Vol 30, Issue 9 Print Issue

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

From the five-day rollout of the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll: Rick Perry would beat Greg Abbott 3-1 in a Republican primary for governor held today; Texans don’t want a lot of new gun laws but would overwhelmingly support mental health and criminal background checks on all gun sales; the federal government is on the wrong track and immigration and border security top state problem lists; Texans’ position on abortion isn’t changed, but they would support a “fetal pain” ban on abortions after 20 weeks; a surcharge based on water use beats a tap fee as a way to finance infrastructure projects; and Republicans and Democrats utterly disagree on whether Texas should have to get federal permission to change its election laws under the Voting Rights Act.

Saying it’s time “get our heads out of the sand,” House Speaker Joe Straus said lawmakers should find a Medicaid expansion plan they can support. He wants to balance lawmakers’ objections to expanding the current system — many members think it’s a mess and would waste money — and the tens of billions of federal money the expansion would bring into the state. 

State leaders told the Texas Water Development Board to come up with a new list of projects, and that list is now public — and starting the predictable squabbling. The unofficial document, done at the request of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, among others, includes at least five large reservoir projects. 

Texas could pay off all of its transportation debt with a temporary half-cent increase in the sales tax, according to Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, who proposed a constitutional amendment to do just that. The tax would be 6.75 (local governments can add up to two cents to that); the state’s transportation debt is $13 billion. Eltife said the savings in debt service would total about $1 billion a year.

An innocence commission, more funding for indigent defense and a reconsideration of school discipline were key points in this year’s State of the Judiciary address from Wallace Jefferson, chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. 

Ann Bishop, the head of the Employee Retirement System and, for just a little bit, the chief of staff to Gov. Rick Perry, got a $162,500 bonus before leaving ERS for the governor’s office last year. Now she’s back in her old spot at that agency, where her salary is $325,000 per year. All of that has lawmakers calling for a review of executive director salaries across state government. 

Political People and their Moves

Sylvia Garcia beat fellow Houston Democrat Carol Alvarado in the special election runoff to succeed the late Mario Gallegos in the Texas Senate. She’s doing a final blitz of fundraisers and might be sworn in within a week. She got 53 percent to Alvarado’s 47 percent. 

Barry Burgdorf, general counsel and vice chairman at the University of Texas System, will leave that post at the end of April. He resigned, and is the latest in a steady stream of departures there. 

Robert Brescia is the new executive director of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute at the University of Texas-Permian Basin. He was previously CEO of the Community Care College System in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed:

• former Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade of San Antonio to the Texas Workforce Commission.

Anna Maria Farias of Brownsville, Nancy Paup of Fort Worth, and George Schrader of Dallas to the Texas Woman’s University board of regents. Farias is an attorney. Paup is a fundraising consultant. Schrader is an investor and former city manager.

Norman Darwin of Benbrook as Injured Employee Public Counsel, which helps with claims in the workers’ compensation system, to another term.

• Alex Meade III of Mission and Bill Dietz Jr. of Waco as directors of the State Affordable Housing Corp. Meade is CEO of the Mission Economic Development Corp. Dietz is an executive with Extraco Banks.

Rob Kyker of Richardson to the Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education. He’s the owner of R&D Sales and Leasing.

Angelos Angelou of Austin and former state Rep. Gerry Geistweidt of Mason to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute’s oversight committee. Angelou is an economist. Geistweidt is an attorney.

Deaths: Mary Margaret Farabee, co-founder of the Texas Book Festival and wife of former Sen. Ray Farabee, from cancer. She was 73.

Former Rep. Dick Slack of Pecos, a Democrat who served from 1953 to 1981. He was 98.