State Senate Finishes Starting

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, is shown her lottery number by Senate Secretary Patsy Spaw on Jan. 23, 2013.
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, is shown her lottery number by Senate Secretary Patsy Spaw on Jan. 23, 2013.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst fleshed out the Senate committees late last week, and the House could drop its own list any minute (a forecast that covers everything from one minute to a couple of weeks). Dewhurst earlier named the chairs, taking most of the news out of his assignments. He made them at the end of the day last Friday — not unusual timing — and left the senators who wanted to stew a weekend to do it alone.

More momentous was this week’s news, when the only two senators who really had cause to worry about two-year terms drew their straws and got two-year terms. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, will both be on the ballot in 2014.

For Campbell, that could mean challenges from establishment Republicans and/or Republicans from San Antonio who’d like to haul that seat back to Bexar County. Campbell will be the incumbent, but a new one, with only a year in office on her resume at the start of that race. And instead of an outsider storming the castle, she’ll be on the castle wall next time, playing defense.

For Davis, it means running in a gubernatorial election year; she has previously run in presidential years — both with Barack Obama at the top of the ballot. In 2008, when Davis was first elected, statewide Republicans outperformed statewide Democrats in that district by 4.1 percentage points. In 2010, she wasn’t on the ballot; statewide Rs beat statewide Ds that year by an average of 17.5 percentage points.

The draws will stick only until and unless the courts change the redistricting maps again. Those cases are still pending, and anybody who’s district gets moves will have the pleasure of appearing on the ballot again in 2014, not matter how they drew this week.

Two-year terms: Campbell; John Carona, R-Dallas; Davis; Bob Deuell, R-Greenville; Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls; Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills; Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place; Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville; Dan Patrick, R-Houston; Ken Paxton, R-McKinney; Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown; Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo; Kirk Watson, D-Austin; Royce West, D-Dallas; and John Whitmire, D-Houston.

Four-year terms: Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury; Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock; Rodney Ellis, D-Houston; Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler; Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay; Glenn Hegar, R-Katy; Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; José Rodríguez, D-El Paso; Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood; Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio; Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio; Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands; and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.

The winner of the special election in SD-6 — the late Mario Gallegos’ seat in Houston — will also serve for four years. That election is on Saturday, with eight candidates on the ballot. Early voting turnout was dismal. According to the Harris County clerk’s office, 5,369 voters had cast ballots and 2,876 mail ballots were in the box.

Business Association Launches Criminal Justice Agenda

For years, criminal justice reform advocates cajoled Bill Hammond, the executive director of the Texas Association of Business, to get on board with their efforts to reduce the prison population and keep ex-offenders from re-offending. 

TAB, the state’s largest business lobby and a powerhouse at the state Capitol, would support a bill or two, like a 2011 measure that would have eliminated the employment address listing for people on the sex offender registry. But this legislative session is the first time that the business lobby specifically put criminal justice issues on its legislative agenda.

TAB says it will support "criminal justice reforms from previous legislative sessions and enhance ongoing efforts to improve public safety, reduce the rate of recidivism, and decrease prison costs. Such reforms include, but are not limited to, finding cost-effective alternatives to incarceration through the implementation of enhanced probation programs.”

“This time around, we will be much more detailed and involved,” Hammond said, adding that the business community wants to find ways to decrease the prison population to both save taxpayer money and to increase the number of workers available to fill the state’s growing workforce needs.

Hammond said a TAB board member, Penny Rayfield, convinced the association that businesses should become involved in criminal justice reform efforts. Rayfield is president of OnShore Resources, a manufacturing company that has operations on prison property and trains and hires inmates who choose to participate in the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program.

“People coming out of prison need jobs. Businesses need qualified employees. And by supporting policies that will help us accomplish those goals, it’s good business and it’s good use of taxpayer dollars,” Rayfield said.

Marc Levin, director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Effective Justice, said TAB recognized that money spent on locking up nonviolent offenders who could benefit from probation or drug treatment, could better be spent on other priorities like education, transportation or potential tax relief. And the more people who aren’t in prison who can become productive workers, the better chance businesses will have to find qualified employees.

“We have people that currently are a burden to the state that could be productive for businesses and for their families,” Levin said. 

