Paul Hobby Wants Off Ethics Commission

The University of Texas System’s Houston Advisory Task Force, Carin Barth, left, and Paul Hobby, right, during a press conference in Houston Monday, June 13, 2016 reguarding plans for the 300 acres it has purchased in southwest Houston.
The University of Texas System’s Houston Advisory Task Force, Carin Barth, left, and Paul Hobby, right, during a press conference in Houston Monday, June 13, 2016 reguarding plans for the 300 acres it has purchased in southwest Houston.

Add Paul Hobby of Houston to the list of departing Texas ethics commissioners.

Hobby sent his resignation letter late last week to House Speaker Joe Straus, saying he’ll be gone as of the end of the month. That leaves Straus with an appointment to make, with an odd twist: He’ll be choosing from a list yet to be provided by House Democrats.

That’s how those appointments work: for Straus, for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and for Gov. Greg Abbott. They each pick from lists provided by Republicans and Democrats, with the idea that four from each party end up on the commission that regulates campaign finance, financial disclosures and other ethics laws in Texas.

Hobby listed some of the agency’s accomplishments during his tenure, closing with this: “We have continuously re-articulated the grand bargain that is the foundation of this agency. Enforcement powers are limited, but disclosure requirements are broad. In many courtrooms, state and federal, we have defended those disclosure statutes and have kept them intact.”

Tom Harrison resigned from the commission earlier this year. Both he and Hobby have served past the ends of their terms. Two more commissioners — Bob Long of Bastrop and Wilhelmina Delco of Austin — are also serving as holdover appointees. They’ll remain until their replacements are picked.

The Texas House Republican Caucus released a statement the next day with what it calls “clarifying guidance” on the process. After noting that Hobby — a Democrat — must be replaced by another Democrat, the caucus goes on to say:

“As of today, the House Republican Caucus has been reassured by Speaker Joe Straus that an appointment has not been made and that the vetting of potential candidates will begin after Democrat Members of the Texas House of Representatives have submitted all of their recommendations to the Speaker.

“As a Caucus, we have great confidence that Speaker Straus will select the best possible Democrat to serve on the Texas Ethics Commission.”


Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller has left Summit Power Group, the company behind the Texas Clean Energy Project, the unbuilt and over-budget “clean coal” power plant years ago promised to West Texas.

“I am no longer working with Summit but certainly hope they get to build a project in Penwell,” Miller wrote in an email late last week. “They're a great company that has worked diligently to make this project happen.”

Miller did not provide additional details on her departure or her next steps.

Miller, Dallas mayor in the mid-2000s, won accolades from environmentalists after fighting plans to build new coal plants in the city.  After leaving office in 2007, she spent nearly a decade championing the Texas Clean Energy Project, which has yet to rise on 600 acres outside of Penwell.

That coal-fired power plant was supposed to capture its carbon dioxide emission and sell them to oil companies that would inject them into the ground to boost emissions.

Though some environmental groups support such efforts, others fiercely oppose them, preferring to keep all fossil fuels in the ground by completely doing away with coal-burning facilities.

As the Tribune reported last month, the project — nearly $2 billion over-budget, years behind schedule and unable to find financing — appears to be on life support, just one sign of tough times for similar efforts across the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Energy, which spent about $116 million on the project before freezing funding earlier this year, is now contemplating pulling the plug on all institutional support.

After pausing funding, the agency extended a temporary no-cost cooperative agreement to the company. Thursday was Summit’s deadline to plea for that support to continue.

The agency is now evaluating those materials. On Friday, it would not say when it will determine the project's fate. 
"DOE is continuing to work with the company to determine the best path forward,” an agency spokeswoman wrote in an email.

Bret Logue, the coal project’s current director, said developers are continuing their push for support.

"TCEP is an important low carbon energy project and represents a significant investment, both public and private,” he wrote in an email Friday.

GOP Leadership is High on Will Hurd's Re-Election Chances

Freshly minted U.S. Rep. Will Hurd
Freshly minted U.S. Rep. Will Hurd

The Republican point man on House campaigns is bullish on the political fortunes of U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, an Oregonian who runs the National Republican Congressional Committee, told the Texas Tribune, "He's made his mark in Washington."

