Vol 30, Issue 42 Print Issue

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Voters approved eight constitutional amendments in addition to creating the $2 billion water fund, and passed them easily. It was a rough election for football in the Houston area, where voters said no to one bond package that would have converted the abandoned Astrodome into a convention facility and another that would have built a new $69.5 million stadium for Katy ISD.

The election was the first test of the state’s new voter ID law, which requires voters to show a photo ID to cast their ballots, and though elections officials say the process went smoothly, some worry that could change in future elections with increased voter turnout.

President Barack Obama visited Dallas this week, calling on Gov. Rick Perry to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. He emphasized that other states that chose to expand Medicaid have seen their rates of the uninsured decrease, such as Arkansas, where it dropped by 14 percent. Texas would have had to spend $15 billion to expand Medicaid over the next 10 years — spending that would've assured up to $100 billion in federal funds. Instead, the state Legislature approved a measure prohibiting the Health and Human Services Commission from even considering Medicaid expansion without its approval. The governor called the president's visit "a desperate attempt to salvage his ill-conceived and unpopular program from a Titanic fate."

State Sen. Wendy Davis now has a book deal. The New York Times reported that the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor will pen a memoir due to hit bookstores in the fall of 2014, just in time for the hottest part of the general election season.

As congestion worsens on Interstate 35 through Austin, state leaders are seriously discussing a drastic response: tolling the highway's lanes in the city and making part of the nearby State Highway 130 toll road free. A segment of Interstate 35 that runs through central Austin is the most congested stretch of road in the state, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

An email released this week revealed that in early 2013, University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall, on a call with the agent for University of Alabama coach Nick Saban, said UT-Austin President Bill Powers would be gone by year's endHall has been accused by lawmakers of being on a "witch hunt" to oust Powers, and the regent is currently being investigated by a legislative committee with the power to recommend articles of impeachment against him.

Political People and their Moves

Gov. Rick Perry set May 10 for the special election to fill the vacancy in SD-4, the seat Tommy Williams resigned to take a job with Texas A&M University.

Missouri City Democrat Steve Brown says he will run for the open spot on the Texas Railroad Commission next year. He’s the first Democrat in that race to replace Barry Smitherman, who won the seat last year but is giving it up to run for attorney general.

Lubbock ISD board president Steve Massengale is considering a primary challenge to HD 83 incumbent Charles Perry. Massengale told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that he is spurred by a strong interest in public education and that he would make a decision in the next couple of weeks.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price endorsed former state Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, in the SD-10 race. Shelton lost the 2012 general election contest to Wendy Davis, who is moving on. He's one of several Republicans in the race this year.

HEB ISD trustee Andy Cargile, a former high school principal, will challenge State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, in the HD-92 GOP primary.

Democrat Mark Greene will challenge U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, in CD-12 next year.

Danny Pelton, a Republican challenging State Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville, picked up another endorsement from one of Sheffield’s colleagues: State Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands.

The Kinkster is not alone in supporting looser laws for marijuana; Republican gubernatorial candidate Miriam Martinez says she supports legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalizing possession of an ounce or less. 

Grover Campbell will head government relations for the Texas Association of School Boards. He spent years as legislative liaison for the University of Houston System and most recently was working as a contract lobbyist in Austin.

Lori Cobos is leaving the state’s Public Utility Commission to join former Commissioner Becky Klein’s consulting firm.