Vol 30, Issue 38 Print Issue

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

More than 30 Texas legislators are hoping to cash in on the big Longhorn-Sooner rivalry game this weekend in Dallas, but they're not relying on bookies or their betting prowess. The annual SBC Red River Rivalry football game between the University of Texas and Oklahoma University is a fundraising hotspot for lawmakers in both parties, who can rely on plenty of deep-pocketed donors to be in Dallas for the game-day festivities.

Battleground Texas, the Democratic group trying to make the state politically competitive again, is relocating key staffers to Fort Worth as part of its increasingly energetic drive to help Sen. Wendy Davis in her race for governor. While Battleground has said repeatedly it is focused on resurrecting the moribund Texas Democratic Party over the long term, the moves highlight the extent to which those hopes rest on Davis’ run for governor in the short term.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, the GOP front-runner for governor, is getting help from the Republican National Committee to reach Hispanic voters in Texas. At a press conference in Houston, the RNC announced the launch of the Texas Hispanic Engagement Team, a statewide grassroots outreach initiative aimed at wooing Latinos. Jennifer Sevilla Korn, the RNC's deputy political director, said the party's efforts to reach Hispanics would include visits to churches and Hispanic chambers of commerce as well as phone banking in Hispanic communities.

A majority of the candidates running to replace Texas Comptroller Susan Combs say that if elected, they would do what she has said her office cannot: update a key study on the economic impact of illegal immigration. Such an analysis — which hasn’t been conducted since 2006, the year before Combs became comptroller — would serve to inform lawmakers and guide them in their policymaking when the Legislature reconvenes in 2015, said the candidates who are in favor of the new study.

University of Texas scientists who led a study of methane gas emissions say both sides of the fracking debate are misinterpreting the results. The study, led by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, sought simply to measure how much methane leaks from natural gas production sites immediately following the process of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of gas drilling that has rapidly expanded statewide. But while oil and gas industry supporters have seized on the results to support their view that the technique is safe and has been overregulated, anti-fracking groups have dismissed the study as industry-funded. 

Among the many reforms in the massive education legislation that Congress passed in 2001 was a program that would provide tutoring to children from low-income families. Proponents hailed the program as an academic lifeline that would level the playing field for students trapped in underperforming schools. But after more than a decade and hundreds of millions in federal dollars spent on the initiative, it is difficult to find anyone willing to call the program — or the greater law that enacted it — an unqualified success. 

Political People and their Moves

Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, won’t be back for more. Ritter, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has been in the House since 1999. One of his pet projects — funding for project to ensure the state’s future water supply — is on next month’s battle as a constitutional amendment.

Konni Burton was endorsed by Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes; Burton is after the Republican nomination in SD-10, a spot currently held by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.

Davis, who is running for governor, picked up the endorsement of San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.

Wayne Christian got a nod from Republican activist David Barton of Wallbuilders. Christian is running for railroad commissioner.

Megan LaVoie moves to a public affairs post at the state’s Office of Court Administration. She was most recently general counsel and communications director to state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed:

• State District Judge Marc Brown as justice of the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston. He’s a former Harris County prosecutor.

• Rick Kennon of Round Rock to the 368th Judicial District Court in Williamson County. Kennon is a former assistant attorney general and has been in private practice for 24 years.

• Stacey Matthews as judge of the 277th Judicial District in Williamson County. She is an assistant district attorney there and held a similar post in Harris County before that.

• Elizabeth Beach of Fort Worth as judge of Tarrant County Criminal District Court No. 1. She is a felony prosecutor in the Tarrant County district attorney’s office and a former prosecutor in Dallas County.

• Tonya Baer of Austin to the Office of Public Utility Counsel, representing residential and small business owners in utility cases. She is an attorney at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and a former staffer in the governor’s office.

• Joe Colonnetta of Dallas, David Corpus of Humble and Dolores Ramirez of San Benito to the Teacher Retirement System Board of Directors. Colonnetta is a private investor. Corpus is an executive with CommunityBank of Texas. Ramirez teaches elementary school and is past state president of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association.

• Tarrant County Clerk Mary Louise Garcia and Williamson County Tax Assessor/Collector Deborah Hunt to the Texas County & District Retirement System’s board.

Coming soon to this very space as the third editor in the three-decade history of Texas Weekly: John Reynolds, who has covered state politics and government for the Quorum Report and for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. John is joining our parent, The Texas Tribune and will write the morning and evening Briefs there while also assuming the helm here. Sam Kinch Jr., the first editor (and co-founder, in 1984, with George Phenix and John Rogers), stayed at it until 1998, when Ross Ramsey took over. By that measure, John gets to run things, until... let’s see... 2028. Ramsey isn’t going anywhere, by the way — he’s just getting his Thursday nights back.