Vol 33, Issue 16 Print Issue

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Texas public university officials told lawmakers on Thursday that scientific research using human fetal tissue was limited in scope but crucial to medical advances. It was the first hearing on the subject since a Harris County grand jury in January indicted two undercover videographers who circulated videos about how fetal tissue was procured at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has never been much of a fan of Ted Cruz. He made that clearer than ever Wednesday, calling the Texas senator "Lucifer in the flesh" and a "miserable son of a bitch" at a discussion at Stanford University.

Activists, lawmakers and state leaders are eyeing Texas as the next battleground in what has become an explosive national debate: the right of transgender people to decide which bathroom they use. Conservative activists like Jared Woodfill have found an increasingly helpful ally in Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is calling the issue a priority for the next legislative session.

This fall, guns will be allowed in classrooms and most dorms at Texas A&M University and other A&M System schools after regents chose to make no changes to its system's campus carry policies on Wednesday. Faculty will only be allowed to ban them in their offices if they show a special need.

Uber announced Wednesday the company plans to cease operations in Houston if the city council does not repeal its existing regulations relating to vehicle-for-hire companies. Houston is one of two cities in the country where Uber continues to operate despite a local requirement that its drivers undergo fingerprint-based background checks.

At a rally in Indianapolis, Ted Cruz named former presidential rival Carly Fiorina as his would-be running mate if he can manage to snag the Republican presidential nomination from frontrunner Donald Trump. Initial analysis pointed to a need by Cruz to change the conversation after suffering a series of primary losses this week to Trump and to set up a block against Trump getting the delegates in Indiana and California needed to win the nomination on the first ballot.

The Texas Rangers have joined a Travis County District Attorney office criminal probe into state Rep. Dawnna Dukes' use of staff, the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed. The Texas Tribune reported in February that the State Auditor's Office had launched an investigation after Dukes' then chief of staff, Mike French, asked whether it was legal for the Austin Democrat to ask staff to work on the annual African-American Heritage Festival.

In an interview with KERA news this week, Texas' senior senator, John Cornyn, talked about the differences between him and the state's junior senator, Ted Cruz. “Clearly, he didn’t come here to remain in the Senate," Cornyn said. "He came here to run for president. I think that perhaps explains the difference in tactics.”

In his most aggressive terms yet, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick excoriated Texas universities for raising their tuition in recent years, suggesting that the Texas Senate will try to limit tuition growth when it reconvenes next year. Patrick also raised several ideas that he said could immediately cut tuition costs by 25 percent.

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood, Texas A&M University and Uber have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Political People and their Moves

Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed Mike S. Sullivan of Kingwood, Shannalea Taylor of Del Rio, Kevin Pottinger of Keller and reappointed Dennis Lewis of Texarkana to the Texas Military Preparedness Commission for terms to expire Feb. 1, 2021.

Abbott last Friday made a trio of appointments to the Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners. He appointed Glenda Clausell of Houston and Liesl Olson of Lubbock and reappointed Harvey Aikman of Mission for terms to expire Jan. 31, 2021.

The political arm of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the Texas Conservative View PAC, the Denton County Conservative Coalition, the Kaufman County Tea Party, New Revolution Now and the Texas Home School Coalition are backing Wayne Christian over Gary Gates in the GOP runoff for Texas railroad commissioner.

Christian’s opponent in the runoff, Gary Gates, announced an endorsement on Thursday from the Texas Alliance for Life PAC.

Republican Party of Texas Chairman Tom Mechler announced endorsements this week of his re-election campaign from U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, and state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker.

Tyler-based conservative group Grassroots America – We the People PAC and its executive director, JoAnn Fleming, on Monday endorsed Dawn Buckingham in the Republican primary runoff election to fill the open SD-24 seat. She later collected endorsements from the Central Texas Republican Assembly (CTRA) and from Ryan Downton, a former contender for the seat.

The political arm of Texans for Lawsuit Reform on Thursday endorsed Lynn Stucky in the GOP runoff election in the open HD-64 seat.

Public education advocacy group Texas Parent PAC announced on Monday that it is endorsing Kimberly Willis in the May 24 Democratic party primary runoff election to represent the Houston-based HD-139 represented by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The Pete Gallego for Congress campaign said Tuesday that it has hired a new communications director, Lyndsey Rodriguez. She performed the same job previously for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.

Cynthia Meyer, leaving the Office of Attorney General Ken Paxton where she is agency spokeswoman for the government affairs team at the Railroad Commission. Her last day in Paxton’s shop is May 6. Handling future press inquiries at OAG is Teresa Farfan.

The two Solomon Ortizes of Texas — former U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz Sr. and former state Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr. — announced this week they are joining Houston-based Strategic Public Affairs firm.

The Texas Agricultural Land Trust has named James Oliver as the group’s new chief operating officer. He is a former banker and agriculture lender, according to an announcement from TALT.

The Texas Association of Business has added Kirby Hiscox as the organization’s new vice president of corporate development.

Disclosure: The Texas Association of Business have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.