TAB hasn’t committed its support to any specific bills, but Hammond said the organization would review individual measures. Businesses, he said, are particularly interested in reducing barriers to employment for former inmates, such as restrictions on commercial driving licenses and on types of occupational licenses. They would also like to see laws that prevent businesses from potential legal liability for hiring ex-offenders.

“We’re inclined to see appropriate ways where we can expand the pool of those who can work,” Hammond said.

The association is also looking at reforms to the juvenile justice system that helped dramatically reduce the population of youths in state lockups in recent years. A key to that success was a measure that gave counties more money from the state if they kept more of the young offenders at the local level for treatment and rehabilitation, or detention if needed, rather than sending them to state-run youth prisons.

“Probation is a whole hell of a lot cheaper than incarceration,” Hammond said.

Reform advocates said they are hopeful that the assistance from the business community will bring more conservative legislators’ attention to an issue that has long been dominated by Democrats.

“There’s a wide range of policy makers who really do believe in strengthening business and saving tax dollars,” said Ana Yañez Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. “Criminal justice reform proposals can really create the outcomes that they campaign on.”

Perry Confronts New Challenges With New Team

Governor Rick Perry offers words of advice to new and veteran House members during a speech on the opening of the 83rd Legislative Session on January 8, 2013
Governor Rick Perry offers words of advice to new and veteran House members during a speech on the opening of the 83rd Legislative Session on January 8, 2013

When Rick Perry jumped into the presidential race in 2011, no one doubted that the people who helped turn him into a Texas powerhouse would guide the effort.

Dave Carney, who had worked for him since 1998, became the top consultant. Rob Johnson, who ran his 2010 re-election race, was the campaign manager. His former chief of staff Deirdre Delisi became the top policy guru. Longtime aide Ray Sullivan was named communications director. And Mark Miner, Perry’s wry spokesman, was the national press secretary.

Today, as Perry heads into the 2013 legislative session, they are all gone. And that’s only part of the exodus.

Since Perry returned from the campaign early last year, his former deputy chief of staff Kathy Walt, who began working for Perry when he was still lieutenant governor, left to become manager of government affairs at the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Former spokeswoman Catherine Cesinger went to the Department of Public Safety. Adviser Travis Richmond is working at Delisi Communications. Chip Roy, who helped write Perry’s book Fed Up! and later ran the state’s lobby office in Washington, D.C., is now Ted Cruz’s chief of staff. And longtime Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier is about to join Cruz, too.

Of course, no one expected Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history by far, to keep the same people in the same jobs forever. Johnson, Sullivan, Delisi and Miner went to consulting or lobby jobs and all still are on good terms with the governor.

Carney, who had been at Perry’s political side since the 1998 lieutenant governor’s race, is back in his native New Hampshire after a sudden departure from the presidential campaign in late 2011.

He was pushed out by Perry adviser Joe Allbaugh, who took the reins of the campaign after the governor’s shoddy debate perfomances had begun to take a toll on his once promising candidacy. The governor’s office said Allbaugh continues to advise Perry. Allbaugh did not respond to an email about his role on Team Perry.

On the political front, Perry’s former appointments director Teresa Spears is now working part-time for the state and part-time for his campaign, according to Frazier.

Cal Jillson, political scientist at Southern Methodist University, said he's not surprised to see a bunch of departures from Perry World.

"Perry's staff operation has always been a high turnover machine by design," he said. "He has brought people in, trained them in his thinking and goals, and then put them out into high profile positions in the bureaucracy and the courts. These people then form the broader 'Team Perry' and they know their future promotion prospects depend on him. This is how he has made up for the institutional weakness of his office."

It’s also worth mentioning that there are some veteran Perry hands that are still on the inside, among them his longtime speechwriter Eric Bearse, who is paid from the gubernatorial campaign. At the Capitol, Perry's former body man, Clint Harp, is director of business development, Kim Snyder still handles the scheduling, former Sen. Ken Armbrister remains his legislative director, and Allison Castle oversees a press shop that includes veteran aides Josh Havens and Lucy Nashed.

But it’s sort of jarring to see so many of those trusted, former top aides, who seemed willing to lay down on the tracks for Perry in that ill-fated 2012 presidential race, sitting on the sidelines as he starts a new legislative session and potentially heads into a re-election battle or a 2016 presidential race.

Do they know something we don't know?

Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, says moves are likely to have more impact on Perry's legislative agenda than his political future. 

