Signs of Legislative Motion

TribLive at the Austin Club featuring State Sen. Tommy Williams and State Rep. Jim Pitts on financial issues facing the 83rd Texas Legislature.
TribLive at the Austin Club featuring State Sen. Tommy Williams and State Rep. Jim Pitts on financial issues facing the 83rd Texas Legislature.

Some progress: The House, like the Senate, now has committees. The governor has given his State of the State speech. And Rick Perry told WFAA-TV in Dallas that he and Attorney General Greg Abbott have talked and that Abbott won’t run for governor if Perry seeks another term.

Leave that last one for later; Perry is either putting off the date when he’s marked as a lame duck, sending a message to the state’s top lawyer, or popping off to accomplish both ends. This has happened before, if you just got here: Lots of smart people thought he wouldn’t run against Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2010. Mark Perry as a possible candidate. Mark Abbott as an interested and ambitious and well-funded potential successor who is keeping his head down and playing nice. No point at this point to poke an incumbent who tends to run into political fights instead of away from them.

The Legislature, meantime, is thawing out.

The first supplemental appropriations bill — the one aimed at the $4.5 billion hole in the state’s Medicaid budget — should be out of the Appropriations Committee and on its way to the full House by the end of next week. Lawmakers short-sheeted the program two years ago, intentionally funding less than the full 24 months of the program in order to make their budget balance. The money is available now, so they can balance the budget and still have a Medicaid program. Still to come: supplemental appropriations for prison medical care, for wildfires, and — depending on how the debate goes — for catching up on some of the accounting tricks used to balance the current budget.

The lead budgeteers — Jim Pitts in the House and Tommy Williams in the Senate — both say they’re looking for ways to use money in the Rainy Day Fund without having that spending count against the state’s limit on spending increases.

Several things are at play. One is that they think they have more money than they can spend if they honor that cap. Another is that several outside analysts say the budget can either cover current services or break the cap, but not both.

It turns out they could break the cap without doing much to the current budget. Perry, in his State of the State speech, proposed to spend about $6.8 billion, including $3.7 billion on water and transportation infrastructure, $1.8 billion on tax breaks (refunds and/or cuts and/or exemptions), and $1.3 billion to end a diversion of money for state police from funds dedicated to highways. And the supplemental appropriations could add up to a like amount.

That’s $13 or $14 billion before lawmakers have taken a serious shot at replacing cuts made two years ago.

Williams and Pitts appear to have little appetite right now for putting money back into public education, though both said at a TribLive event this week that lawmakers wouldn’t have made those cuts had they known the state’s revenues would be what they turned out to be.

The two want to set aside some money — that’s another subtraction from what’s available — against what they think will be a losing verdict in the pending school finance lawsuits.

Williams predicted a helluva row about school finance in 2014 — a hint that the big fights in the budget will be deferred until next year.

The governor’s call for tax breaks will take some selling, if Williams and Pitts are an accurate reflection of the legislative mood, but his call for money for water and for transportation appears to be in line with what lawmakers are already doing.

Legislature Considers Softer Line on Immigration

A U.S. Border Patrol helicopter patrols over the Paso del Norte International Bridge between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico on Tuesday March 27, 2012.
A U.S. Border Patrol helicopter patrols over the Paso del Norte International Bridge between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico on Tuesday March 27, 2012.

The Texas Legislature is more subdued on issues concerning the border — call it immigration light. It is already February and lawmakers have barely uttered the words “sanctuary cities,” much less filed legislation as divisive as that bill became two years ago.

Even if they did, chances are the measures wouldn’t get very far.

That's not to say there are no efforts to crack down on illegal immigration this session. Measures already filed would repeal in-state tuition for undocumented public high school students, mandate use of Secure Communities, and facilitate creation of tent prisons. But those who were paying attention to Gov. Perry’s State of the State speech may have noticed something — the words border, sanctuary, and immigration never surfaced. And there is no emergency call (so far) of the sort that made last session’s immigration bills a priority. In fact, Republican leaders have said that when asked, Gov. Rick Perry has said things seem to be going fine the way they are.

So what’s been filed?

