Vol 30, Issue 26 Print Issue

Demonstrators in favor of HB2 rally inside the State Capitol Open Air Rotunda wreathed by marching opposition demonstrators during State Affairs Committee hearings on the bill, July 2, 2013.
Demonstrators in favor of HB2 rally inside the State Capitol Open Air Rotunda wreathed by marching opposition demonstrators during State Affairs Committee hearings on the bill, July 2, 2013.

An Announcement, a Legal Fight and a Special Session

Midsummer doldrums have been replaced by a little suspense — about the governor's plans, a court's decisions and the Legislature's protracted debate over abortion law.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Political eyes in Texas are on the governor, who plans a major announcement next week that might make clear his plans for the next two election cycles. Many Americans remember Gov. Rick Perry as the man who could not remember. He was the presidential candidate who famously forgot, in a nationally televised debate, the third federal department he wanted to shut down. But this week, after Democrats scored a rare legislative victory on his home turf, blocking a bill that would have put strict limits on abortions, the national spotlight is revisiting the governor of Texas. And how he handles this moment could affect his hopes as a 2016 contender — and his reputation as a leading figure of the Republican far right — as much as the inglorious “oops moment” from his ill-fated 2012 run.

The second special session is underway, with three issues on the governor’s call to the Legislature, and things started quickly. A day after thousands of protesters swarmed the state Capitol to oppose new restrictions on abortions in Texas, a House committee voted along party lines to approve the legislation.

It turns out a dozen other states have the same restrictions in place that Texas has under consideration. The Texas Tribune pulled together a nationwide comparison, along with a map of which facilities in Texas would meet the new standards proposed in the legislation.

The other two items on the agenda are on a fast track. The Senate could vote as early as next week on transportation funding and criminal justice measures that died in the first special session. Those measures were quickly approved this week by two Senate committees.

The state’s redistricting litigation entered a new phase Monday, with lawyers and three federal judges figuring out what to do now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a key law unconstitutional and the Texas Legislature has approved new maps. A panel of federal judges denied the state’s request to dismiss the case, though they left open the possibility that they could do that later. And they asked lawyers to file briefs on what should happen next. Plaintiffs have asked the judges to order the state to seek federal approval before making changes in its maps.

Border security provisions in the U.S. Senate’s immigration reform bill prompted U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela's resignation from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, according to the Houston Chronicle. That group likes the bill, but said later it doesn’t necessarily endorse the border security section that Vela called “militarization.” 

Political People and their Moves

Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, announced he won’t run for comptroller after all. He’d rather stay put, and said in a press release that being chairman of Senate Finance is "incompatible with the demands of simultaneously running for a statewide election."

Harris County Commissioners Steve Radack and Jack Cagle endorsed Sen. Dan Patrick’s bid for lieutenant governor, choosing the Houston Republican over the incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is also a Republican from Houston. Patrick also announced that Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, has endorsed him.

Amarillo Republican Elaine Hays, a businesswoman, announced she will challenge U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, in next year’s Republican primary in CD-13.

Sachse City Councilman Jared Patterson will challenge state Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson, in the GOP primary in HD-112. 

Karen Harris, a radiologic technologist and former member of the State Republican Executive Committee, will run in HD-53, where Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, is the incumbent. He has said he’s running for comptroller

Early bird: U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 in a race for which she has not yet declared her candidacy.

Robert Scott, former Texas education commissioner, joined the Texas Star Alliance, the lobby firm founded by John Pitts. He’s the second former agency chief in the fold; former HHS Commissioner Tom Suehs is also with that firm.

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility/Empower Texans added Gregory Harrison as a field representative, Tony McDonald as general counsel and Morgan Williamson as communications coordinator. McDonald and Williamson both worked as House staffers during the regular session. 

Press corps moves: Corrie MacLaggan joins the Texas Tribune after stints at Reuters and the Austin American-Statesman. The Trib also hired two out-of-state reporters, Jim Malewitz from Stateline and Neena Satija of WNPR/Connecticut Public Radio to cover energy and the environment, respectively.

Deaths: Paul Eggers, a Republican who ran for governor of Texas in 1968 and 1970, served in the Treasury Department under Richard Nixon and was a longtime friend and business partner with the late U.S. Sen. John Tower. He was 94.