"Last time he inserted himself early and very aggressively. This time we're seeing signs that he's entering the process with a somewhat lower and less aggressive profile, and part of that may be reflected in the staff changes," Henson said. 

Newsreel: Women's Health, Guns and the Lege

In this edition of the Newsreel: Legislative debate over women's health funding, abortion and Planned Parenthood has started. This week is the 4oth anniversary of the Rove v. Wade ruling. Lawmakers are talking again about guns on campus. And the session is moving into higher gear, with the budget, committees, and the governor's agenda on tap.

Inside Intelligence: About Health Care...

On the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, we asked the insiders about women’s health issues and federal health care and found them in near unison on the will of the Texas Legislature on a couple of questions, split on a couple of others.

More than three fourths of the insiders think the feds would not grant the state a waiver to run its own Medicaid program. On the flip side, a majority said the state will opt to grab federal matching funds by expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law.

It was hard to find an insider who thinks the Legislature will restore any funding to Planned Parenthood this session — 91 percent find that unlikely. And a slim majority — 51 percent — thinks lawmakers will approve the fetal pain bill that would ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy.

We have attached a full set of verbatim comments to the questions; a sampling follows.


If Texas were to ask, would the federal government grant the state a waiver to expand Medicaid as the state sees fit?

• "The Texas Republicans have been very vocal about cutting the program to the bone.  Based on that and the fact that we are one of the last states to even think about organizing to meet the demands of the Affordable Care Act, I would say the likelihood is less than 10%.  Maybe in 4 years we can try again."

• "We are being penalized by the federal government, which actually plays in Governor Perry's political favor."

• "Sure.... the Feds will do that right after they give Texas back our ability to set our own environmental policies."

• "State will not ask"

• "On one hand, no--it's like the feds and Texas are BFFs; look at the EPA fights.  On the other hand, Texas is not alone; other states are on the same side as Texas and the feds cannot single Texas for special (mis)treatment."

• "Totally out of the question.  The federal government can just wait the state out."

• "Seriously?  As though the feds will do anything Texas asks."

• "Have granted one 1115; Feds have some flexibility, but giving Texas, w/the poorest quality ratings and highest number of working uninsured, a blank check would be like giving a teenager the keys to a Maserati and a fifth of Jack Daniels. Georgia has over 30 waiver applications in play; the only politically feasible end game is some kind of uberwaiver that the executive suite will sell as a 'block grant'"

• "Maybe there is some federal HHS wrinkle I'm not seeing which makes a waiver possible, but in general the Obama administration has put ego ahead of results time and again.  It's amazing what can NOT be accomplished when 'who gets the credit' is the most important question in Washington DC."

• "Maybe not 'as the state sees fit,' but I bet the Obama Administration would be willing to give a little to get health care for the huge number of uninsured Texans."

• "Yes, but with some conditions attached, not a complete carte blanche."

• "Why should the federal government trust Texas at this point?"

• "Since when did the federal government ever cede power to the states?"


Will the state ultimately agree to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law or leave things as they are?

• "We want the money and we will find some way to 'bend' our conservative views to be allowed to get the money."

• "Texas may not meet existing deadlines, but certainly over the next couple of years Texas will move into the program."

• "Texas is more likely to secede than we are to put ourselves under further federal control."

• "The economic and health impact is too positive to ignore forever. It was a multi year struggle to authorize and implement CHIP in Texas. It will be the same for this expansion."

• "As long as Governor Perry occupies the mansion, I don't see Medicaid expansion happening."

• "Hard to play chicken w/sociopaths and nihilists; some say there is an end game because (a) we can cover the 10% in 2017 (b) it's a lot of money and huge opportunity costs to state and local taxpayers absent this deal; others say we really are that dumb and darwinistic"

• "Federal matching funds, for one or two programs, may have been a good idea 50 years ago.  But that mechanism has morphed into a modern day financial suicide pact in which the feds promise to pay new dollars they don't have to match states, who in their turn have to cut or neglect everything else (schools, transportation, water) to come up with their share.  Both the size of Medicaid and its rate of growth are out of control and the combination of the two is, in state after state, crushing the entire budget.  Expanding that huge dysfunctional mess is indefensible by any standard."

• "HHS spending is already too big. We cannot sustain funding beyond population growth."

• "The financial incentive is enormous.  As long as Perry can save face, it's a win-win for all concerned."

• "Kicking and screaming, the R politicians will be, but the medical community will eventually get them to do it. Too much money to lose."