State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, filed the House bill to repeal in-state tuition. That comes despite Perry’s recent comments indicating he thinks it won’t reach his desk. Larson also filed HB 177, which would allow for more access to “tents” as detention units as opposed to standard jails. He said that is more of a cost-savings measure and not necessarily related to immigration, even though tents are commonly used to house immigration detainees. State Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, filed a bill to crack down on knowingly hiring unauthorized workers. But it isn’t punitive, she says, and doesn't require use of the electronic verification system known as E-verify. It’s more of an introduction to the program, she said: “This was just an easy way to get us on track to encourage businesses to use E-verify.”

Freshman state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, filed HB 359, which would require police officers to verify the immigration status of a person within 48 hours of his or her arrest, through the Secure Communities program or through a peace officer authorized to conduct immigration checks. Secure Communities is already in place in every county jail in Texas and Krause said that even so, he is tweaking his bill after some constituents voiced some concerns. He said he did not want to file anything that wouldn’t get anywhere — something that might happen if he gave it more teeth.

And on the federal front, a group that includes four Republican senators unveiled its plan for immigration reform — one that includes a pathway to citizenship — taking away a blugeon some conservatives had been using on Democratic opponents. Now it's a little more bipartisan. President Obama also unveiled what he’d like to see and, like the senators’ pitch, it includes more border enforcement, which means his administration’s record level of removals could continue. It doesn’t mean a common argument from conservatives — that reform can’t be discussed until the border is secure — will go away. It likely means that it will change in tone, however.

Of course, some diehards still smell a rat. U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, rebuked the Senate proposal as counterproductive. “By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration,” he said in a statement.

It goes to show what a difference two years and one general election can make: Lawmakers have started comparing a policy championed by Barack Obama to a measure last passed under Ronald Reagan's leadership.

The Wind Blows, the Sun Shines: The Tax Breaks

Behind the attention that has gone to the state’s extraordinary oil and gas boom, renewable energy clings to its foothold. New figures show that Texas remains the top-ranked wind-power state, and high hopes exist for solar development.

But the legislative session will see renewable energy largely playing defense. The industry’s political popularity peaked roughly a decade ago. George W. Bush signed the state’s first renewable energy mandate in 1999, and Gov. Rick Perry signed an expansion of it in 2005. With approval from the 2005 Legislature, nearly $7 billion in transmission lines are being built across the state to aid wind power.

Wind power’s popularity ebbed with the rise of the Tea Party and the era of cheap natural gas, and now even the underpinning of Texas wind — the 2005 renewable energy mandate — is under attack. The Public Utility Commission, in a January report to the Legislature, said that the mandate “is no longer necessary” and recommended its repeal. Wind power has exceeded the mandate, but its advocates fear the symbolism that a discussion of repeal would bring. (The PUC recommended maintaining a program of renewable energy credits, which are related to the mandate and continue to be used.)

No legislation has yet been filed to repeal the renewable energy mandate, often called a “renewable portfolio standard,” but advocates are worried. “There’s a lot of concern out there about bad legislation. I think the PUC’s proposal is incredibly misguided,” said Colin Meehan, an energy analyst with the Environmental Defense Fund. The renewable energy mandate, he said, has been “one of the most successful policies in Texas.”

The industry is also worried about a political attack on the wind-power transmission lines, known as CREZ, which are costing the state nearly $7 billion and are due to be completed by the end of the year. However, no legislation has been filed on this to date.

The wind industry’s most important fight, however, may be over an extension of an economic development provision of the tax code that has aided most wind farms in the state. The provision, known as Chapter 313, results in lower property taxes for wind farms, which offer payments in lieu of higher taxes directly to local school districts. The provision, which has benefited manufacturing plants as well as wind farms, expires in 2014.

“Our message is that wind, especially in rural Texas, has had a tremendous impact on local economies,” said Jeffrey Clark, executive director of the Wind Coalition, a regional advocacy group. Other states, including Oklahoma and Nebraska, have similar economic development incentives in place, he said. State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Texas City, has filed a bill (HB 621) to extend the tax incentive until 2024.

On the solar side, advocates will be hoping against hope for a mandate to encourage “non-wind” renewables. Solar costs have plummeted, but with abundant natural gas keeping prices low, few communities besides San Antonio are moving forward with major solar projects. HB 723, filed by Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, would set a goal of 1,500 Megawatts of new non-wind renewables projects by January 2022.

“I’m really excited about making the case” for solar, said Anchia.

