The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Records requests that University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall filed with the University of Texas at Austin were the subject of hours of testimony during a legislative committee hearing this week, as witnesses discussed the volume and legality of the requests, as well as the motivation behind the requests. The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations is mulling whether to file articles of impeachment against Hall, in part for the strain that he is accused of putting on UT-Austin’s staff. Barry Burgdorf, the former vice chancellor and general counsel for the University of Texas System, told the panel that some system regents' "clear intent" was to "get rid of" Bill Powers, the president of the University of Texas at Austin.

The state’s top Democratic donor, trial lawyer Steve Mostyn, is spearheading a new group of like-minded attorneys who want to shake up politics — and the storied Texas Trial Lawyers Association along with it. He and two heavy-hitter trial lawyers, Amy Witherite of Dallas and Kurt Arnold of Houston, have formed a new group called the Texas Association of Consumer Lawyers. Mostyn said the group was created in part out of frustration that dues being paid to the Texas Trial Lawyers Association are financing way too much overhead — leaving far too little money for campaign spending. 

Gubernatorial candidates Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis are throwing their support behind the constitutional amendment that would fund projects designed to help the state meet its growing need for water. Abbott, the state's attorney general, has not been a vocal advocate of Prop 6 — which must get voter approval to go into effect — but his campaign said he intends to vote for it. So does Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth. Early voting in the constitutional amendment election started Monday and ends Nov. 1. Election Day is Nov. 5.

With days remaining until new abortion regulations take effect in Texas, attorneys for abortion providers and the state of Texas presented their final arguments on whether those restrictions meet constitutional muster. “The result is much more obvious to each side than it is to me,” said U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, who is presiding over a case in which the abortion providers’ attorneys are seeking to block two of the provisions state lawmakers approved in July. “I recognize the clock is ticking toward October the 29th. I think both sides raised strong issues, and I will get a final judgment out as quickly as I can get a final judgment out.”

A year ago this week, a toll road opened in Central Texas that represented two milestones for the state. While its posted 85 mph speed limit — the highest in the country — drew international headlines, many state and local leaders were more interested in the road’s unique financing: A private consortium designed and built the road and agreed to operate and maintain it for 50 years in exchange for a cut of the toll revenue. But SH 130 has not been the immediate success story its backers had hoped. Last week, lower-than-expected traffic revenue prompted credit ratings firm Moody's Investors Service to severely downgrade the SH 130 Concession Company’s debt and warned that a default may not be far off.