Will lawmakers restore some state funding for Planned Parenthood?

• "Sadly, I don't think this will happen.  The phenomenal quality of healthcare provided by PP and its clinics will continue to be overshadowed by the zealots who are against a LEGAL procedure which is not performed by all PP affiliates!"

• "Not for Planned Parenthood, but believe that additional funding will be made available for other providers delivering preventive services to low-income women.  The snafu that occurred in the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood apparently resulted in an additional 50,000 Medicaid births and cost the state an estimated $300 million.  Not a great trend for legislators who are interested in growing the Medicaid program."

• "We will have a Democrat in the governor's mansion before the state gives another nickel to Planned Parenthood."

• "When shrimp learn to whistle"

• "Planned Parenthood is the ACORN of this election cycle."

• "They can just go to the emergency room and let local taxpayers pick up the tab"

• "Not unless a court forces them to."

• "When pigs fly."


Will lawmakers pass the fetal pain bill that would ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy?

• "Believe that although most abortions after 20 weeks are for cause, the legislature can't pass up the opportunity to define the personhood of the fetus.  Unfortunately, they will likely be hammering on physicians and penalizing them for care provided in high-risk pregnancies."

• "It's a toss-up in the House, but the Lt. Gov must think he needs to pass it in the Senate in order to get right with conservatives."

• "Obviously, because it's anti-scientific and subjects women to oppression. It's a sure thing."

• "If I am remembering correctly, in the past 6 sessions (since and including 2003) the right-to-life lobby has successfully passed their number 1 issue every session.  I don't know if the RTL groups have coalesced around 'fetal pain at 20 weeks' as the top priority, but if so you might want to stand back because they are coming through."

• "Who can defend dismembering a human when they feel pain?"

• "There is no indication that the legislature's record-setting appetite for new legislation restricting abortion will abate any time soon."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Jenny Aghamalian, Jennifer Ahrens, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, David Anthony, Jay Arnold, Louis Bacarisse, Charles Bailey, Tom Banning, Amy Beneski, Rebecca Bernhardt, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Hugh Brady, Chris Britton, Andy Brown, David Cabrales, Kerry Cammack, Janis Carter, William Chapman, Elna Christopher, Rick Cofer, Harold Cook, Beth Cubriel, Randy Cubriel, Curtis Culwell, Denise Davis, Hector De Leon, June Deadrick, Nora Del Bosque, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Jeff Eller, John Esparza, Jon Fisher, Wil Galloway, Norman Garza, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Stephanie Gibson, Kinnan Golemon, Daniel Gonzalez, John Greytok, Michael Grimes, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Adam Haynes, Jim Henson, Ken Hodges, Kathy Hutto, Deborah Ingersoll, Cal Jillson, Jason Johnson, Bill Jones, Mark Jones, Robert Jones, Lisa Kaufman, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Ramey Ko, Sandy Kress, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Richard Levy, Elizabeth Lippincott, Ruben Longoria, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Luke Marchant, Dan McClung, Scott McCown, Mike McKinney, Debra Medina, Robert Miller, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Steve Murdock, Craig Murphy, Keats Norfleet, Pat Nugent, Sylvia Nugent, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Tom Phillips, Richard Pineda, Allen Place, Gary Polland, Jay Pritchard, Jay Propes, Ted Melina Raab, Bill Ratliff, Tim Reeves, Kim Ross, Andy Sansom, Jim Sartwelle, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Robert Scott, Bradford Shields, Christopher Shields, Jason Skaggs, Ed Small, Todd Smith, Larry Soward, Dennis Speight, Bryan Sperry, Jason Stanford, Bob Stein, Keith Strama, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Charles Stuart, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Sherry Sylvester, Jay Thompson, Russ Tidwell, Trey Trainor, Ware Wendell, Ken Whalen, Darren Whitehurst, Seth Winick, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Friday, Jan. 25

  • Senate Finance Committee hearing (9 a.m.)

Monday, Jan. 28

  • Senate Finance Committee hearing (10 a.m.)
  • Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security Committee/Education Committee joint hearing (2 p.m.)

Tuesday, Jan. 29

  • Senate Finance Committee hearing (9 a.m.)
  • Senate Business and Commerce Committee hearing (9 a.m.)

Wednesday, Jan. 30

  • Senate Finance Committee hearing (9 a.m.)


