Vol 33, Issue 19 Print Issue

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, sought Saturday in a speech at the Republican Party of Texas state convention over the weekend to re-energize his most loyal supporters after a tough defeat in the presidential race, urging them not to abandon the conservative movement. It was Cruz's first major speech since he ended his campaign earlier this month.

Texas Republicans approved each of the 266 planks in their party's 2016 platform, weighing in on transgender bathroom rules and many other aspects of American life. Party officials, however, averted determined efforts by some delegates to insert a plank in favor of allowing Texas to secede from the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sent back to lower courts a case that pits religious groups against the Obama administration over a requirement that some employers provide birth control benefits to female employees. A Texas case is among seven related lawsuits the high court agreed to hear together in which religious nonprofits argue the mandate infringes on their religious freedom.

The University of North Texas is exploring becoming an exclusive higher education partner with the Dallas Cowboys football team, an unusual deal that could include sponsorship opportunities and student internships. No price tag has been made public, but a memo said that cost is expected to be of "sufficient size," to require the Board of Regents to sign off.

In an increasingly testy Republican runoff for railroad commissioner, state Rep. Wayne Christian is reaching into Gary Gates' legal history in an effort to paint his opponent as a “slumlord.” Gates, who has relentlessly criticized Christian's record as a lawmaker and brands him a “career politician,” calls the attacks dirty politics. Regardless, the issue highlights the vulnerabilities of a candidate who earned his wealth by building a small real estate empire of relatively low-cost rental units.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath on Tuesday praised the state Supreme Court's recent opinion upholding the state’s public school funding system and demurred on questions about bathroom use by transgender students.

Members of the Senate Finance Committee this week vowed to "tighten it up" when it comes to granting emergency leave to state employees. State employees in Texas are not awarded severance pay when they are fired or leave their posts, but recent reports show the embattled AG granted emergency leave to at least three top officials after they resigned, keeping them on the payroll for months.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett has made Donald Trump’s 11-person list of judges the real estate mogul would consider appointing to the U.S. Supreme Court if elected president.

Convicted of five misdemeanor counts of illegally soliciting clients to his personal injury law practice, state Rep. Ron Reynolds is now without a license to practice law. The Missouri City Democrat's law license has been suspended by the Texas Supreme Court's Board of Disciplinary Appeals as he appeals those convictions.

A Dallas oil family is going back to the drawing board after determining it can't go forward with a current plan to purchase utility Oncor, an attorney for the group told the Texas Public Utility Commission in a Wednesday filing.

Big Texas cities continue to add the greatest number of people, but the action is in the suburbs when it comes to rates of growth. Led by Georgetown, Texas has four of the nation's 10 fastest-growing cities.

Lawyers working for the Turkish government plan to file a complaint with the Texas Education Agency next week against Houston-based Harmony Public Schools, alleging financial malfeasance and other misconduct, school officials said.

A trio of Texas Republican lawmakers says the U.S. Library of Congress is bowing to political pressure by eliminating the terms “illegal alien” and “alien” from its search and subject heading classifications. In a letter dated May 19 to acting librarian David S. Mao, U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith of San Antonio and John Culberson of Houston joined U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in accusing the library of bowing "to the political pressure of the moment.”

Most of the water utilities in Texas need to "substantially increase" efforts to conserve water, according to a recent review of more than 300 city utilities by the Texas Living Waters Project.

The San Antonio Water System board on Wednesday approved a takeover of the controversial Vista Ridge project — a move set in motion by the financial troubles of a firm the city had enlisted to build the 142-mile pipeline.

Disclosure: The University of North Texas, the San Antonio Water System,Harmony Public Schools and Oncor 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 reappointed Mike Arismendez of Shallowater and appointed Helen Callier of Kingwood and Rick Figueroa of Brenham to the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation for terms to expire Feb. 1, 2021. The governor’s office also noted that Arismendez will continue serving as the panel’s chairman.

Abbott appointed John Best of San Angelo as district attorney for the 119th Judicial District in Runnels, Concho and Tom Green counties. The appointment, effective June 1, 2016, runs until the fall general election. Best will be on the November ballot after having won the Republican nomination in March.

Abbott appointed Albert Cheng of Houston and Cathy Norwood of Midland and reappointed Lamberto “Bobby” Ballí of San Antonio to the Texas Board of Professional Engineers (TBPE) for terms to expire Sept. 26, 2021.

Abbott named Anthony Giuliani of El Paso to the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners for a term to expire Jan. 31, 2019.

A couple of Texans have earned presidential nominations to represent the U.S. overseas as ambassadors. Rena Bitter was nominated to become ambassador to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Douglas Alan Silliman was nominated to become ambassador to the Republic of Iraq. Both are career members of the Foreign Service. Their nominations have been submitted to the U.S. Senate for confirmation.

State Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, endorsed Wayne Christian for Railroad Commission in a message sent to her supporters on Thursday.

The public education advocacy group Texas Parent PAC announced its endorsement of David Simpson for the East Texas-based SD-1 seat. He’s facing off against Bryan Hughes, a state representative from Mineola, for their party’s nod to succeed outgoing state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler.

GOP SD-24 runoff candidate Susan King received on Monday the endorsement of the Texas Travel Industry Association.

GOP SD-24 runoff candidate Dawn Buckingham announced endorsements over the past week from the political arm of the Texas Thoroughbred Breeder’s Association, SBOE District 5 representative Ken Mercer and a a trio of NRA board members — Leroy SiscoSusan Howard and Ted Nugent.

Former Gov. Rick Perry on Monday took a break from retirement to weigh in on another race involving the Texas Legislature. This time, he is throwing his support behind state Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, who has found himself in a tough runoff with 31-year-old attorney Briscoe Cain. Smith later in the week received the endorsement of Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has endorsed Jarvis Johnson in the Democratic runoff election for HD-139, the seat that Turner held before becoming mayor in January. Johnson faces off against Kimberly Willis next week to determine who will be the Democratic nominee in the fall general election.

The Health and Human Services Commission announced on Tuesday that it is bringing on board Heather Griffith Peterson as the organization’s new chief operating officer and Kara Crawford as its new chief of staff. Both begin work at HHSC on June 1.

The Texas Water Development Board on Thursday named Jeff Walker as its new executive administrator. He is currently serves as the deputy executive administrator of Water Supply and Infrastructure. 

The George W. Bush Presidential Center has selected Ken Hersh to take over as its president and CEO at the end of May. The George W. Bush Foundation also announced that Holly Kuzmich, who had served as the center’s interim president, will take over as executive director of the George W. Bush Institute.

John Moritz last week joined the statewide media relations team at the Texas Department of Transportation, leaving the communications shop at Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.

Stacy E. Wilson has been named the new president of the Children’s Hospital Association of Texas. She comes to CHAT from the Texas Hospital Association, where she was vice president and associate general counsel.

The Texas Civil Justice League announced Monday that former Senate parliamentarian Walter Fisher is joining the organization’s board of directors. He most recently had the title of senior advisor to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Disclosure: The Texas Travel Industry Association, the Children’s Hospital Association of Texas, the George W. Bush Institute, the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation and the Texas Civil Justice League have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.