A spokesman for State Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, said Darby currently does not have plans to re-file a solar bill that would have created a statewide solar rebate program through fees on electric bills. (Similar legislation failed to pass last session.) SB 305, by State Sen. Jose Rodríguez, D-El Paso, would create a sales tax exemption for solar devices.

HB 303, filed by State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, would require the state to get 35 percent of its electrical capacity from renewable energy by 2020, with 2 percent of the total from solar.

State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, plans to file a bill to provide grants to schools for putting solar panels on their rooftops. The bill would raise money through a surcharge on electric bills that is inversely indexed to power rates, so that if rates go up, the surcharge falls. He also plans to file legislation that would help small-scale solar — like rooftop panels — get financial credit for putting extra energy (beyond what the building uses) onto the electric grid. It’s a concept sometimes called “net metering.”

“Recognizing political realities here, both will be modest proposals and therefore I have some hope of being able to pass them,” Strama wrote in an email. Anchia said he is also looking at net metering issues.

Meehan of EDF said that net metering had been an issue before the Legislature for the last two sessions, and “a lot of headway has been made.”

Renewable energy is also expected to be part of broader discussions at the Legislature about the state’s strained power grid, and also about ensuring adequate water supplies. Wind power and photovoltaic solar panels operate without the need for water, and encouraging “resources that do not consume a lot of water would be a wise thing to do,” said Russel Smith, executive director of the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association.

Anchia said that when state regulatory agencies evaluate the cost of energy, he’d like them to include water in that cost. “It’s a precious and dwindling commodity,” he said. Anchia said he was also looking into “creating a larger demand response program.” He was referring to the idea of incentivizing Texans to cut power use at peak times. He was especially interested in helping ordinary Texas residents (as well as businesses) participate.

Another big hope of renewable power advocates this session will be a bill for a program known as PACE, short for Property-Assessed Clean Energy. The idea of PACE is to allow building owners to pay for energy improvements through increased property taxes — thus avoiding the high up-front costs often associated with adding insulation or solar panels. But the program needs additional dismantling of legal hurdles to work in Texas.

In addition to its environmental benefits, the PACE program is “an amazing economic development opportunity,” said Charlene Heydinger, executive director of Keeping PACE in Texas, an advocacy group.

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, who chairs the Business & Commerce Committee, will file a PACE bill, Steven Polunsky in his office confirmed. However, details were still being worked out. (Carona has also already filed a bill, SB 241, that would allow Texans to opt out of having smart electric meters in their homes, at a cost.)

Anchia said he was also looking into PACE legislation.

Newsreel: State of the State, Abortion, Gun Control

In this edition in the Texas Weekly Newsreel: Gov. Rick Perry delivered his State of the State address this week. It was big on large-scale spending, but didn't touch hot-button issues like abortion, immigration or gun control. Anti-abortion advocates rallied on the steps of the state Capitol. And U.S. Representative Roger Williams raised his Second Amendment banner.

Inside Intelligence: About Perry's New Proposals...

This week, we asked the insiders to rate the chances for some of the ideas in Gov. Rick Perry’s State of the State speech.

The governor proposed setting aside $1.8 billion in the Rainy Day Fund for tax breaks and asked lawmakers to approve a constitutional amendment that would make refunds legally possible. The insiders don’t think that’ll happen: 54 percent said lawmakers won’t go along, and only 37 percent said they would.

The idea of letting South Texas colleges and universities tap the Permanent University Fund — an endowment for higher education — split the insiders, with about as many saying it would fly as saying it wouldn’t. A healthy number — 16 percent — were undecided.

Perry’s call for $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for water and transportation will probably pass, according to 83 percent of the insiders. Another 12 percent said yes, but for water alone.

Finally, Perry suggested in his speech — and then spelled out on his government website — some ideas for tax breaks. The most popular among the insiders include making small business margins taxes permanent, lowering the rate for that tax, and increasing the size of homeowner exemptions from property taxes.

A full set of verbatim responses is attached. Here’s a sampling:


Will lawmakers approve the governor’s proposal for a constitutional amendment allowing tax refunds?

• "Which legislators in their right minds would vote against letting the taxpayers grant them permissions to give the taxpayers their money back?"

• "Using our tax dollars to GROW government, rather than for the purpose they were originally collected is wrong. Taxpayers will want this refund."