"He's doing a great job," the chairman said at the Republican National Convention. "I think he presents a very formidable position going into this election."

Repeatedly, Walden stressed Hurd's work on national security, alluding to Hurd's background as a CIA agent.

"We know it's a competitive seat, but he's certainly nowhere near the top of most competitive seats because of the job he's doing and the campaign he's marshaled again."


With state Rep. Borris Miles in line to replace Rodney Ellis in Houston's Senate District 13, Democrats are preparing to nominate a candidate to replace him in House District 146.

Precinct chairs plan to meet Aug. 6 at the district's executive committee meeting to pick a replacement. Confirmed candidates for the nomination, listed online, include Erica Lee Carter, Larry Blackmon, Valencia L. Williams, Rashad L. Cave and Shawn Thierry.


A federal district court judge issued a ruling Wednesday striking down two Austin campaign fundraising restrictions on the grounds that they violate the First Amendment.

In what was known as a "blackout period," one provision had banned candidates from fundraising until the six months preceding Election Day. Another prohibited candidates from putting leftover campaigns funds toward future campaigns or political speech.

The court did not, however, strike down the city's $350 individual contribution limit.

Don Zimmerman, a conservative member of Austin’s city council seeking re-election, filed the suit against the city last summer, arguing that the restrictions violated the First Amendment.

"We are examining our further options regarding the affirmation of our First Amendment rights to political speech,” he said in a statement praising the ruling. 


Freshman U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Heath, shepherded a separation of powers bill through the House of Representatives earlier this week.

His bill, the Separation of Powers Restoration Act, overturned a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that “courts should, in many cases, defer to administrative agencies’ interpretations of ‘ambiguous’ statutes written by Congress,” according to a Ratcliffe news release.

The bill passed Tuesday in a mostly party-line vote.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is co-sponsoring a Senate version of the legislation.


A big shakeup occurred in the Texas delegation Monday morning at the Republican National Convention ... in fashion.

For years, the Texas delegation wore button-down Lone Star shirts toward the end of a convention week. This year, though, hundreds of delegates showed up to their morning breakfast on the first day of the conventions in the garb.

It was all because of a photo, said Chris Daniels, an At-Large RNC delegate from Humble. The delegation had an opportunity to take a group photo at Progressive Field, where the Cleveland Indians play ball, on Monday and so the decision was made.

"The reason why there's an advantage is that immediately people will know where to look on television where the Texas delegation is," he said. "Not just because of hats.

"Other states where hats, too. But you'll know that the Texas delegation starting Monday."

Inside Intelligence: About That GOP National Convention...

For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in government and politics, we asked about this week's Republican Convention taking place in Cleveland, Ohio.

We started the survey this week asking who, among a list of prominent Texas Republicans, stood to have a good week in Cleveland. On that question, a consensus was hard to find. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was cited by 26 percent, closely followed by former Gov. Rick Perry, who was named by 24 percent. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, meanwhile, wasn't far behind, favored by 21 percent of the insiders.

We flipped things with the second question, asking who stood to lose the most this week. The insiders were clearer on this one, with 36 percent saying Cruz stood to lose the most. This questionnaire closed at noon on Wednesday, hours before Cruz's controversial non-endorsement speech at the convention.

Land Commissioner George P. Bush was next on the list, named by 18 percent. He was followed by Patrick (13 percent), U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (13 percent) and Perry (12 percent).

We followed by asking about the effects of the convention on the election. A slight majority said the convention would neither solidify the GOP base nor expand the electorate. Another 23 percent thought the convention would serve to solidify the base while 9 percent said the convention would expand the electorate. Finally, 10 percent believed the convention would accomplish both goals.

Finally, we asked where Republican nominee Donald Trump would end up competitively with Hillary Clinton upon the party conventions' conclusion. Close to half, or 47 percent, of the insiders thought Trump would come out of the convention season behind Clinton with another 42 percent thinking they would be running neck-and-neck.

We collected comments along the way, and a full set of those is attached.


Who stands to gain the most from his time in Cleveland this week at the Republican National Convention?

• "As the presiding officer of a legislative body/chamber, Patrick is in a position to tap into the mistrust and anger of the GOP and do something about it (setting the agenda and moving bills)."