Thursday, Jan. 31

  • Senate Finance Committee hearing (9 a.m.)

Guest Column: Are Students Prepared for Change?

Tom Luce
Tom Luce

Many a state leader has quoted the old saying, “If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime.” But that adage needs to be updated for the 21st Century in Texas. In the past, you could teach a man to fish with a single lure —such as farming or factory work — that could be used to earn a living for many years to come. However, in our increasingly complicated world, students need more than one lure. They must develop new skill sets continuously as the demands of the modern economy evolve. The tools of all trades, whether on Wall Street or on an assembly line, are changing so rapidly that skills that were relevant a few years ago are obsolete today.

The challenge for Texas leaders is: How do we ensure that our children can compete and thrive in this ever-changing economy?

The 83rd Texas Legislature has vowed to tackle the issue of education, which is the right place to start. But first, the legislators will have to answer this: What is the purpose of education? Many in Austin want to see the public schools make our kids “career-ready” with the specific technical skills needed to join the workforce. While teaching students technical skills is beneficial, that targeted learning may be rendered useless if it means sacrificing a core education that would provide more flexibility in the future.

We cannot return to the days when some students were put on a college track while others were relegated to a vocational track. Welding can no longer be learned in shop class. A welder entering the workforce today has to understand metallurgy and be capable of reading complicated design drawings. To repair a car, a mechanic must be able to fix the computer components in the vehicle. In deciding what path Texas public education should take, we cannot eliminate core education in the name of “career-ready” technical skills for several very important reasons.

Public schools are neither intended to nor well suited to determine the current and future workforce needs. It is not their core competency, nor should it be. The world is changing too fast. The private sector has embraced this new pace of change and is laying the groundwork to re-train employees on new technology every few years. Deloitte’s new “campus” — an enormous corporate training facility outside of Dallas costing an estimated $300 million — is a good example.

Even if public schools could predict future workforce needs, they do not have the personnel, equipment, or budgets to keep up with the changes.

Our workforce requires — and our public schools must provide — trainable skilled workers. The operative word is “trainable.” The ability to think critically is a must. Students need to take math and science courses that develop higher-order cognition skills. Without them, students never transition from rote learning to critical thinking. There is a reason why performance in algebra is the greatest predictor of academic success post-high school; it is the first hump students must get over in their transition to thinking critically.

Students may never encounter the need to solve for “x” in a quadratic equation after high school, but they can be assured that there will be variables in their future that they will have to analyze. The ability to solve problems — or not — will be the primary economic differentiator.We must teach Texas students to think, not just to do.

With more than $5 billion cut from public school financing last session and a tight budget this session, there are sure to be vicious tug-o-wars over where Texas taxpayers’ money should be spent. Let’s hope the Legislature will focus on programs that efficiently produce measurable results, like the Advanced Placement Incentive Program. This approach transforms school cultures by raising the academic bar and has proven phenomenally successful in teaching students the kind of higher-order skills that will prepare them for college or careers. If we skimp on funding or only fund marginally effective approaches from yesterday, we will relegate our kids to minimum wage jobs.

It would not only be a social disservice but also an economic disaster if we teach our children how to fish without giving them the critical thinking prowess needed to reteach themselves how to fish when new skills are required. The only certainty is that that change will come. Texas must be prepared, for our children’s sake.

Tom Luce, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, is Chairman of the Board of the National Math and Science Initiative. 


The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Support for immigration reform appears to be growing at an unexpected pace. A new Associated Press-GfK poll revealed that 62 percent of Americans now support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, up dramatically from the 50 percent who supported the idea in the summer of 2010. Support grew fastest among Republicans, with a 22 percent spike in approval since the last poll. 

The Democratic National Committee this week elected its first Latino finance chairman, San Antonio architect Henry Muñoz. Muñoz made a name for himself during the 2012 presidential campaign, raising more than $30 million for President Barack Obama

Texas’ high school graduation rate has risen to 78.9 percent — above the national average. But the recent report issued by the National Center for Education Statistics differed from a November Department of Education report indicating that Texas had recorded the third-best graduation rate in the country. The statistics center is run through the department but used a different method of calculating results. The same report for 2006-07 showed a graduation rate of 73.1 percent. The dropout rate also declined, from 3.2 to 2.7 percent.