• "Ongoing commitments and structural needs like roads and water should be paid out of our regular budget. The shell games and the political posturing is no way to run a state."

• "Getting a bill that 2/3 of the Lege will agree to won't happen. Business pays most of the taxes, and will fight the proposal to give the money to households. And tracking individuals by address is Big Brother."

• "The reality is money has to be left on the table for Education funding.  Even if they don't increase the amount going directly to schools any rewrite of the formulas will cost money to hold everyone harmless."

• "Common sense becomes cutting edge political science."

• "Hope not.  What a waste of state funds, primarily sales tax.  If we don't want to spend it, set it aside just like the rainy day fund to help when times are bad or for infrastructure development."

• "Are you kidding?  What politician would vote against giving money back to his or her constituents."

• "Master stroke from the wounded bear in the Governor's Mansion.  How does nearly 2/3 of the House NOT go along with 'letting the voters decide'?"


Will lawmakers approve the governor’s proposal for a constitutional amendment allowing South Texas schools to tap the Permanent University Fund?

• "Why not? Every taxpayer dime should be spent for the purpose it was collected. And recipients should be accountable."

• "Have you seen the strength of UT and A&M alums. Go ask Senator Duncan!!!"

• "Fairness issue"

• "No way this gets passed...but the Governor gets to say to South Texas voters 'Well, at least I tried.'"

• "Maybe we should skip the tax relief and send that GR to South Texas Schools, preserving the Permanent University Fund for its intended purpose."

• "Republicans in Texas cannot afford to be seen as snubbing South Texas. Democrats, as they do with everything, will try to use this as a racial issue."

• "Aggies and Longhorns may not want to share"

• "Hell hath no fury like PUF schools being asked to share."


Will lawmakers go along with Perry’s plan to take $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund?

• "Anytime THIS governor suggests taking ANY money out of the Rainy Day Fund, the legislature had better jump on it."

• "Bond guarantees for infrastructure is better policy than raising taxes."

• "Maybe not the full $3.7, but yes.  And they will find a way to help spend it so it doesn't count against the spending limit.  Where there is a will there is a way."

• "The transportation aspect is a slam dunk. Throw in water needs (which have traditionally had a harder climb) and you address both the paved and parched."

• "Water will definitely get funding.  Transportation is more questionable, because there's not a plan out there yet."

• "One time money is not the solution to either problem... state government has been in denial for the last 20+years... user fees to support both programs... remember, pay as you go!"

• "One time expenditures for roads and water are a no brainer.  The Rainy day fund will be spent down, if not on infrastructure, then something else."

• "If only restoration of cuts to pre-k resulted in decades long public works contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars."

• "Too many well respected old bulls who aren't big spenders are behind both water and transportation.  Of course, who knows what items the Governor will take up that come in from the Internet."

• "Perry came to where Dewhurst & Straus already were -- essentially.  Big business wants both water & transportation."


If the state does allow tax breaks, which are the most likely?

• "This array of refund options should be entitled, 'The Lobbyist Full-Employment Provision.'"

• "Lower sales tax rate would be BEST."

• "It needs to be a one time rebate or reduction.  He shouldn't put the legislature in the position to have to raise taxes in future sessions."

• "The criteria applied will be: how does this benefit the governor?"

• "Can't be done."

