Worth, Sarah Money-Arnoni of Houston and Erik Salwen of Houston to the Texas Southern University board of regents. Lewis is a partner at Linebarger, Goggan, Blair and Sampson. Monty-Arnoni is a partner at Monty and Ramirez LLP. Salwen is director of a counseling program at the Dallas Theological Seminary’s Houston campus.

Eric Gambrell of Highland Park, R. Terrell McCombs of San Antonio, and Thomas Wingate of Mission to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice. Gambrell is a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld. McCombs is a partner at GC Barnes Group. Wingate is an attorney and a former state district judge.

Joseph Slovacek of Houston to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. He is a senior partner at Hoover Slovacek LLP. The governor tapped John Walker III of Houston, a trucking company exec and a rancher, to chair that board.

Dallas Barrington of Silsbee, an assistant Hardin County district attorney, to the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board.

Billy Atkinson Jr. of Sugar Land to chair the Texas Public Finance Authority and named Gerald Alley of Arlington, Walker Moody of Houston and Ruth Corry Schiermeyer of Lubbock to that panel. Atkinson is a CPA. Alley is president of Con-Real Support Group. Moody is a partner at Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. Schiermeyer is an agent with MassMutual Southwest.

Daniel Wong of Missouri City to chair the Texas Board of Professional Engineers and named Sina Nejad of Beaumont and Kyle Womack of Horseshoe Bay to that panel. All three are engineers.

• Adrian Arriaga of McAllen, Chart Westcott of Dallas and Avis Wukasch of Georgetown to the Texas Real Estate Commission. Arriaga is owner of AAA Real Estate and Investments. Westcott is a lawyer and chairman of the Westcott Foundation. Wukasch is a broker at Keller Williams in Round Rock.

• Cattle rancher Jason Peeler of Floresville to the Evergreen Underground Water Conservation District.

• Sharon Newcomer of Orange to the Sabine River Authority board. She is a former educator.

Troy Allen of Edcouch, Dario “D.V.” Guerra Jr. and Sonny Hinojosa of Edinburg, Sonia Lambert of San Benito, Lance Neuhaus and Frank “Jo Jo” White of Mercedes, and Joe Pennington of Raymondville to the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority. Allen is general manager of the Delta Lake Irrigation District. Guerra is a retired rancher. Hinojosa is general manager of Hidalgo County irrigation District No. 2. Lambert is general manger of Cameron County Irrigation District No. 2. Neuhaus is president of Neuhaus and Co. Pennington is owner and manager of Pennington Farms. White is general manager of Irrigation District No. 9 for Hidalgo and Cameron counties.

They’re renaming a dorm at Texas A&M-Kingsville for Eduardo and Josefa Lucio, the parents of Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and the grandparents of Rep. Eddie Lucio III.