Vol 30, Issue 18 Print Issue

TribLive at the Austin Club featuring State Sen. Tommy Williams and State Rep. Jim Pitts on financial issues facing the 83rd Texas Legislature.
TribLive at the Austin Club featuring State Sen. Tommy Williams and State Rep. Jim Pitts on financial issues facing the 83rd Texas Legislature.

A Well-Timed Budget Note From the Attorney General

Greg Abbott’s letter doesn’t have any new information in it, but the timing takes away what some — probably those further from the budget conversations than closer — saw as a possible solution for the Legislature’s financial logjam.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Most of the legislation filed this session by members of the Texas House never made it out of committee. This new Texas Tribune app tells you the number of bills filed, referred to committee and left, forever, in committee after the deadline passed, and in the House after that deadline passed.

Texas high school students would have new curriculum requirements under legislation unanimously passed by the Senate — but they won't be the ones the House envisioned when it approved its version of the legislation more than a month ago. 

A modernization of Texas’ political disclosure laws could be coming, as the House approved a bill that would strengthen the state's rules on disclosures for political advertisements on radio and television, and add requirements for political ads on social media websites. Another bill that would require lobbyists to disclose the names of lawmakers who pay them using campaign funds for services, including political consulting, is on its way to the governor for a signature or veto.

Small cigarette manufacturers would face new state fees on their sales under a measure that passed the Texas House — a big win for Big Tobacco. The nation’s four largest tobacco companies currently pay more than half a billion dollars to the state every year as part of a 1998 lawsuit settlement. They have for years lobbied for small cigarette manufacturers to face a similar financial penalty.

Groundwater levels in Texas’ major aquifers dropped considerably between 2010 and 2011, as the state's drought intensified, according to a report published recently by the Texas Water Development Board. It showed significant declines in the Ogallala Aquifer, which underlies much of the Panhandle. 

Cheerleaders at an East Texas high school who were told to stop displaying Bible verses on banners at school athletic events can resume such displays, after a state district judge ruled in their favor this week. Officials at Kountze ISD banned the signs after a group threatened to sue; the parents of the cheerleaders sued instead.

Political People and their Moves

State district Judge W.C. “Bud” Kirkendall of Seguin announced he will run for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2014. He’s a Republican, a former district attorney and before that, was a criminal defense lawyer and served as a briefing attorney on the court he now wants to join. He didn’t say which seat he’s interested in; the terms of Judges Cathy Cochran, Paul Womack, and Tom Price all end next year.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed:

Jim Lee of Houston and Ralph Duggins III of Fort Worth to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Lee is president of Ascendant Advisors Group and JHL Capital Holdings. Duggins, who is being reappointed, is a partner at the Cantey Hangar law firm.

• Christopher Huckabee, a Fort Worth architect, to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

• Limestone County Sheriff Dennis Wilson of Groesbeck, to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

• Zebulun Nash of Houston and Douglas Walker of Beach City to the Coastal Water Authority board of directors. Both men are retired, and both worked for ExxonMobil Chemical Co.

• Mike Allen and Claudell Kercheville of Kerrville, and Brian Wright of Center Point to the Upper Guadalupe River Authority. Allen is chairman and CEO of Union State Bank. Kerchevill is retired from Frost Bank in San Antonio. Write is owner of Burn Masters LLC.

Released: Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, arrested and jailed last month for driving while intoxicated. She did 21 days in jail, was ordered pay $4,000 in fines, can’t drive for six months, and faces a hailstorm of calls for her resignation, from the local paper to members of the Legislature. Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford — a former police officer — wants to pull state funding of her public integrity operation unless she quits. He withdrew that effort on one bill but promised to come back around.