As legislators, state officials and the public continued to debate the presence of guns in schools, a gunfight erupted on Tuesday outside the library at one of the Lone Star College campuses in Houston. Two men were arguing and shots were fired, injuring a suspect and two bystanders. Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia charged 22-year-old Carlton Berry with aggravated assaulted and said that as part of his ongoing investigation, a second suspect may be sought.

A statewide competition to kill feral hogs is officially over, and state officials are tabulating the results. The top three counties will earn points toward a grant from the state that will allow them to further develop plans to eradicate more of the animals. It’s estimated that the 2.6 million feral hogs in Texas cause about $500 million in damage annually. Participants in the competition attended workshops and brought in tails from feral hogs killed, earning them bounties in some counties. Of the 28 counties that participated, Caldwell and Hays counties reported killing more than 1,000 hogs. Under the Hog Out County Grants Program, the Agriculture Department will dole out the award money, with the winning county receiving $20,000.

A think tank that studies and ranks cities nationwide has listed Amarillo as No. 17 on its list of Best-Performing Cities in the Smallest Metros category. A high ranking on the Milken Institute’s list of 179 small metropolitan areas means that Amarillo’s economy is performing well and creating sustainable jobs. The organization ranks cities’ performance on a number of economic factors over the course of five years. This was Amarillo’s first time to make the list.

Texas Department of Insurance officials reported a marked drop in the number of complaints filed by consumers. Auto insurance complaints were at an all-time low in 2012, and homeowners insurance complaints were near the lowest recorded level since the department began tracking complaints in 1994. Industry groups credit an increase in technology resulting in improved customer service for the decline in complaints. 

A lawsuit charging Marion Independent School District with racial discrimination has been dismissed by a federal judge. The plaintiffs alleged the district was responsible for the racial slurs endured by a family when they attended schools in the rural district. They no longer attend school in the Guadalupe County district but continue to charge that the district is responsible for a noose found on the eldest daughter’s car, along with a threatening note. U.S. District Judge David Ezra did not concur, and found no liability on the part of the district. The family’s attorney plans to amend the pleadings to provide details of the school’s collusion in the incidents and refile the lawsuit.

Dr. M. Katherine Banks, dean of the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University, announced a new plan to dramatically increase the number of engineering students at the school. The goal is to double the number of students enrolled in the engineering program by 2025. The ambitious program will include new, flexible laboratories that can adjust to the size needed, more technology and more coordination with K-12 schools and community colleges to insure more comprehensive preparation for students. At the press conference where the plan was announced, the A&M president said that although the university wouldn’t be asking for funds from the state to build the facilities, it would ask lawmakers to support the plan.

Political People and their Moves

Grace Garcia is the new executive director of Annie's List, a political committee that promotes the candidacies of Democratic women. She is replacing Robert Jones, and was most recently working in the U.S. Department of State advising the chief of protocol under Hillary Clinton

Scheleen Walker was named director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. Walker served as legislative director to Rep. Donna Howard since 2006. She'll replace Ken Kramer, who retired. 

Former Rep. Jim Jackson has been named the newest principal of Texas Legislative Associates.

Luke Bellsnyder formed a new nonprofit — Keep Texas Working — for “grassroots education and legislative advocacy” on jobs and economic development. He previously worked for the Texas Association of Manufacturers and the Texas Association of Business. 

Quotes of the Week

The Legislature is tough on crime and potential criminal defendants, except when it's them.

Fred Lewis of Austin, on reforming state ethics laws

I’m your Hispanic Margaret Thatcher. Half Eva Perón and a little touch of Madonna.

Republican Miriam Martinez, who plans to run for governor in 2014, in the McAllen Monitor

I've got a lot of energy. I'm really excited about this. This is a seminal moment in the state of Texas. I want to be a part of it… I'm planning on running for reelection.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, on his future plans, at TribLive

Obviously I was disappointed but will happily run again on the issues that I know are of concern to the district that I represent.

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on drawing a two-year term

We danced a jig.

Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Texas Republican Party, to the Star-Telegram on learning that Sen. Davis had drawn a two-year term

I felt like he was talking about what he wants to try to do the next four years, which is what presidents do. What he did was appeal to our better angels and hopefully we can rise to the challenge.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn on President Barack Obama's inauguration speech

Rick Perry has never needed a binder full of women.

Deirdre Delisi, Perry's former chief of staff, on the gender makeup of the governor's office