• "The only one who is going to stand out at the convention is Trump."

• "Perry is angling for a job — any job — in a Trump administration. He's dutifully saying the exact opposite about Trump that he said previously."

• "I picked Will Hurd ... who with some national exposure might just tap into some additional support in a very tough race."

• "Michael McCaul"


Who stands to lose the most from his time in Cleveland this week at the Republican National Convention?

• "His childish, sore loser behavior is on full display. He lost. Get over it and get on board to help defeat Hillary. Oh, and supporting Trump is the ONLY way to do that."

• "Maybe Straus due to the fact that he leads in an ultra-conservative state."

• "Depends on how Cruz handles himself. If loyal, he'll move ahead a lot. If disloyal, he'll be badly hurt. There are a dozen folks who are serving as loyal soldiers who will be fine if Trump loses. But a sore loser will go nowhere."

• "I don't know what Bush is doing there. His father is totally off the reservation, and Bush is there in some never-never land."

• "DP has the ability to provide leadership. However, he will fail."


What effect will the GOP national convention have on the election?

• "The over-50, white men (along with their fellow travelers) are being herding like lemmings onto the sinking ship that will continue to rack up solid majorities in Appalachia, Alabama, Mississippi and West Texas. The rest of the country will continue that strange phenomenon called 'evolution.'"

• "It'll bring the party closer together, but it's not a rock-solid party unified against Hillary. Still, it's better than it was a month ago. Trump's rhetoric and personality turn off as many people as it attracts, so it's hard to see it expanding the GOP electorate, notwithstanding the 40 percent new/first-time GOP primary voters in March (in Texas)."

• "Solidify the Trump base and make the down-ballot folks work extra hard."

• "Still time for a miracle (this written on Monday afternoon), but with Trump denying votes to dissidents, and the campaign chairman dissing the popular Ohio governor, it's difficult to see how even a smooth show will help."

• "Who the heck knows? The Republicans have done an awesome job of snatching likely defeat from the jaws of virtually certain victory."


How will Donald Trump stand competitively with Hillary Clinton after the two conventions are over?

• "The country is deeply polarized. Hillary must recreate Obama's coalition. Donald Trump's narrow path can be widened through outside events. Terrorist attacks and assassins' bullets only feed his 'law and order' narrative. Think '68."

• "Seems to me that Trump could win the election before he leaves Cleveland if he delivers the right message in the right way. He won't do that, of course, but if he were calmly to deliver an upbeat message of competence, confidence and toughness, and do it without going overboard disrespecting Clinton he could walk away with the election in his pocket. Again, that ain't fixin' to happen."

• "Any Democrat but Hillary could win a 50-state blowout against Trump. To call his racist, Luddite appeal a clown car campaign would be an insult to clowns."

• "Hey it's a battle between who the voters dislike the least."

• "She is the weakest major party candidate in a couple of generations. Any of a dozen in the GOP field could have beaten her easily — but Trump is struggling."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Jay Arnold, Dave Beckwith, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, Raif Calvert, Lydia Camarillo, Kerry Cammack, Elna Christopher, Kevin Cooper, Randy Cubriel, Curtis Culwell, Denise Davis, Glenn Deshields, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Jon Fisher, Tom Forbes, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Kinnan Golemon, Daniel Gonzalez, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Susan Hays, Kathy Hutto, Deborah Ingersoll, Mark Jones, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Ramey Ko, Sandy Kress, Dale Laine, Nick Lampson, Pete Laney, Luke Legate, Myra Leo, Ruben Longoria, Vilma Luna, Jason McElvaney, Steve Minick, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Nelson Nease, Todd Olsen, Gardner Pate, Robert Peeler, Jerry Philips, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Allen Place, Gary Polland, Tim Reeves, Patrick Reinhart, David Reynolds, Carl Richie, Grant Ruckel, Andy Sansom, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Robert Scott, Steve Scurlock, Ben Sebree, Christopher Shields, Ed Small, Larry Soward, Dennis Speight, Sherry Sylvester, Sara Tays, Trey Trainor, Corbin Van Arsdale, Ware Wendell, David White, Michael Williams, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Saturday, July 23

  • 2016 Energy Summit & Fair, hosted by U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville; University of North Texas, Discovery Park, 3940 N. Elm St., Denton (8-11:30 a.m.)
  • Senate Hispanic Caucus Latino Summit - Rio Grande Valley; South Texas College - Mid-Valley Campus, 400 N. Border Ave., Weslaco (8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.)

