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.