Vol 30, Issue 29 Print Issue

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

On the gubernatorial campaign front:

State Sen. Wendy Davis told the National Press Club she will either run for governor or for reelection to her Senate seat in 2014, narrowing speculation about her next political step. The Fort Worth Democrat is making appearances all over the country after her filibuster temporarily killed an anti-abortion bill in the Texas Senate. Her term in the state Senate ends at the beginning of 2015.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, paralyzed by a falling oak tree in 1984, will receive more than half a million dollars this year from a legal settlement that guarantees him a six-figure yearly income for the rest of his life. Now the front-running candidate for Texas governor, Abbott discussed the terms of his multimillion-dollar-lawsuit agreement for the first time in an exclusive interview with The Texas Tribune. His campaign also provided a copy of the 1986 settlement.

Though Texas will join 26 other states in defaulting to a federal marketplace for purchasing health insurance, it is one of only six that will not enforce new health insurance reforms prescribed by the law. Because Texas did not create its own state-based marketplace, known as a health insurance exchange, under the Affordable Care Act, it must use a federally facilitated one instead. If a state does not enforce those reforms, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will step in to do it.

The West community will receive additional federal funding to rebuild following the explosion of a fertilizer depot in April that killed 15 people and flattened much of the town. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided millions of dollars in aid immediately after the explosion, but the agency initially rejected the state’s request for additional financial assistance. The state’s appeal, submitted in early June, has now been approved, enabling federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.

The University of Texas at Austin's custodian of records informed the University of Texas System on Monday that all pending records requests from embattled Regent Wallace Hall are considered "cancelled, effective immediately."

The persistence of drought conditions across Texas brought extra attention on the once-obscure Texas Water Development Board this legislative session, as lawmakers approved a major overhaul of the agency's leadership. And with a major financing proposal before voters, the power of the state agency, which has just under 300 employees, is poised to grow.

The Travis County Commissioners Court agreed to restore some money to the Travis County district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit after Gov. Rick Perry in June eliminated state funding for the office. The five-member commissioners court voted 4-1 on the proposal, which will cost Travis County taxpayers about $1.8 million next year. Perry vetoed that line item from the budget after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who served jail time earlier this year for a drunken driving violation, refused to resign from her office. 

Political People and their Moves

Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick won't be running for comptroller, after entertaining that possibility for several weeks. Susan Combs isn't seeking reelection, but in a statement, Craddick said she's out of it: "I did give this opportunity considerable thought, however, I have concluded that I can best serve the people of Texas by continuing to oversee a stable and positive regulatory climate for Texas' thriving energy industry."

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst named his campaign team: Ryan Hecker, campaign manager; Travis Considine, communications; Eliza Vielma, digital and social strategy. 

Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, announced his comptroller campaign team: Rob Johnson, general consultant; David White, senior advisor; Keri Mason, finance director; Elizabeth White, political director. The announcement said that “Longtime Senator Hegar advisor Todd Smith will play an important role in the campaign,” but didn’t say what that will be.

Rep. Dan Branch picked up endorsements from 53 of the House’s 95 Republicans for his bid for attorney general. Sen. Ken Paxton picked up endorsements from 23. That leaves 19 to fight over.

Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, will run for Sen. Ken Paxton’s seat, now that Paxton, R-McKinney, is running for attorney general in 2014. Taylor claims the endorsements of all of the incumbent House members whose districts overlap the Senate district: Jodie Laubenberg, Scott Turner, Angie Chen Button, Scott Sanford, Jeff Leach and Stefani Carter. All are Republicans. Frisco City Councilman Scott Johnson is also expected to be in the race for Paxton’s Senate seat.

Fort Worth attorney and businessman Tom Schieffer is joining the Texas Central Railway effort to bring high-speed rail to the state, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The former lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate will be an advisor to the effort led by Central Japan Railway.

Pending regents' approval: Billy Hamilton will be the new executive vice chancellor and CFO at the Texas A&M University System. Hamilton was deputy comptroller of public accounts under A&M Chancellor John Sharp. And he's a big Longhorn, too.

Caleb Troxclair is the new chief of staff and legal counsel to Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter; he was previously with state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford. Porter’s former chief, Amy Maxwell, is leaving to start a lobby practice. 

Former state Rep. Jim Solis, D-Harlingen, was sentenced to 47 months in federal prison and ordered to forfeit $250,000 in property and pay $120,000 in restitution for his part in bribing a state district judge in return for favorable rulings. 

Deaths: Jack Hightower, former state legislator, district attorney, congressman, and Texas Supreme Court Justice. He was 86.