Monday, July 25

  • Democratic National Convention; Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (July 25-28)

Wednesday, July 27

  • 43rd American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Annual Meeting; JW Marriott Indianapolis, 10 S. West St., Indianapolis, Indiana (July 27-29)

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Lots of news came out of Cleveland this week with the Republican National Convention underway. In Texas delegation news, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s failure to endorse Donald Trump in his Wednesday speech was met with thundering boos; the junior senator then faced a livid — and yet admiring — Texas delegation on Thursday morning. Earlier in the week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton officially endorsed Trump.

Bill Voss said he is prepared to sue the Texas Department of Transportation over the agency's handling of proposed routes for a toll road that would cut across his land in Grimes County. Several frustrated neighbors may join him.

The Fort Worth Independent School District issued new guidelines on Wednesday for accommodating transgender students, pleasing Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The strained relationship between the state’s higher and public education leaders were on full display Wednesday as Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes told the State Board of Education it isn't doing enough to prepare students for college.

Texas’ voter identification law violates the U.S. law prohibiting racial discrimination in elections, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Donald Trump Jr. is coming to Texas next week to raise money for his dad fresh off the GOP national convention.

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro looks to be off the hook with the White House after the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found that Castro violated a law prohibiting federal employees from engaging in partisan politics on the job.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Tuesday he supports having the U.S. attorney general investigate the Black Lives Matter movement, which seeks to bring attention to police shootings of African Americans.

Political People and their Moves

The Health and Human Services Commission announced a handful of changes in its leadership team last Friday. Enrique Marquez, HHSC's current director of communications, will serve as director of external relations; Karin Hill as director of internal audit; Chris Adams as deputy executive commissioner for system support services; David Kostroun as deputy executive commissioner for policy and performance; and Bryan Black as director of communications.

State Rep. Helen Giddings, a Dallas Democrat, has been elected to serve as chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus during the 85th Legislative session. The remaining officers chosen to lead the caucus next session are: Nicole Collier (1st vice chair), Eric Johnson (2nd vice chair), Toni Rose (secretary), Alma Allen (treasurer), Joe Deshotel (parliamentarian) and Harold Dutton (general counsel).

The Houston law firm of Beirne, Maynard & Parsons is shutting its doors with many of its attorneys migrating to Akerman, a Florida-based firm that is launching a major expansion of operations in Texas. Among those moving to Akerman are former state Rep. Joe Nixon and Trey Trainor, who have represented several prominent conservative politicians and activists in some high-profile election and redistricting cases.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been announced as a keynote speaker at next week’s American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Annual Meeting alongside newly minted vice presidential selection Mike Pence. ALEC is an annual gathering of state legislators and business leaders aimed at sharing model legislation that pushes free market and limited government positions. Many Texas legislators attend the gathering, which is being held this year in Indianapolis, Indiana, on July 27-29.

Deaths: Jim Nugent, 94, Democratic lawmaker who served Kerrville in the Texas House from 1961 to 1979. He resigned his seat after being elected to the Railroad Commission, a position he held until 1995 after he was narrowly defeated for re-election by the Republican Charles R. Matthews. A graveside service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

Quotes of the Week

But when one of the teams advances, to a big bowl game? Or a national championship? Don't you root for the Aggies if you are a Longhorn?

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin speaking to the Texas delegation's breakfast meeting at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday.

I’m worried that I will be the last Republican president.

Former President George W. Bush, reported this week by Politico, at a reunion of his staff in April as the Republican choices were narrowing to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump

That pledge was not a blanket commit that if you go and slander and attack Heidi that I’m going to come like a servile puppy dog and say, 'Thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father.'

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, defending on Thursday his decision the night before not to endorse in his primetime convention address GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump

Oh, no. This is a normal convention.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, replying "with a wink" to the Tribune when asked Tuesday about the fractious start to the GOP national convention