Vol 30, Issue 22 Print Issue

State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas,l, and State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, shake hands upon convening the Joint Committee on Higher Education Oversight on March 19, 2013.
State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas,l, and State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, shake hands upon convening the Joint Committee on Higher Education Oversight on March 19, 2013.

Feint Disguised as a Special Higher Ed Oversight Committee

For higher education followers, one of the great lingering mysteries of the 83rd session is the fate of a special committee that was formed to examine governance issues at the University of Texas System.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

What was supposed to be a quick special session on redistricting slowed considerably when lawmakers — prompted by a hearing in federal court — decided to hold public hearings around the state on the interim political maps drawn by the courts for the 2012 elections. The governor asked lawmakers to ratify those maps — to adopt them as the state’s own — but many lawmakers want to tweak the lines. 

The Texas House and Senate are in special session, but have recessed until June 12 and June 17, respectively. But the 181 members of the two bodies are still eligible to collect $150 for every day of the session, whether they’re working or not. They are not required to collect it, but if each takes what is coming, it would total $27,150 per day or $814,500 for the special session.

The judge in the school finance case against the state agreed to hear more testimony. He’ll give lawyers a chance to say whether any of the Legislature’s actions during the session changed public education policy enough to affect his ruling in the case. Judge John Dietz issued a bench ruling in February, saying the state’s system of finance for public schools was inadequate, inequitable and forced local schools into a de facto state property tax rate. His written ruling is pending.

The Texas Department of Transportation has signed a deal to outsource most of its information technology operations to a private firm, a move that will impact hundreds of state employees. The agency announced this week that it would transfer most of its IT functions to NTT DATA, a Japanese firm which has its North American headquarters in Plano. 

With the regular legislative session over and the deadline for the governor’s vetoes approaching, speculation about Rick Perry’s political future is picking up. Aides say he hasn’t said one way or another what he’ll do, and some of the people who have worked for past campaigns say the team could come together quickly for a race. 

State employees got 3 percent raises in the state budget (some agency chiefs did much better), but state troopers will get 10 percent raises if the governor signs the budget that is awaiting his approval.

Political People and their Moves

Former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, a top aide to George W. Bush throughout his tenure as Texas governor and U.S. president, will take over as head of the eponymous foundation and institute associated with the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas.

Two-term state Rep. Stefani Carter, R-Dallas, told The Dallas Morning News she is considering a run for an unspecified statewide office in 2014.

Will Hurd will make another run for Congress in the state’s CD-23, where U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, is the incumbent. Hurd, a Republican, lost to Francisco “Quico” Canseco in the 2010 Republican primary runoff. 

Debra Wanser is retiring as commissioner of the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. She's been in that post since 2011 and was the agency's number two exec before that. Veronda Durden, currently an assistant commissioner at the Department of Aging and Disability Services, will take over the top job at DARS on July 1. She previously worked at the Department of Human Services, the Department of Health, and the Office of the Attorney General.

The Texas Department of Public Safety promoted Rhonda Fleming to inspector general, Amanda Arriaga to assistant director of administration, and James “Frank” Woodall Jr. to assistant director of the education, training and research division.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed:

  • Pamela Jo “PJ” Ellison of Brenham, Robert Lewis of Elgin, Tom Martine of Cypress Mill, Franklin “Scott” Spears Jr. of Austin, and Tim Timmerman of Austin to the Lower Colorado River Authority board. Ellison is owner of Ellison’s Greenhouses. Lewis is president of Elgin Veterinary Hospital. Martine is president of Martine Properties. Spears is an attorney. Timmerman is a private real estate investor and developer.
  • Glenn Martin of Edna, Scott Sachtleben of Ganado, Leonard Steffek of Edna, and Charlie Taylor of Palacios to the Lavaca-Navidad River Authority board. Martin is president of M.O.R. Sachtleben is a landman and rancher. Steffek works at Energy Transfer in San Antonio. Taylor is retired from Culp Aluminum Alloys.
  • William Carbonara of Cuero, Darrell McLain of Gonzales, and Don Meador of San Marcos to the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority board. Carbonara works at JHC Insurance Agency. McLain is founder and CFO of Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms. Meador is a retired rancher and engineer.
  • Henry Borbolla III of Fort Worth, Amanda Davis of Buffalo, Valerie Ertz of Dallas, Tom Fordyce of Huntsville, Jess Laird of Athens, David Leonard of Liberty, Jim Neale of Dallas, Amir Rupani of Dallas, Ana Laura Saucedo of Dallas, Dudley Skyrme of Palestine, and C. Dwayne Somerville of Mexia to the Trinity River Authority board. Borobolla is vice president of BB&T. Davis is a retired school administrator. Ertz is owner and president of VEE Services. Fordyce is retired director of the Texas Criminal Justice Agribusiness Department. Laird is president and CEO of First State Bank in Athens. Leonard is co-owner of Liberty Dayton Chrysler. Neale is president of Quorum Energy. Rupani is present and CEO of Texas Prince Properties. Saucedo is a retired real estate investor. Skyrme is retired from United Bilt Homes. Somerville owns several businesses.
  • Brigadier General William “Len” Smith as assistant Adjutant General for Army.