Vol 30, Issue 20 Print Issue

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst signs a stack of bills during a recess in the Senate session on May 22, 2013.
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst signs a stack of bills during a recess in the Senate session on May 22, 2013.

Which Votes Will Haunt Texas Lawmakers?

Gov. Rick Perry has until June 16 to sign or veto bills from the legislative session, but political operatives are already combing through the records of the proceedings, looking for votes that might haunt legislators in next year's elections.

After Legislative Session, What's Next for Water?

There is plenty of action still to come on water after the legislative session, starting with a shake-up of the Water Development Board. In addition, all eyes will be on a November referendum asking voters to approve new water funds.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

A housekeeping bill to make administrative improvements to the Texas Ethics Commission forced House lawmakers into a lot of tough votes this week, and they appear headed for a conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate versions. Among the elements is a requirement that Railroad Commissioners resign to run for other offices; that lawmakers report when family members have contracts with government entities; that they post their personal financial disclosures online; and that tax-exempt organizations involved in Texas elections reveal the names of their donors.

After debating the issue for months, lawmakers moved forward with a budget deal this week that includes tapping the Rainy Day Fund for $3.9 billion. That should leave the fund with about $8 billion under current projections, or about $1 billion more than the governor says is needed to buttress the state’s bond ratings.  

Gov. Rick Perry hasn’t yet said whether he’s running for re-election — but Attorney General Greg Abbott doesn't appear to be waiting for him to make up his mind. Abbott is collecting résumés and assembling a gubernatorial campaign team. He’s shaking hands, giving speeches and edging his way onto the covers of small-town newspapers across the state. He also just opened a new campaign headquarters, and he’s building up his grassroots infrastructure online, collecting supporters via email blasts, web petitions and increasingly partisan and vociferous social media messaging. Publicly? He’s quiet, waiting until sometime next month to announce his plans.

The lawyers who’ve been litigating the Texas redistricting cases since 2011 have to be back in court in San Antonio when the session ends next week, helping a panel of three federal judges to figure out what should happen next. The state’s case is still being fought on legal fronts there and in Washington, while the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on a challenge to a key part of the Voting Rights Act that applies to Texas and other states. At stake: The timing and maps to be used in next year’s elections.

A remarkably expensive meeting of a key legislative committee took place this week: a $22,241.03 affair at an upscale downtown Austin steakhouse for the 15-member House Calendars Committee. It required the use of 34 American Express cards, 11 MasterCards and 20 Visa cards. The committee chairman, state Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, said there were about 140 people there, and most of them stayed for dinner. “I can tell you that we had some people there that probably did not have an interest in anything specifically, but wanted to meet people,” Hunter said. “But do people work the calendar? Absolutely.”

Political People and their Moves

State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, first elected in 1994, won't seek another term in 2014. He made the announcement in a personal privilege speech to the House, becoming the second state representative (the first was Mark Strama, D-Austin) to say during the session that this will be his last term.

Cases of the Maybes:

• Former state Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, says he is seriously considering a run for comptroller, based on his assumption the current Comptroller Susan Combs won't be seeking re-election but will be running for lieutenant governor.

• State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, won't say, exactly, that he is running for attorney general, but says he has been visiting some "nice counties" on weekends and that people are whispering in his ear. "We have a sitting attorney general. When he makes a decision on what he wants to do next, I've been encouraged to take a look at it."

Abilene Dr. Austin King, husband of state Rep. Susan King, R-Abilene, is the new president-elect of the Texas Medical Association. Dr. Stephen Brotherton of Fort Worth moves out of that post and into the top job. They’ll each serve for a year.

The Association of Texas Professional Educators named Gary Godsey their new executive director. He is current president and CEO of Kansas City-based PKD Foundation, which does medical research and education. Before that, he headed the United Way in Dallas.