• "It won’t happen."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Brandon Aghamalian, Jenny Aghamalian, Jennifer Ahrens, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, David Anthony, Jay Arnold, Charles Bailey, Dave Beckwith, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Hugh Brady, Chris Britton, Andy Brown, David Cabrales, Lydia Camarillo, Marc Campos, Thure Cannon, Snapper Carr, Janis Carter, Elizabeth Christian, Harold Cook, Kevin Cooper, Beth Cubriel, Randy Cubriel, Curtis Culwell, Denise Davis, Hector De Leon, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Jeff Eller, Jack Erskine, Wil Galloway, Neftali Garcia, Norman Garza, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Kinnan Golemon, John Greytok, Michael Grimes, Wayne Hamilton, Adam Haynes, John Heasley, Jim Henson, Ken Hodges, Steve Holzheauser, Shanna Igo, Deborah Ingersoll, Cal Jillson, Jason Johnson, Bill Jones, Mark Jones, Robert Jones, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Ramey Ko, Sandy Kress, Pete Laney, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Leslie Lemon, Richard Levy, Homero Lucero, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Luke Marchant, Suzi McClellan, Dan McClung, Parker McCollough, Scott McCown, Robert Miller, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Steve Murdock, Craig Murphy, Keats Norfleet, Pat Nugent, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Richard Pineda, Allen Place, Kraege Polan, Gary Polland, Jay Propes, Bill Ratliff, Tim Reeves, Patrick Reinhart, Jason Sabo, Andy Sansom, Jim Sartwelle, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Robert Scott, Bradford Shields, Christopher Shields, Jason Skaggs, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Todd Smith, Larry Soward, Dennis Speight, G. Sprinkle, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Sherry Sylvester, Russ Tidwell, Gerard Torres, Trey Trainor, Vicki Truitt, Ware Wendell, Ken Whalen, Darren Whitehurst, Seth Winick, Alex Winslow, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Friday, Feb. 1

  • House Administration Committee hearing (8 a.m.)
  • Fort Bend County 2013 Lincoln-Reagan Dinner; Sugar Land Marriott Town Square

Monday, Feb. 4

  • House Appropriations Committee hearing (7:30 a.m.)
  • Senate Finance Committee hearing (10 a.m.)
  • Senate Nominations Committee hearing (11 a.m.)

Tuesday, Feb. 5

  • House Appropriations Committee hearing (7:30 a.m.)
  • House Natural Resources Committee hearing (8:30 a.m.)
  • House Human Services Committee hearing (11 a.m.)
  • Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing (8 a.m.)
  • Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing (8:30 a.m.)
  • Senate Finance Committee hearing (9 a.m.)
  • Senate Jurisprudence Committee hearing (1:30 p.m.)
  • Texas Conservative Roundtable Conference; Omni Austin Hotel Downtown (8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.)

Wednesday, Feb. 6

  • Senate Economic Development Committee hearing (8 a.m.)
  • Senate Finance Committee hearing (9 a.m.)
  • Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee hearing (1:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 7

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

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

A complicated employment contract and pay structure uncovered by the Austin American-Statesman reveals that one executive at the Texas Department of Public Safety is the highest paid, and it is not the agency’s director. Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management received $223,000 in compensation in 2012, beating out his boss, Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw by almost $60,000. His negotiated deal of employment also allows him to earn overtime, have contributions made to his San Antonio firefighter retirement plan and have a state-provided vehicle. Those numbers and perks don’t show up on the DPS payroll. 

A new poll may not bode well for Gov. Rick Perry’s chances of being re-elected. Public Policy Polling reported that just 31 percent of Texas voters think he should run for governor again, while 62 percent said he should move on. Matched up against Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is not as widely known, Perry’s scored best with voters who self-described as very conservative. Moderate and somewhat conservative voters indicated their desire for a change of candidates. The poll also showed that Democrats stand a better chance of winning the governor’s race if Perry is the Republican candidate.

Families who have lost loved ones in car accidents involving texting gathered at the Capitol to voice their support for the latest bills filed to prohibit the practice. Thirty-nine states have banned texting while driving, and Texas passed legislation in the last session to join them, but Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the measure. Identical bills have already been filed again in the House and Senate this session. Perry and other lawmakers who have taken a stand against texting bans say existing laws should be used to prosecute offenders.

All tobacco use has been banned on property belonging to Travis County effective April 7. The comprehensive ban was unanimously approved by commissioners and includes smoking, chewing tobacco and vapor-emitting electronic cigarettes. Commissioners created an exception for major events held at the Expo Center, which can be granted an exemption.

A female death row inmate won a reprieve from execution as her lawyers continued to follow up on an appeal that jury selection in her case was racially biased. Kimberly McCarthy’s punishment was delayed until April 3, and Dallas County did not protest the rescheduling. Meanwhile, McCarthy’s lawyers will attempt to prove that racial discrimination occurred in the selection of the jury that convicted McCarthy. Eleven of the 12 jurors were white.

High school sophomores — the first class required to pass Texas’ new, more rigorous STAAR test — showed significant improvement when tested at the end of December. Passing rates rose from 54 to 73 percent in writing; other subjects saw similar gains. The Class of 2015 is required to pass 15 end-of-course exams to graduate. They are the first class to be governed by the STAAR testing requirements. The bad news is that 27 percent of students are not on track to graduate and that district officials fear that may make those students at high risk of dropping out.

