Vol 30, Issue 21 Print Issue

The Never-Ending Story

Politics is fast. Redistricting is slow. A rare set of openings has candidates wrestling for advantage at the same time that redistricting debates are raising some of the same questions that stalled the 2012 primaries.

District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin is shown in his courtroom on Feb. 4, 2013, before he ruled that the state's school finance system was unconstitutional.
District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin is shown in his courtroom on Feb. 4, 2013, before he ruled that the state's school finance system was unconstitutional.

Whatever Became of That School Finance Ruling?

It’s now June, and there is still no final decision in the sweeping lawsuit involving more than two-thirds of Texas school districts that arose after the Legislature eliminated roughly $5.4 billion from state public education funding in 2011.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

With the ink barely dry on the bills passed during the 83rd Legislature's regular session, Gov. Rick Perry  called lawmakers back into an immediate special session to consider redistricting measures for the Legislature and the Texans who serve in the U.S. Congress. For now, the agenda for the 30-day session only includes redistricting, though that could change. 

It was a whirlwind of an end to the 83rd Legislature's regular session: A look at the deals reached and the measures that fell short during the 140 days of the regular session. 

Two senators are hoping the special session that kicked off this week will be an opportunity to create a serious fix for the state’s transportation funding shortfall. Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, and Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, have filed a resolution that would ask voters to approve diverting some of the revenue that traditionally goes to the state’s Rainy Day Fund into the state’s highway fund.

Just as lawmakers finalized plans to spend $2 billion on water-supply projects around the state, a court decision could force Texas to rethink its water-planning process. Last week, Texas’ 11th Court of Appeals ruled that two regional plans feeding into the 2012 state water plan — a 300-page document that underlies the Legislature’s new water initiatives — contained conflicting recommendations.

It’s happened before: The Texas political world is waiting for an announcement of future plans from Gov. Rick Perry. In 2008, he defied expectations and said he would seek another term as governor. Two years ago, he reversed months of denials and said he would, in fact, run for president. Earlier this year, he said he would announce his next move in June. And now it’s June.

Political People and their Moves

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Julia Rathgeber, deputy chief of staff to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, to be the state's new insurance commissioner. She replaces Eleanor Kitzman, who couldn’t win Senate approval. Rathgeber worked at the state's General Land Office, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission and at that agency's successor, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

House Speaker Joe Straus filed papers before the end of the session setting up a run for a fourth term as speaker in 2015.

Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, is the new president pro tempore of the Senate, putting him third in line behind the governor and the lieutenant governor and giving him the keys to government when the other two are out of state. 

Deaths: Ray Barnhart, former chairman of the Republican party of Texas. He was 85.