Vol 30, Issue 5 Print Issue

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

A court of inquiry in Williamson County is hearing testimony that could lead to charges against former prosecutor Ken Anderson. Anderson was in charge of the case against Michael Morton, who was wrongfully convicted of killing his wife and spent 25 years in prison before being freed. The court will decide whether there was evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the form of evidence being withheld. 

The House Appropriations Committee  heard testimony about grant money awarded by the state’s embattled cancer-fighting agency. The largest recipient of money from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas— to the tune of $25 million — was alleged to have spent over $1 million on bonuses, moving expenses and payments to board members. The company, Statewide Clinical Trials Network of Texas, known as CTNeT, closed last week after the state cut off funding. Meanwhile, two former top officials with CPRIT who were scheduled to testify were told not to come as scheduled. Investigators pursuing civil and criminal charges in the case were concerned that the officials' testimony might provide them with legal immunity.

Standardized testing requirements for public schools are under fire in the Legislature; the newly installed chairman of the House Public Education Committee, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, introduced a bill that would reduce the number of required tests from 15 to five. The Legislature originally required the tests in a 2009 bill to bulk up the college readiness of Texas graduates. But the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, has been widely panned by parents, teachers and state officials alike. Every member of the education committee signed on to Aycock’s bill. 

A state district judge ruled the state is not required to tell the public how much it pays in pensions to former members of the Texas Legislature. Texans for Public Justice sued to get the information; that group wanted the state to produce the total cost of retirements for 103 former lawmakers who now lobby the Legislature. TPJ is mulling an appeal.

CNN's Piers Morgan came to Texas as part of his anti-gun crusade. At a gun store and shooting range in Katy, Morgan tested several of the weapons on site, then went on to interview local business owners and state officials. Attorney General Greg Abbott and Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, made appearances on the show objecting to any new gun controls and stressing the need for Texans to be able to defend themselves. Morgan bantered with them, but let rocker Ted Nugent lecture the audience about the need for law-abiding citizens to have unlimited access to guns.

Against a background of debate over immigration reform, El Paso was ranked the safest city of its size in the country by Congressional Quarterly. Austin ranked fourth and San Antonio came in 10th.  Rankings are tabulated using FBI crime reports.

Political People and their Moves

Carol Alvarado picked up endorsements from Rudy Reyes and R.W. Bray, former competitors in the race for SD-6. Here’s a mirror: Sylvia Garcia got an endorsement from Joaquin Martinez, another of the vanquished. Alvarado and Garcia are in a runoff to replace the late Mario Gallegos, D-Houston; the election date isn’t yet set.

Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison joins the Bracewell & Giuiliani firm (which also employs her husband, bond attorney Ray Hutchison) as senior counsel. She'll advise the firm's clients, but won't be lobbying.

Austin-based Stanford Research and 3rd Coast Research are merging, bringing Jason Stanford and Will Caskey into the same firm doing political and corporate opposition research.

Chuck DeVore is now the vice president for policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Jesse Treviño is now the veep of communications there. 

Rick Bluntzer left NRG Energy to run communications and public affairs at EZCorp, which operates pawn shops and payday lending services under the rubric of “instant cash solutions for consumers.” 

Tis the season of gubernatorial reappointments. Gov. Rick Perry reappointed:

• Austin attorney J. Winston Krause to the Texas Lottery Commission.

Deeia Beck of Austin to the Office of Public Insurance Counsel for a two-year term. She has held that post since September 2008.

Ron Ederer of Corpus Christi and John Steen III of Houston (son of the Texas Secretary of State) at the Texas Racing Commission. Ederer is an attorney and an adjunct professor at Texas A&M Corpus Christi; Steen is vice president of business development for Sage Midstream.

Barbara Cargill to chair the State Board of Education.

Debbie Unruh as independent ombudsman at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department; she was first appointed in November 2010.

• Dr. Kyle Janek, a former legislator, as executive commissioner of the state’s Health and Human Services Commission.

• Major General John Nichols of Spring Branch as adjutant general of Texas commanding the Texas Military Forces. 

Deaths: M.A. Taylor Jr., a former state legislator and Republican Party activist and local chairman from Waco. He was 85.

Former Rep. Frank Cahoon of Midland, at one time the only Republican in the Texas House. He was 78.