The Texas Women’s Health Program, which replaced the federal Women’s Health Program, revised its list of providers. It initially listed 3,500 providers of low-cost health services, but when women’s health advocates attempted to verify the list, they found numerous glitches. Almost 1,000 providers were removed from the list, and an additional 700 providers had their contact information updated. 

The Rally for Life, held on the Capitol grounds last weekend, drew a crowd of thousands and state officials who spoke of their hopes to end abortion. Gov. Rick Perry’s speech outlined the measures he and the Legislature have already taken, and stressed that there are other steps they can take this session to further restrict abortions. The Texas Alliance for Life estimated that the rally drew more than 5,000 people; public safety officials put the number closer to 2,000.

After the absence of a University of Texas-Texas A&M football game in 2012 for the first time in almost 100 years, a legislator has filed a bill requiring the schools to play each other. The storied rivalry was interrupted when Texas A&M moved to the Southeastern Conference. Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, filed House Bill 778, requiring the two schools to meet and penalizing them with restrictions on their athletic scholarships should they fail to live up to the obligation. Guillen is an A&M alumnus.

Political People and their Moves

Former Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Plano, is joining Right on Crime, a criminal justice offshoot of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Madden was chairman of the House Committee on Corrections.

Wayne Wilson is now the deputy executive commissioner for procurement and contracting with the Health and Human Services Commission, a new position there.

Karey Barton is hanging out his own consulting shingle (tax policy, legislation and such) after several years with Ryan & Co. and a long stint at the comptroller’s office before that. 

Ken Whalen is starting his own lobby practice after 11 years with the Texas Daily Newspaper Association. He’s a former legislative staffer and newspaper reporter.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Robert Cadena of Del Rio, an assistant U.S. Attorney, as judge of the 83rd Judicial District Court in Val Verde, Pecos and Terrell counties.

Perry appointed Michael Welborn of Aransas Pass the new district attorney for Aransas and San Patricio counties. Welborn is a state district judge.

Both will serve until the next general election. 

Everything for Houston’s SD-6 runoff is set — except the date. Former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia and state Rep. Carol Alvarado survived the first round on Saturday, getting 45.4 percent and 41.6 percent, respectively. The winner of the runoff — date to be set by the governor — will succeed the late Mario Gallegos in the Texas Senate.

House Democrats elected Yvonne Davis of Dallas as leader of their caucus and Chris Turner of Grand Prairie as their chair, surprising members (and watchers) who expected either Abel Herrero of Portland or Armando Walle of Houston in one of those slots. Davis replaces Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, who decided not to seek another term.

The Mexican American Legislative Caucus elected its officers: Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, chairman; Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, vice chair; Ana Hernandez Luna, D-Houston, legal counsel; Armando Martinez, D-Edinburg, secretary; and Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, treasurer.

Elizabeth Ames Jones has a new gig as senior policy advisor at Patton Boggs. The former state representative and railroad commissioner will split her time between the firm’s Washington and Texas offices. 

Quotes of the Week

Greg is a dear friend. He has said clearly that if I ran again he's not going to be running against me. But that's beside the point.

Gov. Rick Perry to WFAA-TV on a potential primary fight in 2014 between him and Attorney General Greg Abbott

I lettered in basketball. I am ready for the one on one.

Former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, after learning she will face Rep. Carol Alvarado in a runoff election to fill a vacant Senate seat 

I currently represent 20 percent of the district. She represented 75 percent. I feel pretty good about how we were able to build our name ID up.

Alvarado, on the same subject

If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.

President Barack Obama on his preferred timeline for when members of Congress should consider an immigration bill

It’s the decisions made here, in this chamber, in this building, that will determine what Texas will look like 50 years from now.

Gov. Rick Perry in his State of the State address

He didn't talk about so many of the things that were part of his speech two years ago that really were representative of that extremist agenda. I think he's obviously trying to set himself up for a higher office, and perhaps understands that that's not reflective of what the nation wants to see.

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, to the San Antonio Express-News on Perry's speech

It’s not a living document. It’s dead, dead, dead.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, talking about the Constitution at a forum at SMU, quoted in The Dallas Morning News