Vol 30, Issue 23 Print Issue

Mark P. Jones
Mark P. Jones

Guest Column: Red State, Purple Legislation

Texas Democrats exercised considerable influence over the legislative process during the 2013 regular session, in contrast with their relative impotence last fall. While the November election results were unequivocally red, the legislation passed during the session was decidedly purple.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

The ink has dried on House Bill 5, which sharply reduces the number of high-stakes tests in Texas high schools. But the legislation ignored a battery of so-called benchmark tests that students take before they ever reach high school. Meanwhile, high school students won't have to retake standardized exams they failed in the six subjects that newly signed House Bill 5 eliminates from the state's testing requirements, the Texas Education Agency announced.

A complaint being filed with the U.S. Department of Justice seeks to declare that a Dallas County court’s process of prosecuting truancy as a crime is unconstitutional. But officials in the county say the initiative has been a model of success.

As the Texas Department of Criminal Justice adjusts to both a tighter budget and a smaller prison population, it has decided to end operations at two privately run Texas prison facilities — the Dawson State Jail in Dallas and the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility — at the end of the summer.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency — FEMA — is refusing to send more money to West to help with damage from the fertilizer plant explosion there, saying the explosion fell short of the “severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.” Millions in aid has already been sent, and now state officials are weighing in to say the federal government should do more. 

A second University of Texas System regent has lashed out at fellow Regent Wallace Hall, following Hall's latest request for information from the University of Texas at Austin. In an email to Gene Powell, the chairman of the UT System board, Regent Bobby Stilwell wrote that he endorsed the views expressed earlier in the day by Regent Steve Hicks, who called Hall's actions of late "an abuse of power."

Political People and their Moves

Texas Monthly’s list of 10 best and 10 worst legislators is out. Start the argument:

Best: Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen; Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth; Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock; Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio; Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie; Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio; Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio; Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands.

Worst: Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth; Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas; Comptroller Susan Combs; Rep. Naomi Gonzalez, D-El Paso; Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills; Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville; Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston; Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston; Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City; Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano.

Bull of the Brazos: Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston.

Honorable mentions: Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo; Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin; Kirk Watson, D-Austin; Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton.

Dishonorable mentions: Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview; Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands.

Furniture: Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio; Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth; Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana; Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso.

Caution, elections ahead

  • Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, says he will seek reelection.
  • Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, says she will seek reelection.

Deaths: Houston construction exec and Texans for Lawsuit Reform co-founder Leo Linbeck Jr., who was also an outspoken advocate for replacing federal income taxes with a national sales tax. He was 78.